Archive for the ‘Adaptive and Wheelchair Sports’ Category

Breaking Barriers through Adaptive Sports

February 23, 2016

Editor’s Note: Leading up to the NASC Symposium this spring, the NASC is highlighting adaptive sports athletes. The proceeds raised for the 2016 NASC Sports Legacy Fund will go toward offsetting expenses for the Mary Free Bed and Adaptive Sports Wheelchair Tennis program, which provides equipment to individuals who are unable to afford their own. Each month we feature one of the adaptive athletes: This month we feature 32-year-old Matt Clements.

Matt Clements.jpg

I got involved in wheelchair tennis after meeting (wheelchair tennis athlete) Curt Bender when I was still at Mary Free Bed after I got hurt. He told me that sometime after I went home that I should come check it out. So after my little over three-month stay at Mary Free Bed and being home for a month I went to check it out just to “watch.” Well Coach Lynn (Bender) and a few other people helped to get me into a tennis chair and after that I never missed a practice probably for three or four years.

Wheelchair tennis is a HUGE reason of how I got back to all of the things I used to do before my injury that so many people told me that I would never be able to do. It also turned my path to recovery and to learn how to do things as a highway to recovery.

I remember Curt telling me one day that I was four or five years farther ahead of him after he had been in a chair for three years. None of that would have been possible without what is now Mary Free Bed sports.

Everyone helps each other out with their issues, problems, and whatever we can do for each other. The tennis team is like a big family and those of us who have been hurt longer do not hesitate to take someone newer to this life under our wing and teach them all of the little tricks and solutions to things that we know. We show them that there is nothing they can’t do.

For example, I still drive my big full-size truck and hook up to my big trailer and load whatever, hop down and get back into my chair, strap it down and be on my way all by myself. People are baffled over how I am able to just pop up into my truck, but I would probably not have been able to do any of this if it hadn’t been for Mary Free Bed sports.

I tell people that it is a great way to be active and have a whole bunch of fun with a bunch of great people. We are like a big family and support group, and you learn so much more than just tennis.

Adaptive Athletes: Scott Stever

December 28, 2015

This spring the NASC Symposium will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of the leading rehabilitation centers in the Midwest, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, also has one of the leading adaptive sports programs. In the months leading up to the Symposium, we’ll feature one adaptive athlete each month. This month it’s Scott Stever.

First, a little bit of background: How old are you and how did you and your family find out about Mary Free Bed?

I’m 16, I live in Grand Rapids Michigan, and was introduced to MFB with physical therapy at age 2.

How did you get involved in the adaptive sports program at Mary Free Bed?

I attended the Wheelchair Sports Camp at Grand Valley State University when I was 9, and there I was introduced to Sled Hockey. I have been playing since then, and am now in my eighth season. I am also involved with tennis in the summer to stay in shape during the off-season for hockey.scott hockey

Were you always active in sports? What challenge, if any, was there to learn new sports and new ways to play them?

I had never played sports before sled hockey and tennis, mostly because it was tough to get involved in regular sports with my disability.

What’s the best part of being involved in these adaptive sports?

I love being able to get to play the sport I love and the physical nature of sled hockey. I use sports as an outlet to let my competitive nature shine through, and also the family nature that comes with being part of a team. Tennis allows me to build physical endurance for hockey, and it is great to get out and do something fun in the summer

If you were asked to give a recommendation about the adaptive sports programs, what would you tell people?

I would tell them to just try a sport you think you may like, and if you have a sport that you love to watch, I would recommend that first.

The Growth of Adaptive Sports

November 10, 2015

blog picBrian Davis served his country in the U.S. Navy from 2004 through 2009, including an eight-month deployment to the Middle East. But he admits that after a motorcycle accident in 2008 that left him in a wheelchair, he had moments where he sat at home on the couch and felt lost with an uncertain future ahead of him. With a wife expecting at the same time, Davis was going through rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids not knowing what his next move might be.

It was there, during his rehab, that it was suggested he get involved in wheelchair tennis, just one of the nearly two dozen wheelchair and adaptive sports offered at Mary Free Bed.

“I wasn’t really into basketball or anything like that,” Davis said, “but I really enjoyed tennis. It’s been my outlet going on five years now.”

Adaptive and wheelchair sports have been growing dramatically over the last few years, especially with the influx of an estimated 10,000 veterans and active service members now participating in adaptive sports. The interest in the Paralympic Games has also led to sports fitness facilities built especially for adaptive and wheelchair athletes. For example, the Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities in Phoenix is a $13 million facility with fitness and aquatics centers, indoor hardwood courts, a climbing wall and more. It also serves as a venue for local, national and international adaptive sporting events.

The best thing about the program in Grand Rapids, according to Davis, is the competitiveness. “I’ve always been competitive; I’ve always loved testing myself against others. Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t be active.”

Davis and his wheelchair tennis team travel across the country for matches, including one memorable one in Dallas. “I’ll never forget that,” he said, “we were there in the middle of the summer in 98° weather with 90 percent humidity.” Other not-so-humid stops for the team of around 20, plus coaches, have included Fort Wayne and Chicago, among others.

Mary Free Bed’s sports offerings, besides wheelchair tennis, include such sports as wheelchair softball, sports camps, wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, open water fishing and many more. “That’s the great thing about the programs,” Davis said. “It’s a variety, not the same thing over and over.”

And programs keep growing, mainly because of word of mouth, according to Davis. “In tennis we have a banquet, and we show off what we do. The word spreads to other athletes who may want to try it, and we are fortunate enough that we’re exposed to sponsors who want to help out.”

It was because Davis was willing to try this new sport, that he is an enthusiastic supporter of wheelchair tennis. “Getting out and doing is better than sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself,” he said. “I admit it was a rough patch for me at the beginning, but one, my newborn daughter got me through, and two, seeing others getting involved really encouraged me.”

And his advice to others considering adaptive or wheelchair sports? “Just try it,” he said. “It has added so much to my life. It can do the same for you.”

For more information on the Mary Free Bed sports programs, visit