HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – For some, sports are not just a physical activity but a representation of the team, the school, the community and the self.
On Tuesday, the University of Southern Mississippi held a wheelchair basketball exhibition at the Payne Center on campus.
Two different teams went head to head on Tuesday, but both had one common goal – to raise awareness of disabilities and show people that our differences are what make us unique.
Robbie Sullivan, the adaptive sports specialist for the Institute for Disability Studies at USM, said the return to the court was a long time coming.
“It’s very special, after Covid, being able to come back after two and a half, three years, to be able to get back with the guys and get back active, play basketball and different sports, also,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan has held his position at USM since 2016.
“It was eight years after I got hurt,” he said. “I came across wheelchair basketball. My uncle found a ticket to the Mississippi Free Wheelers, and they did benefit games to help raise money for wheelchairs for people with disabilities or in nursing homes.
“I said, ‘Hey, when can I start playing?’ They said, ‘Right now.’ So, I went out there the second half, played with them and then started playing from then.”
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 14 million people in the United States struggle with mobility issues.
A former college athlete, Sirena Cantrell, began playing wheelchair basketball while living in Wisconsin. She now serves as the USM Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.
“Today, we’re playing wheelchair basketball, and I think it’s great to show students that anybody can do anything they want to do no matter what their ability level is,” she said. “I just enjoy getting to experience something new and something different, and it just makes me more respectful of people with disabilities and excited to play.”
Softball and tennis are a couple of other sports offered at USM for people with disabilities.
Students can also expect to see a few more events, such as Esports Game Day and Pet Away Stress.
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