Rugby athletes roll into action
Students and local athletes teamed up for a day-long wheelchair rugby tournament on Saturday to raise funds for a new program for athletes with disabilities.
The Wheelchair Rugby Smash Tournament is an initiative of Adaptive Athletics at UH, which aims to develop an athletics program at UH for students with disabilities, beginning with wheelchair rugby.
“We are doing this as a fundraiser — to raise funds, but also to raise awareness,” said Michael Cottingham, assistant professor and program director. “We have a couple students here at UH, and they play with the community team in the area. Our goal would be to have a college student program.”
The tournament brought together students from different organizations who had no experience with wheelchair rugby. In exchange for a donation, the players who participated in the tournament had the opportunity to learn a new sport and support the cause.
“I’m really excited to play,” said sports administration junior Michael Lopez before the game. “I’ve never played before, so I’m interested to see how it is. It looks pretty fun.”
Petroleum engineering freshman Kyler Plotts and undeclared sophomore Devin Barrera participated in the tournament as representatives of their fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.
“We are playing to help raise awareness of the abilities of the disabled people,” Plotts said.
Barrera added that students with disabilities deserve an equal chance at sports.
“Just because you are in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t participate in sports and be athletic; this takes a lot of upper body strength,” Barrera said.
The teams competed in 30-minute games for which wheelchair rugby chairs were provided by the organization. Each team was assigned a wheelchair rugby athlete for guidance.
“I’m here to have fun and teach the other able bodies how to play,” said rugby player CJ Brown.
While UH has its reoccurring tournament, Cottingham said the University of Arizona is the only university in the country with a wheelchair rugby program, which plays against other non-college teams.
Having a program like this at UH would bring competition and equality for students with disabilities.
“I think it’s really great to have an opportunity to compete as a college student or college athlete,” Cottingham said.
“It’s an opportunity to get young people to get active, get involved and to play a sport that is so valuable. College sports are a great opportunity in the education system, so it’s really important for us to support that.”