SC4 partners with U of M to host Wolverine Invitational, furthers mission of inclusivity

Growing up some of us had dreams of being an all-star basketball player, carrying the team to victory, or hitting the buzzer-beater to win the game. But what options exist for individuals who may have a physical disability that prevents them from joining school or little league teams?

For those who live with physical limitations, adaptive sports programs are a great option. Adaptive sports, also referred to as parasports, can be played by individuals with a physical or intellectual disability or limitation and although they are geared towards individuals with limitations, there are some leagues or programs that allow able-bodied individuals to participate as well. Those who are able-bodied still have to adhere to the rules of the game and use the adaptive equipment provided, so that all play is fair and inclusive.

The Brampton Crashers discuss their gameplay at halftime during the Wolverine Invitational held at the SC4 Fieldhouse on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.St. Clair County Community College (SC4) strives to make its students and staff comfortable regardless of an individual's race, color, creed, or physical limitations and is working to offer resources for those interested in participating in adaptive sports as well as spread awareness.

On Friday, Sept. 30, an adaptive sports clinic was offered as SC4 and in partnership with the University of Michigan (U of M), the college is hosting the second annual Wolverine Invitational this weekend through Sunday, Oct. 2.

“We really want to bring awareness to our campus and community to show that we are concerned about the needs our students face and that we’re committed to making SC4 a place where all students can feel they have a place and belong,” says Pete Lacey, Senior Vice President at SC4. “This event helps us spread that awareness because disability can affect any of us at any time.”

Admission is free to see the wheelchair basketball teams from Canada and across the Midwest compete at SC4 Fieldhouse on the Port Huron campus. Participating in the tournament are teams from U of M, the Detroit Wheelchair Pistons, the Brampton Crashers, the Variety Village Rolling Rebels, and the LWSRA Hawks. Each team plays with the winner moving on to the next round until the final two teams met in Sunday's championship game.

Lacey shares that the collaboration with the university began a little over a year ago after a visit from U of M’s Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami to SC4’s campus for a Diversity Equity and Inclusion event.

“He mentioned their adaptive sports program and I expressed interest in possibly hosting a game in the future,” Lacey says. “Later, he visited our Fieldhouse and expressed his love of the community and offered to let us host this year's invitational to help build disability awareness. Now here we are, and we’re hoping that this becomes a long-term relationship.”

Around three years ago, U of M started the Adaptive Sports & Fitness Program to recognize individuals with physical or mental limitations and how it affected their college experience. Assistant Director of the program, Erik Robeznieks, understands the fact that many with disabilities share the same passions and desires to compete and enjoy sports whether it be competitive or recreational.

“We recognized that individuals with disabilities were not getting equitable access to physical activities such as sports, fitness, and recreation,” Robeznieks says. “Being a student at a university is much more than what happens in the classroom … All of the experiences that exist at a university, recreation, sports, and fitness are such an important part of that experience. People with disabilities have that same need and desire to be physically active, whether that be for aesthetic reasons, social, or their competitive nature to compete at the highest levels they can.”

Adaptive sports aren’t limited to those with disabilities as in some cases there aren't enough players to have a full team. In those cases, able-bodied individuals are welcome to join and participate as well.

“We are really passionate about including able-bodied individuals as well, knowing that's how you develop allyship which furthers the goal of spreading awareness and inclusion for all,” Robeznieks says.       
One of the goals Robeznieks and U of M have is to embed adaptive sports within the mainstream physical education curriculum for grades K-12 in the state of Michigan. They are currently focusing on the Ann Arbor public school system with plans to slowly expand across the state.

Read more articles by Harold Powell.

Harold Powell is the Community Correspondent for The Keel and owner of Phantom Pen Media offering multimedia services to individuals and organizations across the Blue Water Area. He is a current board member for the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce and the most recent Chamber Choice recipient at the Eddy Awards. Harold is an avid volunteer for the YMCA of the Blue Water Area as well as Bridge Builders Counseling & Mentoring and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his son, writing and listening to music, playing video games, and not folding laundry.