Monday, September 10, 2012
With Fort Gordon and the VA in Augusta, our city is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to adaptive sports.
A few of our locals just finished the Paralympics, Miracle League baseball is taking Augusta by storm, and with the addition of a second team, a rivalry is born in wheelchair basketball.
Thirteen years ago, Orlando Perez was invited to play a game of wheelchair basketball.
He said, "When I first got invited to play wheelchair basketball, I thought it was a pity game, to be honest with you. I thought it was a bunch of hospital chairs and a bunch of people running slow. Once I saw the crash and saw the motivation of everybody, that got me up, and I haven't stopped ever since."
The game has been in Augusta for awhile now, but the Augusta Bulldogs have always been the only squad. And that just wasn't enough for Orlando.
"The idea of starting a second team is to try to spread it up, trying to get more opportunities because a 14-man roster can only accomodate 14 people."
So now the Bulldogs are joined by the brand new Georgia Hawks, and the mostly friendly rivalry was officially born on Saturday.
Hawks player Cole Wooten said, "I got a lot of friends on the Georgia Hawks team, so it's kind of hard to play aggressive and play my game because I know half of these people, and the Bulldogs, they're like my family."
Many players on these teams are wounded combat veterans, but not Wooten. The 13-year-old had his feet amputated because of a birth condition, but that doesn't stop him from succeeding.
"If you concentrate and learn how to do it, it takes but a week to actually get used to it and all that."
And that's the message all of these players want to get across. Setbacks happen, but what you do from then on is the important thing.
Alphonso Evans is the sports director at the Southeastern Paralyzed Veterans Associated, and he understands.
"They are honestly upset and mad for the fact that they got injured, no matter what the injury was," Evans said. "The only thing they want to do is sit at home. You don't have to sit at home."
So adaptive sports continue to grow in Augusta, and based on Saturday's match up, this basketball rivalry isn't going anywhere anytime soon.