Disabled Sports and You

March 18, 2009, 6:22 p.m. (ET)

Today thru Sunday the USA Sitting Men and Women's teams will be training and competing at the Colorado Crossroads against Canada. Come by and meet these four wonderful teams if you are in Denver.  This morning Fred Wendelboe, long time USAV leader, forwarded me a link to a great story about a golfer who has Cerebral Palsy. It brought to mind how vast our nation is, and how amazing stories like DJ Gregory's remain hidden.  If I fall, I fall....you learn from your mistakes...this man last year walked all 44 tourneys in 45 weeks, 3256 holes, 900 miles.  Kudos to DJ who left his footprints all across a sport,  I strongly encourage you and your team to watch it at:

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/clip?id=3696478&categoryid=null

Since producing the 1996 Paralympic Sitting Volleyball Venue in Atlanta I have been inspired by the athletes who represent the USA in all the amazing disciplines offered - from Blind Sports - Tandem Biking and Goalball, to our own sitting and standing versions of volleyball.  You get a change of perspective in life when you work in disabled sports.  My request is two fold:

1. You are our talent scouts, please keep looking

2. Your team will benefit from experiencing sitting volleyball

Copyright USAV

As HIPPA laws provide a higher level of privacy, and deaf and blind children are now regularly being mainstreamed into regular schools,  it has become more and more difficult for us to find new athletes who also qualify for Paralympic and Deaflympic  competition.  The Paralympic Military Sports programming headed up by long time USAV Board member Roger Neppl, has brought hope, smiles and talent to those returning injured. Just like this powerful disabled golf video story shared, our nation is so large, great ideas, opportunities and inspiration are too often not known about. So take a moment to download this chart of sports and disability

When the women won the Paralympic bronze medal in Athens in 2004, most volleyball fans not only did not see it, but did not realize that half our line up was high school players who had been training hard for just a couple of years. Those same key players returned to step up to a Silver medal in Beijng, yet the starting line up still included Heather Erickson, a 15 year old high school player out of North Carolina who was statistically the best blocker in the world event in Egypt  in advance of our success in China.  The next USA Paralympian may not be playing high school volleyball, but is a Park and Rec or YMCA League player you see when you go officiate, play, or just are watching. Let them know of the opportunities they have.

Getting your players to empathize and be "disabled" for a warm up or two, simply means having two people sit in chairs to make the "standards, and stringing a rope down the middle of a regulation vb court, just like you see in the picture. You can even have the net up.  This allows for three courts to be created, so up to 36 kids can play with the endlines and 3 meter lines being the court sidelines now, and the sidelines are the 4.5 meter per side endlines. This is off regulation by .5 meters, but who cares. Play! There are just really four main rule differences, seen below. The rest of the Olympic/USAV rules are what's used, without change. A skill set poster showing the subtle differences of playing on the floor can be found by clicking here.

1. Your feet can be in the court/over the lines, but your behind must be behind the line

2. You can block the serve

3. The net is about 1.1 meter high, while the court is 6m wide by 10 total meters long

Your behind has to stay on the floor with one cheek at least when you block or attack or play a ball. No "air butts".

Next week I will be doing a webinar course for Blaze Sports on Sitting Volleyball Programming. Eliott Blake, USAV staffer at University of Central Oklahoma in charge of developing the grassroots Disabled Volleyball programming will join Jeff Jones, Director of Education at Blaze Sports out of Atlanta for a 1 hour session. If you have the time and interest, join us, by signing up here - space is limited. Here is what Jeff said about it:

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/365289032

BlazeSports America will be hosting a webinar/conference call on competitive opportunities in the sport of Sitting Volleyball. BlazeSports America and the US Paralympics are very pleased to partner with USA Volleyball to bring you this informative webinar. Anyone can "Get Down" with Sitting Volleyball.  By utilizing the existing resources within your community, you can organize a group of athletes with and without disabilities into a formidable team.  The webinar on this Paralympic sport will provide you with the information necessary to teach the basic skills of the game, knowledge of the rules governing the game, and some of the best practices currently in place to develop your own grassroots program.  Additionally, you will learn about the necessity to identify disabled athletes who could make an immediate impact on the national teams, and how to refer them into the elite athlete pipeline.

I must also note that a whole group of amazing USA athletes will have their own ‘lympics" - the Deaflympics take place a year after the Olympics, as a 30 plus sport world competition for those who are deaf.    Take another moment to download this chart of Deaf Sports opportunity by clicking here. Now go out and find those next USA players for all these programs, and have fun playing with your team too!

Let us know if you have any other ideas on growing the sport at the disabled level by posting thoughts and comments here - these amazing athletes deserve it.  john.kessel@usav.org

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