(R) Chuck Melton high fives his teammates at the Parapan American Games 2019 on Aug. 23, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Competing in a major competition like the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 requires years of preparation. And with that preparation comes the need for extreme determination, hard work and sacrifice.
Not unlike the journey of parenthood.
Joe Delagrave and Chuck Melton are the captains of the U.S. wheelchair rugby team. In addition, they both have families. Melton has been balancing his athletic career with raising his children for a while now, as his kids are high school and college age, while Delagrave has three children under the age of seven.
“A lot of time when I’m asking Chuck about rugby related stuff, or captain stuff, we talk about kids, too,” Delagrave said. “It’s neat for me to have a blue print for it since he has all of this experience.”
Balancing a family and pursuing one’s athletic dreams is a big responsibility, not only for the athlete, but for his or her partner as well.
“It’s just as much of a commitment, if not more, for [our wives] as it is for us,” Delagrave said. “When we’re at rugby camps, we don’t have a dad hat on… So, when you call, and the kids are going crazy, and the wife is stressed, you see they probably have it harder than we do.”
Melton seconded the importance of his wife, Kelly, in his ability to be the best athlete he can be.
“Whatever I’ve needed, she’s made the sacrifice for,” Melton said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more from her. I’d do anything for her, and she’d do anything for me.”
Sometimes that support needs to come in the form of tough love.
“You go home from camps or competitions and sometimes you might be feeling down or like you don’t have confidence, and [April] is like ‘Suck it up buttercup, I’m not doing all this sacrificing for nothing,’” Delagrave explained while laughing.
But the sacrifices and hard work is worth it for the co-captains. Being an athlete teaches their children an invaluable lesson. The kids get to see their fathers working hard every day to achieve their dreams.
“All of my kids see, if you want something, this is what it takes,” Melton said. “Going to the gym when you don’t feel like it, or going to practices when you’re already tired. To see them grow up like that, and see them put forth that effort and commitment into their own sports or whatever it is that they’re going after is really cool.”
While it’s not always easy, Delagrave knows he is competing for something bigger than himself.
“My kids see Chuck Aoki out there, and they get all excited. It’s really neat that my kids, as abled-bodies, can look at someone with a disability and see them as a super star,” Delagrave said.
Delagrave and Melton both acknowledged how the balance of parenting is not very different from being a captain. A captain is there to support the team while allowing it to achieve its greatest potential, much like parenthood.
Delagrave brings the energy and the emotion to the team. Melton is more relaxed but always a steady, reliable source.
“It sometimes mirrors my relationship and our parenting styles,” Delagrave said of their dynamic.
At this year’s Parapan Games, the U.S. wheelchair rugby team is confident. The group is close knit, with many familiar faces having played together for years.
“There’s a core of us that have been through a lot together. There have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs…” Delagrave said. “We do a lot of talking off the court, so we have that foundation and trust on the court.”
Team USA won its first matchup against Chile 60-16 and the following competition against Argentina 48-7. The medal rounds will take place on Tuesday. With four matches between now and then, this team isn’t looking ahead to Tuesday quite yet.
“Big picture wise, we never look past the next team,” Melton said. “We put our focus there, accomplish that one and move on from there.”