Wheelchair / Sports and Recreation for the Physically Challenged in West Virginia!

The opportunities for involvement in competitive sports for individuals who are physically challenged is broadening in West Virginia, and with the skill level of participants in our state has risen in the last several years. National Qualifying Standards (NQS) have been raised to align more with International and Olympic Standards. West Virginia started producing NQS athletes in 1997, just three years after starting the State Track + Field Championship Event. That year four (4) athletes qualified in seven (7) events. Last yea, 2003, we had thirteen (13) athletes qualify in thirty (30) events. In the process, West Virginia has produced two (2) athletes holding six (6) National Records.

This is due to a few factors 1) The effort in behalf of some recreation therapists, interested individuals, public service agencies, individuals themselves and private industry. 2) The special projects and/or funding on the part of WVTRA, which has financially and technically (with manpower and expertise) helped organize and offer events. 3) The effort of Recreation Therapists, in preparing their service recipients or benefactors of our services to participate, resume and pursue their interests once again, or in some cases, for the first time.

For the coming year I sincerely hope we the Therapeutic Recreation Professionals not only continue this trend but take a more active role in their agencies and community by exposing the people they work with and / or come in contact with to the world of sports. What many people still don’t understand is in competitive sports each individual is classified by neurological level and functional level of involvement, age and sex. Everyone competes at their functional level. This assures that apples are compared to apples! When people compete with others their same functional level everyone becomes capable. Folks just don’t realize their potential! For instance, our youngest competitor to date, a nine (9) year old Field Classification F-1, threw a Discus, .9 meters (about 36 inches). That doesn’t sound like much, “BUT, the National Record previously was .5 meters. WOW”! Can you imagine that? Someone who’s parents, teachers and he himself never realized that not only can he compete, but can be competitive in sport.

Imagine the pride, excitement, the thrill “TO HAVE DONE SOMETHING NO ONE BEFORE THEM HAS DONE”, not to mention the fact his name and accomplishments will be recorded in history; the record book.

Over the many years of my career I have dabbled in and partaken in many activity experiences with my patients, clients and friends, many of which have been tremendously gratifying. Although, none more so than seeing someone accomplish or surpass not only their goals, but in the process breaking new ground and setting a higher standard for those to follow and to aspire to new areas of interest. This is the essence of our profession and the essence of our being. “I love this profession”!

For more info. about competitive sports in WV call Jeremiah Gagnon, ctrs
1(304) 388-7608 email [email protected]