Vision and hearing impairments didn’t stop anyone from participating when the Ability Sport Network at The University of Alabama in Huntsville partnered with the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind for beep baseball games on June 6, 2023, at Charger Park softball field. Photo Credit: Michael Mercier | UAH
By: Ann Marie Martin, University Writer/Copy Editor
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – More specialized wheelchairs for wheelchair basketball. More electronic balls for beep baseball. More sport activities – and a wider variety – for middle and high school students with functional limitations based on physical disabilities.
That’s what it means for the Ability Sport Network (ASN) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) to receive a $58,200 grant as the sole sponsor of the state’s adapted youth sport league focusing on Paralympic sports, says Dr. David Kyle, UAH’s network director and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Education.
“The equipment is so expensive,” he says. “One wheelchair – $3,000. The beep baseballs, the beep kickballs, those are about $50 a piece, and they’re very temperamental. I had four brand new ones, and they all got destroyed just within one event.”
UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, had been receiving a portion of the state’s ASN grant funding each year since 2016. This year, UAH was awarded the entire grant from the Alabama Education Trust Fund through the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
ASN has a serious purpose behind all the fun and games.
“People with disabilities are underserved in terms of sport and physical activity,” says Kyle, himself a former athlete with a disability. He did para-triathlon for about 10 years before working with ASN.
“Poor health comes not so much from the disability but from the lack of activity. It is a public health issue. We want people to have a better life and to be healthy, and we use sport and games as a tool to provide that.”
Along with several wheelchair basketball practices this grant cycle, ASN at UAH has held two big events on campus this spring: Adaptive Cycling Community Day and Development Clinic on May 21 and beep baseball with the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind on June 5-6.
Next up is a boccia clinic on July 22 at the Optimist Recreation Center in partnership with Huntsville Parks and Recreation. Boccia, a Paralympic sport, is a precision ball sport originally designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy. A bowling type of game involving strategy and accuracy, boccia is played sitting down in a wheelchair or regular chair.
ASN does more than organize physical activities for the community. It also offers professional development training workshops to show others how to share the fun.
“We focus on P.E. teachers, coaches and adapted P.E. teachers,” Kyle says. “Sometimes it’s para-professionals we work with. We’ve done professional development for Huntsville Parks and Rec.”
ASN provided training for Athens City Schools on April 28. Two more state workshops are planned at Athens State University on July 24 and for Florence City Schools on Aug. 7.
Workshops are one more way for ASN to get and keep everyone moving.
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