Looking to get into an adaptive sport? We’ve assembled a list of opportunities in the area, and spoke with local athletes about their experiences.
Capital Adaptive Rowing Program
In the spring and fall, Shannon Franks sometimes stays out rowing with the Capital Adaptive Rowing Program after the sun sets.
“We put little lights on our boats so we know which direction we’re rowing,” he says. “We’ll row up behind Nats Stadium and it’s beautiful because you can see the reflection of the stadium on the river.”
A subgroup of the Capital Rowing Club, CARP is open to anyone with a disability in the area. Franks and other CARP athletes row in regattas around the country.
Franks has collected memories good and bad: Supporting a teammate at the BAYADA Regatta in Philadelphia. Capsizing a boat on his birthday. Traveling to Germany to see his coach’s art show.
Franks says rowing is intense, physically and emotionally.
“I remember one athlete [in particular],” Franks says. “She was new and her first practice, I was there with her. She started crying because she was just so amazed at what she could do. Then I remember another athlete who was crying because she realized how hard it was.”
Medstar Adaptive Sports + Fitness
When Harsh Thakkar first started playing with the Medstar NRH Punishers Wheelchair Basketball team, the team sat in Division III. Since then, the team has moved up to Division I — where it’s currently ranked third.
“The experience has definitely grown in terms of the types of players we’re playing with and playing against,” Thakkar, a Punishers player and the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital coordinator, says.
MedStar operates a host of adaptive sports programs in the capital: basketball, tennis, rugby, sled hockey, bocce ball, yoga, cycling, fitness and rowing. Some are competitive; others are more casual. Thakkar says MedStar is currently looking for beginners to start a recreational wheelchair basketball team to complement the Punishers.
As both a player and a coordinator, Thakkar says he’s enjoyed seeing other players grow with the team. His favorite part?
“When people are able to reflect on how far they have come as an individual or how far the team has come.”
Many adaptive sports programs cater to veterans in the DMV.
The Wounded Warrior Project operates nationally. It conducts outreach to injured veterans, runs sports clinics and trains veterans on adaptive equipment.
This June, WWP’s event Soldier Ride DC saw about 30 active-duty members and veterans cycle in the D.C. area and visit the White House.
“It’s about empowering us and honoring us, and what an honor to be at the White House,” veteran and Soldier Ride participant Danielle Green says. “One soldier carrying another. That’s what it’s about.”
Smaller programs likewise provide adaptive sports opportunities to D.C. veterans. Servicemembers Undertaking Disabled Sports (SUDS), which used to be based at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center but has since moved to Texas, takes veterans on trips for activities from diving to mountain biking.
Maryland resident Marco Robledo first went on a SUDS scuba trip in 2009.
“To say it was the opportunity of a lifetime doesn’t really cover it because for me,” Robledo says. “I felt like I had to learn how to swim. So, there was a personal development I had to go through before I took the SUDS trip.”
Cycling + Marathons
Baltimore Adapted Recreation and Sports: moveunitedsport.org
Bennett Blazers: bennettblazers.org
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