2011-03-23 / Sports

Wheelchair athletes take on all challenges

By Joey Matthews

Chase Throckmorton (center) plays defense during a practice with teammates. 
Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer Chase Throckmorton (center) plays defense during a practice with teammates. Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer Wheelchair athletes Michael Wilson and Chase Throckmorton eagerly await their turns in a warm-up line at a recent basketball practice. Between lay-ups, they pat teammates on the back and shout encouragement. They dribble and pass among one another. They occasionally wave to their fans sitting on the sideline.

It’s evident by their spirited participation that the two young men are enjoying themselves. They play on the Lazy Legs basketball team through Sportable Richmond Adaptive Sports and Recreation, a nonprofit organization that provides recreation and sports opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities in the Richmond area.

“We came up with the [Lazy Legs] name when we were talking and joking around one day,” said Wilson, a 17-year-old homeschooled student with cerebral palsy. “We decided to stick with the name after someone came up with it.”

The team practices once a week, and players compete amongst themselves. Players also competed in their first tournament in January in Smithfield, N.C.

“We didn’t do too well,” said Throckmorton, a junior at L.C. Bird High School with spinal bifida. “We lost all our games, but we still had a lot of fun competing and hanging out with each other.”

That’s what it’s like for these young athletic wheelchair warriors. They love to practice, compete and socialize, like any other young athletes.

“Just because you’re in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” said Throckmorton of his playing philosophy.

“It makes him feel like he fits in. This does so much for his self-esteem on and off the court and in his other activities. It’s been great for him and all the other kids who play,” said Throckmorton’s mother, Johnna. “Over the last 10 years, they’ve adapted a lot of sports for kids in wheelchairs, so they don’t have to just sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else play.”

Both boys have been playing sports for many years.

“I’ve been playing basketball since I was about 4 years old,” said Throckmorton. “I just like it, the competition and the friends I meet. And it helps me stay in shape.”

He listed “shooting” as his greatest on-court attribute.

He also bowls, skis, kayaks and plays baseball and tennis, and he plans to add wrestling to his athletic resume. “I don’t like to sit still,” Throckmorton said. “I like to move around.”

He’s also been on the move as an advocate for other children with disabilities.

“He’s had press conferences with [NASCAR driver] Kyle Petty for his Victory Junction Gang camp for children with disabilities,” said Johnna. “He’s been asked to attend other press conferences as well.”

Throckmorton’s love for sports started at a young age. “When he was 2 years old, he could tell you every player on the Atlanta Braves team as well as their numbers and their positions,” Johnna said. “He also knows every NASCAR driver and their cars.”

The effervescent Wilson carries a similar love for all sports. He lists kayaking, strength and conditioning, and rugby as some of his current athletic pursuits. He’s been playing basketball for the past 10 years.

“I enjoy watching the NBA. It’s a dream of mine to become better at this sport.

“I practiced with adults for a few years when we didn’t have a team. Then our coach [Matthew Dean] started working with me. I really enjoy being on this team. We have a lot of fun.”

The rules in wheelchair basketball are similar to those in regular basketball. Players are allowed to push the chair twice and dribble once to advance up the court.

It’s not a sport for the timid as chairs come into contact with each other on occasion, and players often keep a fast pace.

“Come on out and join us,” Throckmorton said, in encouraging other wheelchair athletes to join in the fun and games. “We have a really good time together.”

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