“Let’s go Bunch, you got this! Put that time in the gym to use!” one of my new teammates yelled as he skated by me in this crazy seat-with-skate-blades-underneath-it they called a “sled,” The metal picks on the butt-end of his sticks made a distinct “chk”-”chk”-”chk” as my teammate skated by me. He was moving way faster than I could even think of right now. It was my first time on the ice with my local sled hockey team. I was being run ragged – trying to find my balance and move forward was a challenge, let alone handle a puck with not one, but two sticks!
Joining an adaptive activity is something I’d always had apprehensions about. I’ve been an amputee since the age of thirteen months, and aside from a brief stint in wheelchair track/racing, I’d never given adaptive sports a second thought. For whatever reason, I’d always envisioned “adaptive” activities as a slower, less-intense counterpart to “normal people” sports, and for that reason I’d shied away. The fact that I was being left in the dust by my new teammates proved the whole “slower, less-intense” theory to be quite incorrect. Why was I even here, though? I want to share with you some of the train of thought that landed me in that sled, and keeps me there to this day.
- Meet New People – adaptive activities are a great way to introduce yourself to other people with similar challenges. Not only will you find individuals with amputations, but other “disabilities” as well. It’s not just the fact that you’re meeting other individuals similar to yourself, but the fact that each of these folks is pushing themselves to become the best they can at their pursuit. You are the product of the people you surround yourself with, and if everyone around you is working to get better, chances are strong you will too. There’s a different kind of camaraderie that comes along with working towards a common goal in a team setting, which just can’t be found in a support group.
- It’s good for your health – This might come as news to some, but physical activity is great for your health! This doesn’t mean you have to be crushing it in the gym five times a week, even getting to practice once a week is better than remaining sedentary. Plus, as you begin to excel at your activity, you will become inspired to be more active outside of your pursuit, whether that’s in the gym or finding another activity. Staying active is a great way to lose body fat, build muscle, and manage your weight – all very important aspects to remaining a healthy and functional amputee.
- Acceptance – Joining an adaptive sport or activity will help you embrace life as an amputee. An adaptive activity levels the playing field, and missing a limb no longer puts you in a class by yourself. Just as attending the AC National Conference can make you truly feel at home, a “person among people”, so can participating in an adaptive sport. Feeling “normal” in a group of people who face similar challenges is a very special, fulfilling feeling.
- Overcoming – Regardless of how you feel about being called “inspirational” participating in an adaptive sport symbolizes overcoming circumstance. Whether you choose sled hockey, track and field, powerlifting, or any one of a host of adaptive activities, simply showing up to challenge yourself sets you apart from society’s expectation of what you “should” be doing as a person with a “disability.”
- Building awareness – Adaptive sports aren’t totally mainstream – YET. Your participation in an adapted activity can help you #AmplifyYourself by sharing information about your sport with people you know. You can also invite your friends and family to events/competitions. This helps bring awareness to not only adaptive sports, but amputation and limb difference (and other “disabilities”) as well.
I’ve gotten to a point when people ask me what I do for fun, I no longer put the “sled” in “sled hockey” I’ll instead answer “I play hockey” because to me, my sport isn’t any different than able-bodied professional hockey. My sport isn’t “special” or “disabled” It is my way of doing the things that I want to do. It’s an incredibly empowering experience to defy the expectations, to challenge yourself and rise against the very thing that’s supposed to be holding you back.
Check out the following resources to find an adaptive activity or sport near you:
Paralympic Sport Club Finder – http://www.teamusa.org/us-paralympics/find-a-club
VA Adaptive Sport Club Finder – https://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/va_clubFinder.asp
Disabled Sports USA Chapter Search – http://www.disabledsportsusa.org/location-map/
About the Author:
Trevor Bunch is a bilateral above knee amputee, personal fitness coach, and athlete. Physical activity has always been a passion of his, and he has put that passion to use by helping coach other amputees at all stages of their journey. Whether it’s motivation/mindset coaching, exercise or nutrition instruction, Trevor is always happy to help those who reach out to him maximize their physical potential!