Stacy Ellingen

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Stacy’s Journal: Disability in the World of Sports

2016-08-08
By: Stacy Ellingen
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Like many Americans, I recently watched the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics.  I enjoy watching athletes from all of the different countries march in and listening to stories of the athletes.  Gymnastics, swimming, and diving are my favorite sports to watch during the Summer Olympics. 

Many people don’t realize this because they don’t get near the amount of media coverage that the regular ones do, but there are Olympics for people who have disabilities too.  The Paralympics are for people with physical disabilities and the Special Olympics are for people with cognitive disabilities.  People who participate in these are athletes just like people who participate in the regular Olympics.  Just like regular Olympians, these athletes spend countless hours training and competing.  In my opinion, it’s a real shame that the Paralympics and Special Olympics aren’t televised.   There are petitions going around on the Internet to try to get them televised, so maybe in the future, they will be!

Although my physical limitations are too severe to participate in many adaptive athletics, sports have been a part of my life ever since I was young.  My family and friends are avid football fans.  Each season, I setup and run a family football pool.  If there’s a NFL game on (doesn’t matter which teams are playing), chances are that I’ll be watching it.  I also follow college football and basketball pretty close too.  I absolutely love attending sporting events as well.  I’ve been to one pro football game and a few Badger football games.

In high school, I rarely missed a football or basketball (both boys and girls) game—home or away. I think by being a spectator at them, it helped my classmates accept me.  In fact, my senior year, I was invited to the Senior Sports Awards Banquet.  I received a sportsmanship award.  It’s a memory I will always treasure.  At UW-Whitewater, I continued to attend many of the football and basketball games as time allowed.  I also attended most of the wheelchair basketball games while I was there.  They have both a men’s and women’s team now.  I know the men’s team has won multiple national championships, and I think the women’s team is also pretty good.  It’s a pretty amazing sport to watch!

Growing up, I also watched my sister participate in various sports such as soccer and swimming.  Just as she attended hundreds of my therapy sessions, I attended hundreds of her soccer practices and games.  As she has gotten older, she has done some marathon and triathlon type events. She has expressed interested in sometime doing a race or something with me.  Many people with disabilities participate in various types of races with the help of a partner who pushes or pulls (in biking and swimming events) the person along.  My Team Triumph is a big organization in Wisconsin that pairs persons with disabilities up with a partner (they call them angels) who is willing to help.  While this is a great opportunity for some, personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in something like this.  I’m not comfortable highlighting my disability like that.  I think it’s great that people are willing to do that for others, but I would feel too awkward being in the spotlight for something I didn’t do.  People will disagree with me on this and that’s ok; I respect your opinion.

Although, I’m not able to physically participate in athletics, I think it’s good for me to actively follow sports. It’s a good way for me to socially connect with people.

Who’s ready for some football?!?!?!

***The views expressed here are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of InControl Wisconsin, the Network or any of our sponsors.

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