Loud cheers, laughter and the slapping of hockey sticks rang in the Robert F. Osborne Centre, as students and members of the UBC community participated in UBC Recreation’s annual Adaptive Sports Day.
Since its inception in 2014, multiple adaptive sports have been showcased on campus, such as wheelchair basketball, goal ball, para biathlon and sitting volleyball. Adaptive sports use modified rules or equipment to make participation accessible.
This year, UBC Recreation partnered with the BC Wheelchair Floorball Association to bring the fast-paced, action-packed and hockey-like sport to more people.
“We’re trying to make sure that all people here on campus feel like there’s programs for them. As well, the event is such a great opportunity for people to see and try a new sport, and also see the talent involved in it,” said UBC Physical Activity Coordinator Emily Jarvis. Jarvis is from the department of athletics and recreation office of physical activity, which works to promote equitable, inclusive and accessible physical activity across campus by supervising initiatives such as the Move U Crew.
“We’re trying to make sure that all people here on campus feel like there’s programs for them,” said Jarvis.
Kyle Gieni is the founder and president of the BC Wheelchair Floorball Association, a non-profit society established in 2016 (gaining charity status in 2019), that seeks to “facilitate a sustainable program for athletes with and without disabilities to participate in the sport of wheelchair floorball.”
“I played hockey my whole life and I just wanted to do something for the community of wheelchair users, and disabled people. I also want to share how we’re very inclusive. We invite and make teams based on whoever wants to come and play. My brother plays on the national team too, and he’s a stand-up able-bodied person, so anyone can play.”
Gieni gestured towards all the participants practicing the skill drills that he had just taught them. “It’s a fun sport for anyone to play, and you get a great response like here tonight.”
Excitement buzzed through the air as teams of five, and a goalkeeper for each, competed against each other to score the most goals.
“I have mad respect for all the people who play this sport. It’s not easy because you have to steer and bat at the same time, but it’s very fun,” fourth-year engineering student Rohith Manoj said.
Third-year political science student Graydon Day who plays ice hockey agreed. “It’s been super fun being out here and trying it, because it’s totally different mechanically.”
Liam Toone, a linguistics and psychology student, shared his favourite moment. “Being in a wheelchair, I enjoyed the freedom that I had playing with others, and that I didn’t stand out for once. For a moment, everyone is in the same position, and for a moment, we’re all equal.”
As the final match of wheelchair floorball ended, all the players quickly huddled together with huge smiles on their faces, and slapped their hockey sticks together.
Second-year master of occupational therapy student Nicole Banting said, “the highlight has been meeting other people, discovering a newfound joy for this new sport, and putting what we’ve learned in class into practice in a really fun way.”
Students looking to join the BC Wheelchair Floorball Association can find more information at bcwheelchairfloorball.ca.