October is National Physical Therapy Month!

Physical therapists (PTs) serve a crucial role in the lives of people who live with a physical disability. As with any client, PTs can help improve the quality of life by increasing mobility and motion thus making the activities of daily living easier and safer. But PTs can serve an even greater role in the lives of their clients with physical disability.

With the London 2012 Paralympic Games just behind us, examples of elite sport and athletes with physical disability have never enjoyed more publicity than in the last few months. From the Meet the Superhumans ads that ran on British TV Channel 4 and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKTamH__xuQ) to Oscar Pistorius representing South Africa in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, very few people doubt the capabilities of elite athletes with physical disability. But does the average person living with a physical disability know all the options that are available to them through sport and recreation?

While few would doubt a PT’s ability to serve the needs of a client with a physical disability, does the average PT also have the general knowledge of all the options that exist in the world of sport and recreation for people living with a physical disability? Can the average PT serve as a knowledgeable resource for a client with a recently acquired spinal cord injury who mentions their love for basketball prior to their injury by telling her about wheelchair basketball and the National Wheelchair Basketball Association? A client with cerebral palsy who is ambulatory and loves soccer by directing him to 7-a-side football? A person with a visual impairment that is an avid and competitive runner who is rehabbing a chronic injury by discussing the competitive opportunities in Paralympic track and road racing?

As professionals who will likely come in contact with people with a physical disability it is a great advantage for a PT to have a working knowledge of adapted and disability sport and recreation as well as the Paralympic Games in order to holistically serve the client. You never know when you might be the first person to open the door to a whole new world for one of your clients.

BlazeSports offers a certification program that ensures you will have the ability to open these doors and change lives.  The Certified Disability Sport Specialist (CDSS) program provides a curriculum and resources that will enhance existing credentials such as PT, OT, CTRS, CPRP and others by demonstrating specialized knowledge is disability and adapted sport.  To find out more about the CDSS program and how you can enhance your ability to serve clients with a physical disability, visit http://www.blazesports.org/resources/professional-development/.

Have you had a PT that changed your life by introducing you to an adapted or disability sport? If so, we would love to hear from you!

For more information on National Physical Therapy Month visit the American Physical Therapy Association website at www.apta.org.

Posted in Blog, CDSS |

A trip to Haiti

Blog by BlazeSports intern Kit McCluskey.

When I decided to come to Georgia for my internship at BlazeSports, I had no idea what was in store for me. I have loved every minute of it and thought it couldn’t get much better. To my surprise it did. I learned that I was going to Haiti with the staff. I was in complete shock and so excited, because I have never been out of the country before.

The whole thing didn’t really hit me until we arrived off the plane in Port-au-Prince and we were greeted with a Haitian band playing music. The airport was small and the process of getting all our bags went smoothly. Unfortunately, the javelin never even left Atlanta. I was just grateful it wasn’t my bag.

We got to the bus and were ready to start our 3 hour ride to our hotel in Petite-Goave. I didn’t know much about Haiti besides the earthquake in 2010 so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I saw is practically indescribable. No matter what words I use, they wouldn’t come close to explain how much poverty there is in this country.

Besides the amount of poverty, the adventure of the bus ride is something I will never forget. There are no traffic laws or speed limits and people don’t look if another car is coming before they go out into traffic. The whole thing was complete chaos.

On Sunday, we took a boat from the hotel to a beach to play some futbol, volleyball, have lunch and enjoy the beautiful weather of Haiti. I have always seen pictures of the white sandy beaches with the clear water and palm trees but I have never actually seen it in person. It truly was picture perfect. For lunch there was a choice of fish or lobster. I decided to pass on lunch, because I don’t do seafood, but Jeff insisted that I try the lobster. To my surprise, it wasn’t that bad and I would have it again.

Monday and Tuesday it was time to work. The group who came to the training sessions consisted of about 50 people – a mix of physical education students, coaches and professionals who work with people with physical disabilities. Emphasis was really put on how they can take the knowledge we share with them and then apply it to their communities. They don’t have to be able to train them to be Paralympians, but teach them about the opportunities that they have through sport even if it’s a grass root program for recreational enjoyment. We gave them a basic overview of the variety of sports in the Paralympic Games and then broke out into sessions of soccer, sitting volleyball, boccia and field events. It was incredible to see all the participants so engaged, asking questions and wanting to make a difference in their country.

While I was playing pepper with some of them, I realized how sport is one of the few things in this world that’s universal. I don’t speak creole and they don’t speak English, but we were still enjoying ourselves because we had volleyball to bond over.

Even though I am hungry at the end of each day and I have bug bites all over my legs, I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to come on this trip. Its only day 4 and my perspective on life has changed in so many ways. I have learned that anyone who is willing can make a difference. You don’t have to start big to make a big impact.

Posted in Blog |

Academics and College Sport for athletes with disabilities

Georgia Blazer…Going for Gold at U of I

For any high school senior, college is a daunting prospect. From the application process, to the nerve wracking first day, to the hectic schedules of work, sports and social life…there are an abundance of emotions and considerations.

Then there’s Sports! If you are a high school athlete wishing to continue your sport at college, you need to consider the many sports programs, the scholarship opportunities and how to get on to that winning college team of your choice.

So what if you are an athlete with a disability? What are the opportunities available and where do you start?

Christina Young, a former member of the Georgia Blazers Wheelchair Basketball and Track and Field team, is currently a freshman at the University of Illinois and a member of the ‘Fighting Illini’, the hugely successful wheelchair basketball team.

Christina talks about her experiences so far, from the first application through to her busy day to day schedule.

Former Blazer Christina Young

Can you describe your application process to the University of Illinois?

There are two different times you can apply, priority and regular. I applied priority in November. By doing this you have an easier chance of getting in, as well as you find out if you got in quicker, by about December. To apply, you need your transcript, SAT and ACT scores, two essays that they give you, and you need to know all of your persona information.

Why did you choose this particular University?

I chose U of I because it is a very highly ranked academic school as well as they have the best wheelchair athletics program in the country. I also love the atmosphere (minus the snow), the people are great, and I felt like I fit in here.

What has been the best thing about college life so far?

I think the best thing about college right now would be the fun I have with the friends and family I made. Between the wheelchair basketball team and all the people I have met, I really feel like I have a huge family here.

How do you manage your academic and sports schedules at college?

At first it was quite difficult remembering when I have things going on and when things are due, but one thing that made a huge difference helping me stay on track is having a calendar. I have one on my phone that tells me when I have classes and events and another one in a planner that tells me when I have quizzes, tests, and assignments due. It is very helpful, without it I would be so lost.

How did being a Georgia Blazer prepare your for University?

Being a Georgia Blazer prepared me for college in many ways. I had the opportunity to travel the country and meet the college coaches that recruited me. I also went on a tournament to campus here which first introduced me to the University of Illinois. Being a Blazer also taught me numerous characteristics to help me prepare for college including responsibility, independence, and maturity. I also went through leadership training which helped me learn more about myself including my strengths and weaknesses and being in college is helping me improve my weaknesses and strengthen my strengths.

As a wheelchair user, have you faced any challenges at college so far and how have you handled them?

I haven’t had many challenges since this school is so good at accommodating wheelchair users. I guess one thing I have had some issues is with the sidewalks. Since this school is very old, some sidewalks are worn out and have bumps, cracks, and such. But I just learned the sidewalks and now I know which ones to avoid and such.

Can you describe a typical day at college?

For an athlete a typical day is very busy. For me, on a Monday (which is my easier day), I have to get up at 5:30 am for basketball practice at 6:30, and then I have practice from 6:30-8:30 am. After that I have another hour of individual skills, then my first class at 10, then usually I go eat lunch and get a little nap in (which is highly recommended), then from 1-3 I have two classes. After that I go lift weights for basketball at 4 till 5. Then I have to go to a study center for 8 hours a week, so I usually go there after dinner at about 6 till about 8. Then I come home, shower and get ready for bed. Usually my days are always busy and I barely have free time. But that is what the weekends are for!

What advice or tips would you give to young athletes with a disability who would like to go to college?

One major thing I would say is don’t be afraid. College at first does seem intimidating and a little scary, but it really isn’t. It will be the time of your life, as well as a huge learning experience, in the classroom as well as outside of the class. Another thing to prepare yourself for college is to make sure you keep your grades up in high school. From experience, a high GPA can help you get into the college of your choice, not just your test scores. And apply to many colleges, not just one. Also, have an open mind, go check out the colleges in person, it will definitely influence your choices.

What are your goals for the future in terms of your sport and academic career?

In the future I plan on graduating from the University of Illinois with a bachelors in Kinesiology, then I plan on attending a graduate school to become an Occupational Therapist. In my sports, I am hoping to make a national team in either track or wheelchair basketball. Another one of my goals is to go to Rio in 2016 for the Paralympics. That is the main goal I am training for.


If you are thinking of continuing your sport at college, here is a list of colleges across the county with adapted sports programs:

Edinboro University, Pennsylvania (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)


Oklahoma State University (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)


Penn State University (Co-ed Wheelchair Basketball, Swimming, Weight lifting, Powerlifting)


University of Alabama, Birmingham (Men’s and Women’s Wheelchair Basketball, Tennis, Adapted Golf and Rowing)


University of Arizona (Men’s and Women’s Wheelchair Basketball, Quad Rugby, Tennis, Track and Field and Road Racing)


University of Illinois (Men’s and Women’s Wheelchair Basketball, Track and Field)


University of Missouri (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)


University of Oregon (Adaptive Sports Club, UO Adaptive Track Team.)


University of Texas, Arlington (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)


University of Wisconsin – Whitewater (Men’s and Women’s Wheelchair Basketball, Athletics)


Southwest Minnesota State University (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)


BlazeSports offer a variety of sports for youth aged 8-21 with physical disabilities. Contact us today to find out more about Wheelchair Basketball, Swimming and Track and Field. 404 270 2000, info@blazesports.org.


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