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.

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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)

http://www.gofightingscots.com/index.aspx?path=wcbball&&tab=0

Oklahoma State University (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)

http://campusrec.okstate.edu/adaptivesport/wheelchairbasketball

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

http://www.gopsusports.com/ability/

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

http://uads.weebly.com/

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

http://drc.arizona.edu/athletics

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

http://disability.illinois.edu/athletics

University of Missouri (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)

http://www.mizzourec.org/programs/wheelchair_basketball/

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

http://pages.uoregon.edu/adaptive/

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

http://www.uta.edu/movinmavs/

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

http://www.uww.edu/recsports/wcathletics/

Southwest Minnesota State University (Men’s Wheelchair Basketball)

http://smsumustangs.com/index.aspx?tab=wheelchairbasketball&path=wheelbball

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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