By: Matt Lood
Across the country, there has been a movement towards more adaptive sports programs. Here in South Bend, you may not have known that we have our own adaptive team: the River City Rollers. The Rollers are a wheelchair basketball team based out of South Bend open for anyone to join. They get together on Thursdays and Sundays at the SAC here at IU South Bend.
“Anyone is welcome to come and check us out. If you show up, we will get you into a chair,” coach and organizer Joe McTigue said. “Adaptive sports is growing so quickly, and it gives everyone an opportunity to be a part of something very fun.”
In 1975, the organization was started by Jim Milliken, a Vietnam army veteran. Milliken, a member of the South Bend Hall of Fame, famously competed for the USA Paralympic team in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. He had a long history of athletic competition as both a swimmer and winter skier before he founded the River City Rollers.
The organization is also supported by Dr. Feranmi Okanlami, who currently oversees adaptive sports at the University of Michigan. Okanlami grew up in South Bend before a diving accident left him with a spinal cord injury. He spends much of his time advocating for adaptive sports programs.
“The goal of the program is for the University to accept it as a sport, and begin offering adaptive sports at IUSB,” McTigue said.
The Rollers currently use the IU South Bend Student Activities Center to get together and play basketball. A practice session usually consists of two or three scrimmage games, and may also include a game against outside competition. The group is not limited to wheelchair users, and they are very accepting of everyone.
For those unfamiliar with wheelchair basketball, the rules are very similar to that of regular basketball. Teams have a shot clock in which the ball needs to enter the basket. Points are scored the same as regular basketball: free throws are one point, shots inside the three-point arc are two points and shots from outside the three-point arc are three points.
Since players are in wheelchairs, the wheel chair is an extension of the body. Players are not allowed to use their arms or legs to gain an unfair advantage. The player with the ball is unable to put their feet on the floor.
The major difference between wheelchair basketball and regular basketball is that there is no double dribble. Players are expected to dribble the basketball as they move up the court; however, if the ball is picked up or placed on a player’s lap it is considered the end of the dribble. From this position, players have a maximum of two pushes of their wheels to advance the ball before they are required to shoot or pass. If a player exceeds two pushes, a travel is called.
If you are interested in playing with the Rollers, you can check out their website and sign up at rivercityrollers.org.