Two steps. That’s all a player gets when trying to reach the basket before the whistle is blown. Traveling. But what about when steps aren’t an option?
A player on the Fairfax Falcons Paraylympic Sports basketball team gets two pushes of their wheelchair.
“All players use specialized wheelchairs for wheelchair basketball,” says Eric Rode, Fairfax Falcons team manager and prep-team coach. “And some rules are modified, such as traveling. Instead of being able to take two steps before you must pass or dribble, players have to do two pushes or touches of their wheels.”
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The Fairfax Falcons Paralympic Sports teams were established over 20 years ago. According to Rode, they provide a variety of adapted sports experiences to over 30 individuals in the Northern Virginia and DC metro area that range in age from 4 years old to 22, have not graduated high school and who have an irreversible lower extremity disability, such as paralysis, amputation, radiological evidence of limb shortening, spina bifida, a spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy.
But the game is the same. The varsity team (14 years old and up) plays on a regulation-size court with all NCAA rules, with a standard-size ball and hoop. The prep team (ages 13 years old and younger), play on a regulation-size court with an 8.5-foot hoop, using a slightly smaller basketball.
From Friday, Dec. 6 to Sunday, Dec. 8, they’ll put their skills to the test as teams from Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Connecticut, New York and California travel to Falls Church for the sixth annual Wheelchair Basketball Pete Corapi Memorial Tournament.
“There will be a lot of action,” says Rode. Games will take place Friday night, all day on Saturday and most of the day on Sunday. “We are looking forward to the exciting games and hosting other teams at our home gym once again.”
Every year, the top teams are awarded with first-place finishes (and bragging rights, of course) and one athlete from each top team is given a spirit award. But aside from all of the fun of competition, Rode says, there’s much more that the local team and the sport itself have to offer.
“We have had several athletes who have started as young players and played all the way through high school,” says Rode. “Through adaptive sports experiences, athletes improve physical fitness, communication skills, self-esteem and build lifelong friendships. The Falcons are a family. And, it’s a place for athletes and families to make connections with one another.”
For those interested in attending the tournament, it will take place at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, and admission is free. More information on the Fairfax Falcons Paralympic Sports team can be found on the website or the organization’s Facebook page. // James Lee Community Center: 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church; Dec. 6-8, times vary; free