Sports

Girlz take lessons from community service

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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REIMS, France — Coming out of ones comfort zone is not always the easiest thing to do, especially as an able-bodied person being asked to occupy a wheelchair for just about an hour.

Some would wonder why a person with two functioning legs would want to play wheelchair sports, but for Jamaica's Reggae Girlz it was an opportunity to not only unwind but understand life from a different perspective.

The community service exercise, which took place at the Gymnase Henri Barbusse here yesterday, gave the players a glimpse of how hard disabled athletes have had to work to earn respect as legit athletes.

In the end, it also turned out to be a day of fun and laughter for players Yazmeen Jameison, Nicole McClure, Trudi Carter, Mireya Grey, Olufolasade Adamolekun, Jody Brown, Dominique Bond-Flasza and Marlo Sweatman, as they shook off the 0-3 loss to Brazil in their Fifa Women's World Cup opener on Sunday.

During their time in the wheelchair, the players engaged in basketball, handball and bocce, alongside members of the association that oversees athletes with disabilities.

Canada-based goalkeeper Jameison welcomed the opportunity to engage in the activities which she viewed as an excellent team-bonding exercise.

In Canada, wheelchair basketball is a chance for disabled and able-bodied athletes to compete with and against each other, and is said to bring people together regardless of their abilities.

This kind of integration is believed to be a key component in helping to dispel stigma, discrimination and misconceptions about disability.

“It was really fun; I wish we got to see more children but this was a great experience for us, it was a good team-bonding exercise because I find that recently we have been really serious, but to see the girls joke around and have fun is definitely refreshing and that puts a smile on my face.

“I like that it was something new and I think I might look into wheelchair basketball when I get home because the way my arms are feeling it is a good workout, but we all had a really good time and I appreciate this opportunity,” Jameison told the Jamaica Observer.

“It was definitely very humbling as well because there were things that I wanted to do that I couldn't do and it hit me that disabled people had to go through this every single day. Maybe for us it was fun but some people had to sit in the chair all the time and when I stood up I felt better because I felt like I was sitting for so long. So it was just a humbling experience to put ourselves in their position,” she added.

For midfielder Sweatman it was a day of reflection.

“I did something like this in college when I worked at a top soccer place where we would teach disabled kids, so it was a great experience, definitely something that opened your eyes to just be thankful everyday for the little things in life and just being able to get out of bed and walk,” she reasoned.

“The handball was difficult for me because I was in goal and it was hard to move around in the chair because your mind is saying you want to go left and then you hit right and all of a sudden you are going backwards so it definitely takes some time to get used to it but it was very fun,” added Sweatman.

Defender Bond-Flasza was also fascinated with the classification between disability and able-bodiedness.

“It's something I have never done before but I think it was a really cool experience to do something that you have never done and to get out of your comfort zone. But it was very fun, the people that organised it did a really good job of explaining the rules and I think anything that is competitive our team likes to get into it and it was fun competing against each other and trying to win.

“But at the end of the day we can just get up and walk away and don't think too much of it but there are people who this is like their primary sport. So to do it you can see like the struggles of being in a wheelchair and it's kind of mind-altering and makes you fortunate for what you have,” she shared.

Attacking midfielder Adamolekun concurred.

“It was fun... you get to see how people in the Special Olympics play, which I think is kind of cool because in a sense you realise how much hard work it is. I know my arms are going to be sore tomorrow, but it was definitely a great experience.

“It definitely makes you feel grateful for being able to do certain things that they don't get to do daily because we sat in a chair and once we were done we were able to get up and they cannot do that. So I think it makes you put some things into different perspective and be grateful for what you have but it was definitely fun and a good workout,” she noted.


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