Wheelchair basketball comes to Utah County

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A group of people in a scrimmage of wheelchair basketball. (Photo courtesy of Haylin Martin.)
A group of people in a scrimmage of wheelchair basketball. (Photo courtesy Haylin Martin)

The Provo Recreation Center currently has the only wheelchair basketball program in Utah County.

Every Wednesday at 7 p.m. the recreation center hosts wheelchair basketball night for people with and without physical disabilities.

According to Lisa Vezzani, guest services shift lead at the recreation center, this activity is to help disabled people and the people around them. It also helps people who have temporary injuries.

“Not only does this help people who are permanently disabled, but those who are temporarily disabled,” Vezzani said.

Vezzani can’t play normal sports right now because she recently had surgery on her knee. She said she loves staying active and that wheelchair basketball helps.

Wheelchair basketball lasts from 7 to 8 p.m. every week. They start by warming up for the first half, and then they have a scrimmage during the second half. They do not keep official score or have referees, but they have fun competing against each other in a friendly environment.

T.J. Ballard is a Provo resident who enjoys the opportunity to play wheelchair basketball. He has played wheelchair tennis for more than 15 years.

“I wanted to play wheelchair basketball because I wanted more ways to exercise,” Ballard said.

This was Ballard’s second week playing wheelchair basketball, and he said he will continue to come back.

Rhiannon Mitchell, recreation leader for community programs, said they began doing wheelchair basketball nights back in November 2013. She said in the beginning they did not have a high turnout, but they have been getting more people since then.

Charlotte Romberg, adaptive sports instructor at the recreation center, is the first adaptive sports instructor in Provo.

“Before the rec. center opened, we did not have an adaptive program,” Romberg said. “The vision when we opened the new rec. center was to offer stuff to anyone with disabilities.”

Romberg and Mitchell also want these adaptive activities to reach those who have recently had injuries that keep them wheelchair-bound permanently.

“We want them to know that there are things like this out there,” Mitchell said. “It can help them and give them back their identity.”

The wheelchair basketball is held in a central location of the recreation center, where many people can see.

“It is neat for people in the rec. center to see what we are doing,” said Romberg. “They can see that there are sports for people with disabilities.”

The recreation center currently has 12 basketball wheelchairs for people to use.

“Six were funded by Provo City Foundation,” Romberg said. “The other six were funded by Jeff Furley, the adaptive sports manager for Salt Lake County.”

Mitchell said they hope to get enough people in a few years to start a wheelchair basketball league team to compete against other teams in Salt Lake.

“We hope in the future to offer something adaptive for every department area,” Romberg said. “We’re almost there.”

 

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