I wanted to dedicate this entire blog to an initiative, a project that I've gotten involved with recently. The ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) is the first athletic conference of the NCAA to provide equitable athletic opportunities for individuals with disabilities, in part by allowing athletes with disabilities to compete alongside and with able-bodied athletes.
This has the potential to create a wide reaching social change and someday could be regarded as an improvement for life for a protected class. At its best, this could be another example of sports being a catalyst for major social change.
Could this be as powerful as Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier? Might this be the next Title IX which opened previously locked doors for women? Why does this matter? If you’re getting more student-athletes with disabilities enrolled in universities and they are graduating, they would come out with the tools needed to compete in a global market place for employment.
My foundation, which was started several years ago, had a lot of goals. While we are best known for basketball camps, our mission statement is about helping individuals with disabilities improve their quality of life through sports.
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, there are some inherent challenges that still face the disabled community.
This community, statistically, is one of the populations that is least likely to attend a university and in correlation, the disabled community has a historically alarming high level of unemployment.
So again why does this matter? Why am I struggling to type fast enough to keep up with all the ideas in my head?
We at the RMF just started a junior team here in Connecticut, where we have 21 athletes on the roster. Imagine if one day I can go into the gym and tell them how there aren’t just 10 programs that offer opportunities for student athletes with disabilities, but instead there are 50 or even 100!
Imagine if I can go into a practice and tell them that a university, such as the University of Connecticut, is offering these types of programs! The power of that would be so wide reaching, it would be too difficult to quantify.
Being an athlete that graduated from Southwest Minnesota State, it is important for me to say how powerful that is because they are only one of two universities that has a wheelchair basketball team that is affiliated with their respective athletic department! Now you will be giving more kids the chance to dream, strive, fight and realize something just as meaningful.
As a professional athlete that doesn't shy away from being a role model, I've long since known that giving a kid a chance to dream is the most powerful gift you can give someone. ADA has opened many doors to make access a reality. The ECAC is the next step towards creating equality inside the sports arena and out!
Check out the video link below to help explain the potential impact of equality through athletics for student-athletes with disabilities!