Wheelchair basketball raises awareness of disabilities

Published: December 14, 2011  |  Source: signonsandiego.com
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Sports-loving teens show how it’s done

CORONADO — Two Coronado teenagers who have forms of cerebral palsy used their skills at wheelchair basketball in a recent three-on-three tournament that also involved able-bodied athletes in an effort to raise awareness of disabilities.

Quinn Waitley, and her quadruplet sister, Bailey, 16 and Coronado High School juniors, have been playing wheelchair basketball for years. Quinn practically grew up playing the sport.

“I’m really excited,” Bailey said during a break from practice before the tournament. “I love playing all sports basically, especially wheelchair basketball, that’s my favorite.”

The first ever Rolling Hoops event took place at the Municipal Gym in Balboa Park Dec. 11 and featured 21 teams, each composed of one wheelchair athlete and three able-bodied athletes using wheelchairs (one athlete is used as a substitute).

“We had the idea of inviting able-bodied people to come out and find out just how athletic a sport it is and challenge them to compete,” said Laurel Moorhead, executive director of the San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation, which put on the event.

Moorhead said her family has been involved in the world of wheelchair sports for nearly 15 years since her daughter, who was born with a spinal cord injury, was introduced to it at as a child. Her husband, Grant, is the Waitleys’ coach and has coached wheelchair sports for eight years. Moorhead said she hopes Rolling Hoops will turn into an ongoing event, taking place every year, though not always in the busy month of December.

Quinn, who has a form of cerebral palsy called spastic quadriplegia and uses a wheelchair for mobility, began playing wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby when she was 6. This year she has taken up two new sports, surfing and chair skating or wheelchair skateboarding.

Bailey has spastic hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects her entire left side, and doesn’t use a wheelchair for mobility. She enjoys playing soccer and wheelchair soccer and has been playing wheelchair basketball for three years. She said learning to play sports in a wheelchair takes dedication.

“We’re going around so fast people are like, ‘Oh that looks really easy’ and then they get in the chair and they’re like, ‘How do you do this?’” Bailey said. “It takes practice. Because I’m always walking it’s actually hard for me to go from walking all week and then get in the chair… my arms aren’t ready for practice.”

Bailey and Quinn come from a household of athletes − their three older sisters all received partial soccer scholarships to college, and their two other quadruplet sisters, Madison (she goes by Maddy) and Sydney, play high school volleyball and basketball, respectively. Bailey and Quinn − engage in fun sibling rivalry on the court.

“She kind of forgets that I’m her sister,” Bailey said.

Quinn said she grew up feeling like she was the only person on earth in a wheelchair but that adapting to sports has brought her happiness.

“If you’re able bodied or not you should be active no matter what,” she said. “There’s no excuse not to do anything for me. If I see a person in a chair that’s all sad, like, that’s fine I get it at first but they can’t just waste their life and sit at home.”

Written by
Tawny Maya McCray