Rockford Chariots roll into the Convo

Danny Cozzi

Numerous

supporters gathered for the <a href=

“http://www.rockfordchariots.org/” target=”_blank”>Rockford

Chariots’ wheelchair basketball exhibition game Thursday night

in the <a href="http://www.convocenter.niu.edu/convo/" target="

“_blank”>Convocation Center.

Rolling onto

Victor E. Huskie court to the <a href=

“http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDJKy-FdJ-c&feature=fvst”

target=”_blank”>Chicago Bulls opening song, each player

received thunderous applause from the crowd as they were

introduced. The Chariots were split up into two teams to compete

head-to-head for the match.

The only thing

that turned faster than the wheels of the Rockford Chariots was the

heads of audience members trying to follow the action. Between

quick passes, lightning speed charges down the court, and perfectly

swishing shots, the players of the Rockford Chariots entertained an

excited crowd.

Sheila Milan ,

coordinator for the Center for Access-Ability Resources, said the

game showcased how people with disabilities can still be openly

proactive within the community.

“It shows an

alternate to the stereotype that we see with people with

disabilities,” Milan said. “It’s to show diversity and professional

sports for those with disabilities.”

Milan’s account

was proven easily by the Chariots. The intensity of the game grew

by the minute as players spun past each other, juked their

opponents left and right and scored perfectly executed layups and

even three pointers on a few instances. By the end of half, the

score was already 16-14, with white team leading.

During the

intermission, fans attending the event had the opportunity to have

a seat in the wheelchairs and attempt the game from the Chariots’

perspective in a half-time free-throw contest.

Junior finance

major Anton Watkins said his experience was enjoyable but

difficult.

“It’s harder than

standing up,” Watkins said. “Your arms get really

tired.”

As they went full

force into the second half the playing became even more

competitive, but the players weren’t afraid to show their

playfulness with each other. As they dashed for the ball and spun

away to dodge steals, the team goofed with each other as they would

block their opponents’ paths, trade witty comments and throw

playful jabs. The punching, however, did result in a few instances

of free throws for the team receiving the humorous fists. The game

ended with a final score of 39-36 with the blue team coming out on

top.

Michael Kavulic,

coordinator of residential facilities for Housing and Dining, said

the game was a great way to raise awareness to the sport. Kavulic

mentioned not just the playfulness of the team, but also the

members’ love of the sport.

“You see both how

the guys interact with each other, and you also see how they’re

getting out there and sweating,” Kavulic said.

Kavulic said the

best way to raise awareness is to model what one is attempting to

make known.

“It shows, at the

very least, that the campus is open to inclusion,” Kavulic

said.

Abby Billips ,

recreation coordinator at the Rockford Park District, noted on how

playing sports builds confidence for all, but for people with

disabilities, it’s even more than that.

“It brings

together people that have the love of the sport, but also have a

commonality of a huge disability,” Billips said.