Michigan State Adaptive Sports Club Brings Community Together Around Activities
The Adaptive Sports and Recreation Club provides opportunity for athletes, and also Michigan State volunteers, to get involved in competition.
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Piotr Pasik, a Michigan State alum with cerebral palsy, saw a need for physical activity opportunity for individuals with disabilities. So, he started the MSU Adaptive Sports and Recreation Club in 2014.
Five years later, the club continues to grow and create opportunities not only between the athletes but for student volunteers as well. Adaptive sports such as wheelchair rugby, tennis, hockey are offered through the MSU program.
Each of these sports has volunteers working with the athletes. Volunteers join the athletes at practices, which are held every day except for Saturday. In addition, they help assist with the transportation of wheelchairs between the different sports facilities on campus where their practices are held. On-site, volunteers help the athletes transition from their everyday wheelchairs to their adaptive wheelchairs which allow them to play the different sports.
Taylor Williams, a senior kinesiology major at MSU, said she wanted to volunteer to step out of her comfort zone and into a community/program that gives her additional perspectives on life and ability.
“I think that our society puts a lot of negative stereotypes on the disability community which limits these athletes and impacts their quality of life,” said Williams.
The club allows MSU student volunteers to get involved with the disabled community, make connections and build friendships. Robert Briseno, an MSU student, and club member, said this program is great for volunteers to interact with people with different disabilities.
“I am thankful that they give us the opportunity to be involved in a community where athletes with physical disabilities and able-bodied volunteers come together to establish an integrated community of peers,” said Williams. “It allows us to be involved in a learning environment which serves to validate the disability experience to eliminate the inaccurate self-perceptions about disability.”
Taylor Arnason, a senior human biology major, and volunteer said she has gained knowledge about physical disabilities and their impact on daily life through this club. Arnason has volunteered for two and a half years and has completed almost 250 volunteer hours.
“Having the opportunity to work with athletes with varying abilities has taught me how to appropriately adapt my skills to fit their needs,” said Arnason. “I've also developed many valuable friendships as a result of getting to know individuals over the course of many practices.”
Arnason said the club has motivated her to work in the field of adaptive sports once she graduates from MSU. She plans to get involved with Shirley Ryan AbilityLab's adaptive sports programs in Chicago after she graduates in May.
“I think being exposed to different types of physical disability and having the opportunity to develop a better understanding of them will benefit me because it is definitely something that I will encounter in the medical field in the future,” said Arnason.
Arnason said her favorite part about being a volunteer is participating in the sports.
“It's always fun getting a group of athletes and volunteers together to play a competitive game of wheelchair hockey,” said Arnason.
The volunteers play a major part in the program, however, the club wouldn’t be possible without the person who started it all – Pasik.
“Piotr is the glue that holds this program together,” said Arnason. “If it weren't for him, the program would not exist.”
Williams said Pasik has created a very welcoming community which allows any participating athlete to join, no matter race, gender, physical ability, or age.
“His commitment to the program, athletes and volunteers is the reason why this program is the most consistent and comprehensive collegiate wheelchair recreation program in the nation,” said Williams.