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adaptedSPORTS®


The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Inc. (AAASP) provides equitable opportunities in school-based sports for students with physical disabilities and has successfully demonstrated that it is reasonable to add adapted sports programs to existing school districts' extracurricular athletic offerings without creating an undue administrative burden or requiring changes to existing rules for non-disabled student athletes.

Under the guidance and leadership of AAASP, our member school districts and state high school associations have expanded their view of providing extracurricular athletics for students with physical disabilities by realizing that "inclusion" must extend to the sport offerings, thereby including adapted sports within the school districts extracurricular athletic offerings. This mindset has created comparable opportunities for students with physical disabilities to take part in interscholastic sanctioned adapted sports programs so they can experience the rewards and satisfaction of competitive school-based sports just as their non-disabled peers.

In application, adapted sports are provided in a similar manner as school sports for non-disabled boys and girls and are an inclusive part of the overall athletic program offerings. Often there were not enough children with physical disabilities attending any particular school to form school teams. Therefore, to eliminate this barrier to participation, AAASP policies allow school districts to provide a district team or teams per sport season. This allows children in each school access to the extracurricular athletic program. In addition, many districts provide transportation to and from both practices and games so children who require a lift bus will have access to the extracurricular adapted athletic programs.

Extracurricular adapted athletic programs create an atmosphere for student athletes with physical disabilities to achieve lasting friendships, improvements in their physical development, and academic performance, as well as teach students fundamental skills, teamwork, strategy, and concepts of sport participation while having high expectations and clear standards for success, which relate back to the students performance in the classroom just as school athletic programs do for non-disabled students.

Game scores are announced at the student's school. The student with the disability is now viewed as an athlete and their classmates, friends, teachers, parents, and siblings attend their games. Students taking part in the varsity divisions are eligible to receive an athletic letter. Participating students are required to maintain passing grades or adhere to their IEP goals and submit an annual physical.

Team members are comprised of students from elementary, middle and high schools in a particular district. The school district selects a centralized, accessible venue for the teams to hold their practices and home contests. Depending on the number of eligible students, districts may elect to field more than one team in any particular sport. Teams are co-ed and grouped by ability level. Team sports are offered during the school year with wheelchair team handball provided in the fall season, wheelchair basketball during the winter season and wheelchair football during the spring season. All students participate in a wheelchair, whether they use one on a daily basis or not. This helps level the playing field and engages more students with physical disabilities in athletics. Players learn basic fundamental sports skills in the fall that they build upon and translate to other sports throughout the school year.

For school districts located in less urban, more rural areas, a group of districts may elect to cooperate in providing adapted sports to its student population with physical disabilities. In this case, the districts select a central location where their students can participate together. In some cases, only individualized participation may be available, as in wheelchair track and field, due to their location.

Due to the unique nature of each students' disability and because there are students with varying physical disabilities on a team, tryouts are not held as they are in able-bodied athletics. Instead, each sanctioned adapted sport has a limit for the number of players a team can roster. Teams can roster 14 players for wheelchair team handball, and wheelchair football. Teams can roster 12 players for wheelchair basketball. If teams reach their maximum allowable limit, districts may consider adding another team. To ensure all students have an opportunity to play, every player must play a minimum of one period in each half of the game. Additional policies exist to ensure fair and equitable competition between teams.

School personnel coaching students with physical disabilities receive instruction and training from AAASP, both in the team sports and individual sports which include the rules of play, implications of coaching students with various physical disabilities, safety guidelines, proper use of equipment, proper positioning, coaching philosophy which fosters a process based vs. outcome based environment, wheelchair handling techniques, fundamental skills and drills, individual and team goal setting, how best to incorporate power chair users in team play with manual chair users, and strategy. Coaches are also taught about the various disabilities and how certain stimuli can affect an individual's athletic performance. For example, when the buzzer on the scoreboard sounds in the gym at the end of period play, some students with cerebral palsy exhibit a startle reflex. Coaches are taught how to work with the student to help them become accustom to the sound, leading to a normalization response.

There are standardized seasons; rules of play, policies, procedures, regulations, and guidelines that school districts adhere to for students with physical disabilities who participate in the AAASP adapted sports programs.