IM this article to a friend!

November 12, 2003

Participants adapt for PE sports day

From: The Orion - Nov 12, 2003

Becky Regan Staff Writer November 12, 2003

The first verse of the national anthem echoes off the Acker Gym walls while three sign language interpreters vigorously move their hands with the lyrics.

It's opening ceremonies at the Adapted Physical Education Sports Day, and the Corning High School marching band and drill team are ready to perform. When the ceremonies are over, the crowd disbands and people head to their individual events.

Second-grader Christa Cauton-Maggio makes her way to the volleyball court in Shurmer Gym. She is almost completely deaf, but what she lacks in hearing, she makes up for by reading lips. Sign language is not always necessary for Cauton-Maggio. She can see the words being spoken to her.

She nervously stands on the sidelines, not quite ready to make her volleyball debut. When asked if she wants to play, she shakes her head no and goes back to watching the older players.

After about 10 minutes, the volleyball is replaced with a beach ball and Cauton-Maggio steps onto the corner of the court. When the ball comes to her, she catches it in delight and throws it back over the net.

There is no talking on the court, but there are plenty of smiles.

Across from the volleyball court, an intense game of handball is being played. Handball is like soccer, but the ball is thrown instead of kicked. Wheelchairs are flying across the polished floor, and in the center of it all is Kelly McSpadden.

The ball comes to McSpadden, and she fakes a throw to the right, but goes left. The 16-year-old is a key player and a leader on the court. She has cerebral palsy, as do several of the handball athletes.

McSpadden plays on a wheelchair basketball team called the Chico Spinners. The team was created this year and played its first game at the Chico Sports Club on Saturday.

When the handball game is over, McSpadden happily wheels over to her basketball coach Matt Oberholtz.

Oberholtz is a member of the U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team. When he was 15 years old, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Before his accident, Oberholtz competed in water ski tournaments, and after, he didn't see any reason to quit.

Oberholtz said the Adapted Sports Day is important because it gives students the opportunity to make friends and be competitive. He said the event teaches independence, something a participant might not be given at home.

Rebecca Lytle, professor of physical education and science, said the Adapted Sports Day was created four years ago for athletic students who are blind, deaf or have orthopedic disabilities. Participants range in age from elementary school to high school. There are about 80 participants who come from all over Northern California.

Team sports available to athletes are volleyball, handball, nerf football, goal ball and wheelchair soccer. Chico State students from the Introduction to Adapted Physical Education class helped set up a miniature golf course, bean bag toss, body bowling, softball throw, 20-yard dash and one of the most popular activities, a piñata hanging from a basketball hoop. A rock-climbing wall is also open for athletes.

Seven-year-old Kayla Rodriguez is preparing to climb the wall. This is her first time rock climbing and at the Adapted Sports Day. She said she's excited, but nervous.

Rodriguez has cerebral palsy and will have to climb the wall using almost all upper-body strength. She patiently stands at the base of the wall and looks up at the strangely shaped hand grabs.

"She's calculating her moves," stepfather Ben Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez's mom, Michele, makes sure her daughter's shoes are tightly tied before she begins to climb.

Rodriguez doesn't make it all the way to the top, but she pulls herself halfway up the wall. As she's lowered down to her cheering family, she wears a smile of accomplishment.

As the event winds down, athletes, families and volunteers file back into Acker Gym for closing ceremonies. No trophies are presented at the end of the day.

"I measure success on how much fun the kids have," Oberholtz said. "The smile on their face is the trophy."

© 2003 The Orion