HATTIESBURG, Miss.—Members of Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s Quad Rugby team, the Jackson Jags, will practice Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Hattiesburg Recreation Center.
The purpose of the special practice is to expose the wheelchair sport to people with disabilities who may be unfamiliar with it, said Ginny Boydston, Jags coach and director of therapeutic recreation at Methodist Rehab in Jackson.
“It’s a fun sport and it’s a great opportunity for quadriplegics who might be sitting home and thinking they can’t have an active lifestyle,” Boydston said.
The Jags are preparing for their first tournament of the year, the 12th annual Valdosta Cup in Valdosta, Ga.
In Quad Rugby, teams of four use specially designed wheelchairs to carry the rugby ball down a basketball court and across their opponent’s goal line. Players set picks and chairs slam into each other to open a hole for the ball carrier to get to the goal line.IA ADVISORY
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Wiley Clark, a member of the Jags from Moss Point. Clark, a three-time paralympian wheelchair racer, discovered quad rugby when he was a part of the 1992 Barcelona, Spain paralympic team. “It was hard, but I realized their was something special about this sport,” he said.
Rugby has given many members of the team a new sense of independence, Boydston said. “That really helps their self-confidence,” she added. “The majority of them weren’t jocks before their injury so they’ve had to learn how to work together as a team and I think that’s been really good for them.”
The benefits of sport haven’t been just emotional, Boydston added. “Through practicing for rugby, they’ve learned how to transfer themselves from one chair to another without help. And they’ve learned how to travel by themselves,” Boydston said.
“Before I started practicing with the Jags, I could hardly push myself up a hill,” said member Mike Blackburn of Newton. “But since I’ve been working out with a team, I’m stronger and I can go just about anywhere.”
The Jags are always looking for new members, Boydston said. “We have a lot of fun and we’re always looking to share the sport with others and maybe pick up some new teammates. We hope people like what they see when we play,” she said.