Kinesiology brings inclusive sports to students


SUMMARY: JMU is leading the way in adapted sports and inclusive recreation education, due in part to the work of kinesiology professor Cathy McKay, who was inspired to organize the Paralympic Skill Lab.

By: Daniel Vieth
Creative Services Student Writer

PHOTO: Students participate in the Paralympic Skill Lab

JMU is leading the way in adapted sports and inclusive recreation education. This is due in part to the work of kinesiology professor Cathy McKay, whose passion for weaving together teaching, scholarship and service has inspired her to organize the Paralympic Skill Lab for the last two years. This semester, students in select Kinesiology 100 courses gained new perspectives and hands-on experience with inclusive sports by learning how to play wheelchair basketball directly from Paralympic and other accomplished athletes. Students also had the opportunity to speak with JMU alumni Mike Esposito and Shaina Allen, the director and producer of the award-winning documentary on adapted sports The Rebound. The Paralympic Skill Lab was funded by a Provost Curriculum Development Grant, a CHBS Mini-Grant and a CHBS Diversity Committee Grant.

During the lab, KIN 100 students rotated through three 20-minute stations, with two devoted to learning how to play wheelchair basketball, and one where participants discussed The Rebound with Esposito and Allen. During the first workstation, students learned how to dribble, pass and shoot the ball, as well as how to maneuver in the modified wheelchairs. “It was really hard, but it was so much fun,” said student and participant Matt Mason. “We even got to play a full scrimmage game, which was awesome!”

According to McKay, one of the most important parts of the event is contact with the athletes. “I reach out the athletes with [Gordon W. Allport’s] contact theory in mind,” said McKay. “This theory indicates that contact with the athletes makes a difference in changing perceptions and attitudes toward inclusive sport.” This year, two-time Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball Player and gold medalist Trevon Jenifer, Paralympic Race Wheelchair athlete and silver medalist Alexa Halko, Collegiate All-American wheelchair basketball player Jacob Tyree, and National Wheelchair Basketball Players Brandon Rush and Tom Vandever from the Charlottesville Cardinals wheelchair basketball team all participated in the Paralympic Skill Lab.

Another important aspect of the skill lab was the incorporation of The Rebound. Prior to the skill lab, the KIN 100 students watched a screening of the film as a way to give them background knowledge on inclusive sports. “The film is very eye opening,” said student Julia Simpson, a participant and project assistant for the Empowerment3 program for underserved youth. “I work with people who were born with different disabilities [at Empowerment3], but a lot of people in the documentary went from being able-bodied to being in a chair. It was interesting to see how it created that new life for them.” According to McKay, Esposito and Allen also represent the impact students can make after graduation. “Shaina [Allen] and Mike [Esposito] really take the ‘Be the Change’ motto and bring it to life,” said McKay. “They saw a need in their community, and dedicated their time and expertise to spread awareness and spark social action, changing perceptions about the world of adapted sport.”

students participate in the Paralympic Skill Lab

Along with contact theory, McKay also organized this event as a part of her ongoing research on Paralympic sport and social inclusion. “I research attitudes of students without disabilities towards the inclusion of students with disabilities in campus recreation and physical education, focusing on how we change our perceptions towards those we perceive as different through contact,” McKay explained. “These activity stations provide a great educational experience for the KIN 100 students, and we are able to learn more about adapted sport and inclusive recreation.” The skill lab was also a learning opportunity for students in McKay’s KIN 411 Measurement and Evaluation course, who collected data from the lab on participant student outcomes. “I want to become a [physical education] P.E. teacher, and just like any other teacher we evaluate student outcomes,” said Drew Balderson, a student in McKay’s KIN 411 course. “Observing and collecting data from this skill lab allows us to practice those evaluative skills, and put statistics into action.”

“It was really empowering to watch The Rebound and then have the chance to learn wheelchair basketball,” said Simpson. “I think the more exposure we can put on adapted sports and the incredible things these athletes are the doing the better.” According to McKay, the Paralympic Skill Lab is a chance for students to work one-on-one with athletes in a meaningful way to shift their perceptions of ability and disability. “If we can drop the ‘dis’ off of ability,” McKay continued, “we’ve made a big difference.” 

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Published: Thursday, April 13, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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