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Net gain

Team sports help disabled participants stay fit, have fun and build confidence.

Susannah Waite June 6th, 2012

Basketball coach Margaret Kierl loves coaching her athletes and seeing the fun they have out on the court. She had an opportunity to do so last week, when OU Medicine hosted its fourth annual wheelchair basketball tournament benefiting the Greater Oklahoma Disabled Sports Association, or GODSA.

 Kierl’s wheelchair-bound team competed against teams of doctors from the University of Oklahoma Medical Center. All participants competed in wheelchairs.

The tournament was a chance for the children to interact with the doctors and have fun.

“What I want to do is introduce them to sports and keep them active through life, to let them have a taste of having a team concept,” Kierl said. “The doctors kid around with the kids, and the kids can get back at them, because they can stop them from getting down the court.”

Kierl, a recreational therapist by profession, said she always enjoys the interaction with the parents, as well.

“Some of the parents are concerned about the children getting hurt, but when they see them get out there on the court and bang chairs and score baskets, they don’t treat them so fragile,” she said.

Thge physicians’ team included Dr.

Dominic Frimberger, a pediatric urologist for OU Medicine, who has been involved with the tournament since it began.

“It gives the children a chance to have a good laugh at us, how we are like turtles on our backs basically, in wheelchairs,” he said. “We lose every time, horrendously.”

Some of the players are his patients.

“My favorite part is to see the chil dren having so much fun,” he said. “It warms my heart every year.”

Team sports are critical for their wellbeing, Frimberger said.

“It’s obviously a little more difficult for people with disabilities to participate in certain events, and they want to compete in sports just like you want to compete in sports,” he said. “To give them that opportunity is extremely important; to give them the confidence and the fun that it all brings is extremely important. Able-bodied people should see the joy they can give by participating.”

The tournament was GODSA’s big gest fundraiser of the year.

“Our long-term goal is to build a sports facility where we can have all of our activities combined,” Frimberger said. “Right now, we have to drive all over town and ask for different gyms and places to practice.”

Other sports played by GODSA teams include track and field and swimming. A martial arts program and canoeing and kayaking are in the works. For more information, visit godsa. org.

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