As a wheelchair rugby player, especially on the international stage, someone at some time or another is going to call you inspirational.
Now, you hope and pray that they find you inspiring because of your dedication to the sport and to training or because of the obstacles you’ve overcome in your life. More often than not, however, people will call you inspirational simply because you’re disabled and you are playing a sport. Are other Olympic athletes inspiring to you just because they got out of bed?
Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to be complimented and I know that people are just trying to be nice, but don’t make us a feel-good story about disabled people getting on with their lives. It’s been done before and we’re so much more than that. We are no longer a feel- good story. Our sport is one of the fastest, hardest hitting, and most brutal sports out there.
I understand that we’re not a mainstream sport and as such we receive limited media coverage. I also understand that when a journalist is tasked with writing a story about us, it’s so much easier for them to go with the “look at these disabled guys playing a sport; aren’t they inspirational?” storyline, but I think that in doing this, journalists are missing a great story.
Yes, disability is a large part of who we are as people, but it’s not the end of the story; it’s just the beginning. It’s true: Our sport is populated by athletes who have had to overcome great obstacles in their lives, but why not look at how that has affected them as athletes? When we play on the international stage, we know that the players we line up against have been through the same things we have and have come out the other side.There are no quitters in wheelchair rugby, no prima donnas, no “band-aids,” no cry babies, and no athletes who take a night off.
The next time you watch wheelchair rugby, don’t be inspired because we’re disabled. Be inspired by the intensity and ferocity that we compete with and the purity of our desire to win for our country.
Hell yes, I’m inspirational! I’m a 5’8,” 125-pound guy playing a contact sport against people twice my size. I’m not fast or strong, but I can play at this level because I’m able to play a little smarter and work a little harder. Ignore the chair. See me for the athlete that I am.