High-octane, full-contact wheelchair rugby action is coming to the University of Houston Campus Recreation and Wellness Center this week. The Women’s World Wheelchair Rugby Invitational Clinic, presented by the Halliburton Charitable Foundation, is the first international wheelchair rugby event exclusively for women ever to be held in the United States.
Sanctioned by the U.S. Quad Rugby Association, the clinic will unite more than two-dozen female quadriplegic rugby players from the United States, Canada and France for four days of intense athletic training and competitive tournament play. The sport is typically co-ed, but Michael Cottingham, director of the UH Adaptive Athletics program, hopes to encourage more women to compete. Only 37 women in the United States participate in sanctioned wheelchair rugby events.
“When women play on men’s team, there are times they just don’t feel comfortable interacting because it can be a very masculine environment,” said Cottingham. “It’s very important to offer women the opportunity to work and train together to grow interest because they are underrepresented in the sport.”
Cottingham, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance, knows first-hand how empowering wheelchair athletics can be. He attended college on the first-ever wheelchair tennis scholarship and was once ranked globally as a wheelchair tennis player. Only about 20% of wheelchair users are employed, he said, but that number more than triples after getting involved with wheelchair sports.
“You gain a lot of independence and self-confidence through wheelchair sports,” he said. “One stereotype that people with disabilities face is that we’re fragile and easily broken. Wheelchair rugby addresses that head on. We’re here crashing into each other and it allows these participants to say ‘I’m tough, durable and aggressive. My gender nor my disability precludes me from that.’”
What: Women’s World Wheelchair Rugby Invitational Clinic presented by the Halliburton Charitable Foundation
Who: Adaptive Athletics at UH
When: Thursday, July 18 - Sunday, July 21, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Where: University of Houston Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, 4500 University Dr, Houston, TX 77204
University of Houston Adaptive Athletics is a student-run organization and research lab housed in the Department of Health and Human Performance. Under the umbrella of the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), it hosts adaptive sporting events year-round and conducts innovative, engaging research used by academics and practitioners worldwide.
The Women’s World Wheelchair Rugby Invitational Clinic presented by the Halliburton Charitable Foundation is free and open to the public.