With the world of professional sports making news off the field than on it, I wanted to bring some semblance of happiness to my wheelchair sport world, that I know that I could probably use right now. As summer comes to an end, I so look forward, to the sport that I have been playing for 20 years.
Wheelchair rugby! Or Murderball, as it was apply coined by our neighbors to the north. I still remember my first day of rugby practice as a member of the Atlanta Rolling Thunder. I was about 27/28 and I had heard about rugby before but I had never seen it. I was too wrapped up in being a wheelchair basketball player, in which I would never start, because I was not that good.
However, once I saw rugby, I knew this was the sport for me. I just loved the contact of the sport. It is as close to playing football as I will get. The best part of being on the Atlanta team was that I a new guy on a team that had many veterans. Everyone was a veteran except for my co-worker, mentor, and friend, Bill Furbish or “Billy the Kid”, as I call him. No matter his age, Bill is always a kid at heart, seeking to get the best out of life. It was his leadership and direction that provided me a solid foundation for playing rugby and basically how to approach a life in wheelchair sports.
Although, I left the Atlanta team in 1997, I still see Bill playing for Atlanta from time to time. I don’t think he will ever retire since he co-founded the Atlanta team. Plus, I know he still loves to compete. I think it keeps him young at heart. It is because of his efforts and commitment to me that I have been able to play rugby for the past 20 years. Thank you, Bill.
I have another mentor that has been very instrumental in playing the sport of rugby. That is Bryan Kirkland. Bryan has been my teammate and more importantly my friend for the last 15 years. Bryan has been playing rugby for the past 20 years. He is a Hall of Fame Rugby Player. In my opinion he is one the All-time greatest athletes to ever play competitive wheelchair sports. His preparation, training and leadership are the fuel to his success. He is a big reason why my time with the Demolition has been filled with championships and Paralympic opportunities. To me, he is the ultimate leader and teammate. He always seems to set the bar high for all others to reach. I try and will still keep trying. Bryan, thanks for all your leadership and direction.
So, as I start a new rugby season, not knowing how it will go, I just know that I have had many successful years. My goal now is to provide the same leadership and direction that I have been given by others. This is what keeps me going. I know that there is still more to be accomplished. I take it as an honor and a privilege to play wheelchair rugby. It has provided me with so many competitive opportunities, social endeavors, and health benefits. Hopefully, it doesn’t end anytime soon. Now, isn’t this what sports is all about?