Wheelchair Rugby... Top 5 misconceptions
The sport Wheelchair Rugby is defiantly unique, most people I talk to have heard of it and maybe caught a glimpse on YouTube or TV. In this article I'll go through the top 5 misconceptions I've come across in the hopes of clearing a few things up.
It's so aggressive!
Now I can see why most people think this, wheelchair rugby certainly looks and sounds aggressive; it's also the only wheelchair sport where chair contact is encouraged. But... if you talk to any athlete of the sport about how aggressive it is, most of them will shrug it off. The first and most obvious reason is because the athletes are so use to the sport. The second is the sport itself, wheelchair rugby isn't just about the big hits by any means. Sure it's part of it and why a lot of us love it but, in my opinion, the sport is more about tactical decisions and logic. I guarantee if you go on court simply looking for that big hit you'll soon have circles run around you. Most of the best players in the world never look aggressive when on court, they're always looking for next move in a calm and collected manner. So I'd say wheelchair rugby, when played at it's best, is a calm and collected sport... with a touch of aggression :)
I get asked this one by those who haven't seen wheelchair rugby, obviously. “Do you play with a rugby ball?” No we don't, it's hard enough to gain ball skills with a lack of function or limbs missing completely, let alone with an egg shaped ball bouncing all over the place. We play with a standard size and shape valley ball. They are textured for more grip and over time the glue we use works it's way in, apart from that, standard valley ball.
Again this is asked by people who haven't yet observed the sport or who are trying it for the first time. “Do you have to pass backwards?” No, we can pass forward and back as much as we want. There is however an over and back rule, meaning the ball cannot go back into your half once it's progressed into the opposition's.
Wheelchair user to play
I think this one is assumed by a lot of people, both spectators and disabled people wondering if they're eligible to play. The answer is no you don't have to be a wheelchair user to play. Wheelchair rugby was created by people with spinal injuries but over the years it's opened up to a wide range of disabilities such as cerebral palsy and meningitis. To be eligible to play you must have some sort of impairment in at least three limbs. So a triple amputee who walks with prosthetics is a perfect example of someone who wouldn't use a wheelchair in daily life, but would be eligible to play.
Scoring / conversions
This misconception, like the passing backwards, comes from the name wheelchair 'rugby'. When describing the sport I can never stress enough how it's not like able bodied rugby. To score, most call it a point, not a try, a player must cross the baseline between the cones with the ball under control. That's it, one point, no conversion, yes I really did get asked “are there are conversions” in wheelchair rugby.
So there you have it, the top 5 misconceptions I've come across. Let us know if you have any or your thoughts on wheelchair rugby by visiting our Facebook and Twitter. If you'd like to see more information on the sport the IWRF website has it all.