Adaptive Sports: Disabled Volleyball and Creative Problem Solving

June 21, 2012

One of the difficulties in disabled sports is addressing the fact that the limited number of participants in a particular sport will also have a wide variety of disabilities. A veteran missing a forearm but who has the use of a prosthesis and a school student with a developmental disorder may want to play the same sport and end up on the same team despite being handicapped in different ways. Disabled volleyball has answered the question with a solution similar to that employed by wheelchair basketball: Sports Disability Points Totals.

Disability points work simply: each player is given a points rating based on the degree of their disability. Teams are allowed a total of 26 points on the court at any time. This simple decision allows handicapped volleyball teams to encourage a variety of players to participate, regardless of the severity of their disability. It also creates an atmosphere of teamwork and creative problem solving, as each team must coordinate their own strategies and solutions around their players’ abilities and handicaps. This creates a unique bond among the members of each team, and is one of the most exciting and fascinating aspects of disabled volleyball and disabled sports in general.

Another creative solution comes in the form of a specialized way that volleyball allows partially paralyzed athletes to compete: sitting volleyball — if participants cannot stand easily or at all, let them play with a lowered net while sitting on the floor. A few specialized rules regarding how players are allowed to move during play and bingo, you have a perfectly adapted sport that allows people locked out of standing volleyball to participate anyway.

The military also has its own standing and sitting volleyball teams and participates in the paralympics each year. The US military’s history with disabled volleyball is long and storied, beginning after WWII as a means of helping injured soldiers recuperate and rehabilitate following crippling injuries in battle. Military teams are some of the most determined and enthusiastic players of the sport, and work hard to bring attention to disabled athletes and athletics around the world.

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