Adaptive sports champion Aaron Holliday


Aaron Holliday, Graphic Designer

Ever since I was 7 years old, I’ve engaged in several types of adaptive sports. When I was 5-6yrs old before this, I initially played T-Ball, which worked for a while. With my particular disability, I was able to run bases with/or without my crutches, so when I was up to bat, the coach would hold my crutches at first base. Once there, I’d take my crutches and run the rest of the way around. Although fun while it lasted, when I was 7yrs old, my parents and I soon discovered a type of sport where I didn’t have to adapt to the sport; instead, it adapted for me—that was the first year I began playing wheelchair basketball. This was great because adaptive sports was/is one of the main ways I was able to socially connect with others with disabilities. For 7 years, I continued wheelchair basketball, and in the summer, my team doubled as a wheelchair softball team. At age 14, I learned of another adaptive sport I found interesting called sled hockey, so I decided to “trade” one sport for another, ending wheelchair basketball in exchange for sled hockey which I still play and have for 7 ½ years now. Lastly, but certainly not least-in high school at Homewood Flossmoor High School in Illinois, for 2 years during my junior & senior year, I engaged in what was arguably one of the most impactful experiences of all: Wheelchair Track. What made this experience unique to the others was the fact that unlike wheelchair basketball, wheelchair softball & sled hockey, while doing wheelchair track, I had the opportunity to do a sport for my school. In most cases, while many adaptive sports can be sponsored by a school program, they are not typically played for the school and are an outside program.

As people have gradually been including and funding the participation of adaptive sports officially in schools, like in wheelchair track, now allowed me to participate in an adaptive sport for my school, becoming known as the 1st person in my high school’s history to play an adaptive sport for the school. While not every school had a wheelchair track racer, so a number of my meets at first were myself vs. my own best times, until getting to State, where I faced 2 other wheelchair track opponents from other schools. The next year, during my senior year of high school, our number of racers increased. The previous year at State we only had 3 racers, the next year it increased to 9 of us wheelchair track racers from different schools competing at the IHSA State Championship in 2017. This was the year I was able to contribute to my high school track team-as my points achieved from my 100m, 200m, & 400m races, in additional combination with all the points of the rest of my high school track team members’ able-bodied events, all together earned us to become the 2017 Combined Boys Track & Field IHSA State Champions, earning us all championship rings. I’m proud to have been a part of that. One thing I do hope someday is that my actions inspire another at my high school with a disability to try wheelchair track, knowing so I might’ve been the first person at my high school, but won’t be the last.

      Playing adaptive sports is an aspect of my life that I can’t really picture being without:

–       During our season each year in sled hockey, one big highlight is that one of our tournaments includes playing at the United Center, right before the Black Hawks would play after us.

–       In wheelchair track, I became a “high school legend” by being the 1st person at my high school to play an adaptive sport for my school, and was able to help contribute at State my senior year to my track team becoming 2017 Combined Boys Track & Field IHSA State Champions.

To me, adaptive sports is more than athletics: It’s a way to connect with other people with other disabilities and a chance to be involved in unforgettable experiences. 

In fact, without having been involved in adaptive sports, I might’ve not ended up at UW-Whitewater as my school of choice as part of my decision included me already having some of my former wheelchair basketball teammates also go here and so I would have an easy support system of connections should I need help starting out when I was a freshman on campus.