Camp in Motion provides sports opportunity

Charles Taylor, Staff Writer

Organizations in the Austin area like YMCA’s Camp in Motion, TOPSoccer and Austin Adaptive Sports offer people of any ability level an opportunity to participate in organized sports.
According to Director Vali Martin, Camp in Motion reaches more Austin children because of its acceptance of all potential participants.
“Camp in Motion commits to providing opportunities for children with disabilities in our area by promising to not turn any child away due to the inability to pay,” Martin said. “Any child that applies and qualifies for camp will have the opportunity to attend.”
By accepting any child, Martin said Camp in Motion sparks interest in sports for young athletes with disabilities. According to Martin, the camp offers a wide variety of sports for all interests.
“Specifically in Camp in Motion, offering different sports gives the campers the opportunity to try multiple sports to see what they may to continue doing in other programs outside of camp,” Martin said. “Many campers have found interest in a sport in camp and then moved on to join our sports leagues at the Y. One child was introduced to basketball for the first time in camp and moved on to join our basketball league and then a competitive wheelchair league in the city.”
Director of adapted sports at Lone Star Paralysis Raymond Turner said the organization tries to offer as many sports as possible and is dedicated to discovering a cure for spinal cord paralysis.
“We don’t just offer one sport,” Turner said. “We offer different sports all throughout the week. Any idea you have for an event we will try to figure out how to adapt it. Once they sit in that sports chair and play any of our sports they are hooked for life.”
TOPSoccer, a program affiliated with Westlake Youth Soccer Association, is committed to allowing children with disabilities in the Austin area to participate in soccer. According to Director Sean Murphy, TOPSoccer would be impossible without volunteers helping players along the way.
“We couldn’t pull this program off without our volunteers,” Murphy said. “It’s hard enough to coach a team of 10, to 15, to 20 normal-functioning children. When you have players that have some physical limitations, or you have players with cognitive challenges, it really helps to have a volunteer kind of right next to them, to kind of show them what to do, maybe to explain either verbally or showing them what to do verbally. A lot of people feed off of positive energy and positive energy is such a powerful, motivating force, and having someone high-fiving is just such an important aspect of keeping players involved and focused and moving forward on the task at hand.”
In order to introduce children to new sports, Camp in Motion emulates the experience present in organized sports leagues, Martin said.

“Our goal is for them to have the opportunity to see what they like so they can join a typical sports league and have an idea of what the sport looks like and what may be expected of them,” Martin said. “Camp In Motion allows campers a similar experience to a typical sports league by using the same exact sports equipment (unless a camper needs a modified piece of equipment) as they would find in a league.”
Murphy said TOPSoccer also emulates the experience of professional soccer leagues. According to Murphy, the use of the same equipment and drills for all children, regardless of ability, allows every player to have a traditional soccer experience.
“Thanks to Westlake Youth Soccer, we have uniforms, and they put on a jersey, and I think that in itself is kind of a mental transformation from just coming to practice in shorts and a T-shirt to actually having a uniform,” Murphy said. “But I think understanding who’s on their team and really trying to work on passing drills, I think that kind of gives them an identity.”