Since 1985, the Rollin’ Raiders have been rolling down the courts of Muskogee. Hopping from one practice location to the next, Coach Mike Brown reached out to the Muskogee Teen Center. A full circle occurred as The Rollin’ Raiders had practiced at the Muskogee Teen Center many years ago. As soon as they asked we jumped on the opportunity to host them again and also get our teens involved. They practice 2 evenings a week after the teen center closes. On any given day you can swing by the Muskogee Teen Center and see several teens out on the court shooting hoops. Many of the teens that come to play ball also play on their high school teams. These teens would almost consider themselves professionals …. that is until they got in the chair.
We’ve heard the saying a million times “walk a mile in their shoes” and our teens have experienced that on a totally different level. The Rollin’ Raiders needed some outside players to help them practice and our teens were there to step up. It started with a couple of teens staying for practice one day. One teen in particular really found enjoyment in the new way to play the sport. Kennedy has rarely missed a practice thus far and has even taken it upon himself to recruit others to play as well. So far, we have had 10 teen center members join the practices. Kennedy talked his younger brother into staying one evening and now he comes after football practice. Talk about commitment!
While sitting on the side lines you can here the teens make comments about how they had no idea how hard it was to play basketball in a wheelchair. Not only were they having fun but also building awareness of individuals with disabilities. “This is a killer arm and core workout.”
Kennedy now rolls the court end to end with ease. There was one practice were the team captain selected Kennedy and one other player for a 3 on 5 match. It was a quick match, the final score 21 – 4 the team with 3 winning easily. The smiles are from ear to ear on the teens faces as they roll up and down the court. They were a little nervous to jump in fully and get too close to the other players until Michael Lackey the Team Captain took them under his wing and now they know it is like playing basketball anywhere else, you have to get in there. Hearing the wheelchairs crash into each other took some getting used to but it is all part of the game. Defense, Defense, Defense.
A couple of Rollin’ Raiders bring along teens of their own. We truly feel that there is a special bond that is formed between the teens from The Teen Center and the ones that come with the players. A mutual respect. Many of our teens are not aware of the struggle of having a disabled person in their home. They are now getting in the wheelchairs with them and learning. There is something about a teen taking the opportunity to learn and sharing it with others.
The first time that Kennedy and his brother stayed for practice their mother had already arrived to pick them up “Mom we want to stay a little longer” became the resounding reply from the boys. Thinking she would just be waiting an extra 15 minutes or so, she stayed in her car. The time had passed so she journeyed inside to see exactly what her sons were up to. Upon coming into the gym she saw her two sons in wheelchairs. She took a seat with the others and cheered on her sons. She has made comments on several occasions about how she has seen a change in her sons lives. All for the better! She said she is fully supportive of them going with them to out of town games, no matter what, she will help make it happen.
The Rollin’ Raiders play for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. These games are held all over the US. We have also been extended the offer to travel along side them to games to provide support and encouragement and our teens are ready to go.