Paralympics sports introduced to Merrimack as part of capstone project

Graduate student Derek Mumford worked with Chandler Bullard of Northeast Passage to introduce about 30 Merrimack students to Paralympic sports as part of his capstone project Feb. 24.

Mumford is a student in Merrimack’s higher education graduate program for student affairs.

As his capstone project he’s examining perception among college students of physical disabilities through sports.

Mumford was a physical education major at the University of New Hampshire and was familiar with Bullard’s work introducing students at the Durham, N.H. campus with Paralympic sports.

“I worked with (Bullard) to bring it here and find out what the kids thought,” Mumford said.

As part of his project, Mumford asked the students to take pre- and post-activity surveys to learn how their perceptions may have changed or not changed.

“I gave them statements and had them agree or disagree on a scale of one to five,” he said. “Statements like, ‘if I were to compete against somebody in a wheelchair I would win.’”

Mumford advertised the event using fliers, the Daily Digest and word of mouth. He wanted to make sure he got a representative sampling of the entire Merrimack population and was pleased with the turnout of volunteers.

“I just think it’s an area that needs to be delved into,” Mumford said. “I came from UNH and they have these sports but I came here and we don’t so maybe that’s because we don’t have many students that have this classification.”

Northeast Passage is a therapeutic recreation organization, Bullard said. Most participants have physical disabilities such as amputations, spinal cord injuries or cerebral palsy.

Bullard was in a car accident 22 years ago and uses a wheelchair to get around.

The organization usually works with elementary and middle school students but also visits colleges to offer students a different perspective to adaptive sports.

“You can get these groups of kids, they talk about it, and the word is out there,” Bullard said.

Northeast Passage participants take part in a wide variety of sports including golf, kayaking and waterskiing. The main sports include sled hockey, quad rugby and power soccer.

“Anything adaptive, we do,” he said. “You name the sport, we do it.”

Maynard Wheeler, ’17, of Peabody, is a civil engineering major. He tried the volleyball and handball but basketball was his favorite.

“It’s fun, I love it,” Wheeler said. “Very hard. I give a lot of credit to people who actually play this.”
Jocelyn McLain, ’17, of Loveland, Colo. is a sports medicine major. She showed up to watch her boyfriend Connor Kovacs, ’17, of Kingston, N.Y. play then decided to take part.

She was worried about being able to push the wheelchair but learned Paralympic sports are even more physically and mentally challenging than she expected.

“I just spun myself in circles most of the time,” she said.
Kovacs works at Merrimack’s fitness center and learned Mumford was planning the event so he wanted to take part.

“I’ve seen it a little on YouTube and it looks fun and definitely looks competitive,” Kovacs said.



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