The 4th annual Quad Rugby tournament was held over three days at Senter Park Recreation Center by RISE Adaptive Sports. The six-team tournament included competitors from as far as Switzerland, and the gym was filled with family, friends and supporters.
Quad Rugby is just one of the many activities that RISE provides for the physically disabled. Quad rugby, or Murderball, is played with the same intensity and strategy as the original game. Teams score points by crossing the goal line with the ball. Defenders try to deny the offensive team from crossing the goal line with hard contact and good coverage. Each wheel chair is built for impact and fast movement up and down the court. Each player is classified by a panel and monitored by three physical therapists, and in accordance with the league’s rules and regulations, the coaches set there lineups based on these designations. The action brings out the best out of each competitor. Teammates Mike Peacock and Eric Ingram helped lead the No. 1 seeded TIRR Texans to a championship as they defeated the No. 2 seeded Switzerland Fighting Snakes in the tournament final, yet the sport has a much deeper meaning for both men.
Twenty-four-year-old Eric Ingram, who is known as “Flea” by his fellow Texans, was born with disabilities that left him physically bound to a wheelchair. Since the age of 15, Ingram has competed in quad rugby, traveled internationally and made lifelong friends because of the sport.
“The sport is an amazing outlet for energy, but also it’s a really great community. A lot of people (have) similar backgrounds, not necessarily life backgrounds, but the disabled—it’s a really tight community,” Ingram said, describing the importance of having quad rugby in his life. “I’ve competed in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Florida, Arizona and Connecticut. I know people from around the world, and we are all friends. It’s awesome to go out there and ram into other people in wheelchairs, but (there are) also a lot of friends out there. It’s intense.
“It’s the hard hitting of football combined with the quickness of basketball, that’s a pretty awesome combination. It’s nice to go out and be athletic and competitive. There is a stigma that people with disabilities are fragile, but they don’t see much of our community, so this really opens it up. It’s intense. We are trying to win something. This is a competition, and it opens people’s eyes that we are not handicapped people, we are people that are just playing a sport.”
Ingram, who was named Most Valuable Player award for the tournament, believes his story can inspire others that face the same challenges. “Other people in wheelchairs, that are thinking their lives are over or that they are just going to sit inside and do nothing all day, … come out and see this sport … (and) it opens their eyes to the possibilities that they can expand their lives beyond just being a handicapped guy… .”
Twenty-eight-year-old Mike Peacock was given the award for being the best in his 2.0 class. The road that led him to quad rugby started at an early age. At 17, Peacock broke his neck after diving into a swimming pool. The injury left him wheel chair bound, paralyzed from the chest down with limited hand and arm function. Now a 10-year veteran of quad rugby, he shares what he has learned from his experiences with RISE and Quad Rugby.
“I have been doing this for 10 years, and it’s amazing. It’s definitely benefited me throughout this entire injury—from getting a spinal cord injury and being able to be competitive in sports again. It’s amazing, and I love it. It’s the only full contact wheel chair sport, and its loads of fun.
“… in high school, I didn’t even know that you can break your neck and survive. For individuals going through a rough time, I would say never give up; there is a whole wheel chair community out there. Get involved in something that definitely helps. I remember coming in with a new injury and being with these guys, especially the veterans. The support that they give you is unparalleled with what you can learn in the hospital. Never give up; there is a whole life out there.”