With the chill of snow now hanging in the air, many winter-sport seekers will soon be taking to the ski slopes, ice skating rinks and snow tubing parks for friendly competition and fun. In Pittsburgh, Pa., many competitors have already taken to the ice at Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.
Each Saturday evening, the Pittsburgh Curling Club welcomes youth and adult, able-bodied and wheelchair curlers to the Sports Center for fun that’s “just a stone’s throw away.” The club began approximately 10 years ago and currently has more than 80 members who participate in both wheelchair and able-bodied curling.
“The unique thing about curling is that it incorporates both people with and without disabilities into the same sport,” said Matt Berwick, a board member of the Pittsburgh Curling Club. “It’s an awesome opportunity to participate in a team sport, and using a wheelchair doesn’t affect the game in any way.”
Providing opportunities for people with disabilities to stay active is especially important to Matt. At age 15, he experienced a spinal cord injury and currently uses a wheelchair.
“I’d always been active in sports before my injury. While in rehab at Harmarville Rehabilitation Center, I began playing wheelchair rugby. That was my first interaction with adaptive sports,” said Matt.
An obvious natural, Matt was soon asked by a contact from Hope Network, a nonprofit that provides sports and recreation opportunities, to attend a Learn to Curl event with the Pittsburgh Curling Club.
“The club began its wheelchair curling initiative five years ago, but curling has always been an inclusive sport,” Matt explained. “It is a low impact sport, which makes it relatively safe for all ages and all people with disabilities. We have curlers who are four years old, and some who are in their late 70s and 80s.”
So just how is the game of curling played? Two teams of four players slide granite rocks on a sheet of ice towards a target, called the “house.” The team whose stone is closest to the center of the target will score a point or more if they have more than one stone that is closer to the target than their opponents. The unique part of curling is the concept called “sweeping.” Players “sweep” or brush the ice in front of the rock to keep it moving.
“Being part of a team offers benefits to all aspects of life,” Matt shared. “While winning is fun, I really enjoy curling because it enables you to play with other able-bodied athletes. Other adaptive sports can’t give this opportunity, but curling includes everyone.”
The key to winning, however, is lots of practice. Matt and the Pittsburgh Curling Club teams play every Saturday evening at the Sports Center from October through March. He encouraged other people with disabilities in the Pittsburgh area to get started by attending a Learn to Curl event. Details can be found on the club’s website,www.pittsburghcurlingclub.com, or by e-mailing email@example.com.
What does Living Well With A Disability℠ mean to Matt? “It means being involved with wellness and sports and being an active member in the community. You can live well even if you have a disability.”
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If there are other goals and activities you’d like to try, be sure to contact the Living Well With A Disability hotline (1-877-865-4893) to complete your free Living Well survey!