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The Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals is the oldest continuously held competitive sports event for junior athletes (ages 7 to 22) with physical disabilities in North America. The Games will be held in the great state of Wisconsin the week of July 16th to 23rd on the campus of Middleton High School, just outside of the capital city of Madison. Adaptive Sports USA is very pleased to be partnering with the Greater Madison Sports Commission to make this event a reality. The Junior Nationals represents much more than a sporting event to our athletes, families and friends. Historically, the children participating in this event have been excluded and shut out from opportunities to participate in competitive sports routinely provided to their siblings, peers and classmates. In the last 100 years, barriers have been shattered with regards to inclusive participation by athletes of color, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. Student-athletes with physical disabilities continue to be the one social demographic that are systematically excluded from opportunites to participate with their peers in competitive sports opportunities. The landscape has improved in recent years in isolated instances and geographic locations. However, the athletes of Adaptive Sports USA find themselves in the same circumstance as female athletes found themselves fifty years ago, prior to the implementation of Title IX.
Why is equal opportunity in sports for athletes with disabilties important? Besides the moral and ethical imperatives surrounding equal opportunity for young student-athletes with disabilities in the realm of sport, there is an overriding health and wellness factor that must be addressed. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that there are nearly one million young people under the age of 22 in the United States with a physical disability. Within this population of young people, the CDC has found:
Youth with disabilities are twice as likely as their peers to be inactive and sedentary in their lifestyles, mainly due to lack of equal opportunity.
Among this population, there is a 40% higher incidence of childhood obesity, diabetes and other critical health issues, once again attributable to lack of opportunity to engage in active lifestyles.
Additionally, the Junior Nationals event provides a platform for development in our athletes that is taken for granted among their non-disabled peers. The opportunity for independence (in many cases, their attendance at this event is the first time away from parents) building self-esteem and confidence; promotion of healthy lifestyles; development of self-discipline and focus. As with their non-disabled peers, participation in competitive sports for student-athletes with physical disabilities has been shown to be a strong indicator of future success in education, career and life. Junior Nationals has been in the forefront of providing those opportunities for more than 30 years!