MSU team, led by Kinesiology instructor Piotr Pasik, competed in international games in Switzerland
By Jane Deacon
Flights booked and bags packed, MSU’s wheelchair floorball team arrived at the Chicago airport early, ready to represent the U.S. at an international tournament in Switzerland.
The trip was already an impressive feat of logistics. The team assembled mid-pandemic on a few months’ notice, with just enough athletes to meet tournament requirements. Finding a direct flight was a must to reduce the risk of losing custom-made equipment in transit (look closely and you’ll spot “MSU” on the green and white wheelchairs).
A few days prior to departure, team captain and MSU Kinesiology instructor Piotr Pasik (#10 in photos) was hit by a car. Ever the optimist, Pasik reluctantly went to the emergency room and shrugged off a sprain.
And then, one last-minute, unexpected setback: At airport check-in, a player learned he had a lapsed travel-vaccine requirement, out-of-date by only a few days.
With some quick thinking (and a quick Uber to a nearby pharmacy), the team was en route to the Swiss Wheely Open.
The floorball tournament—a wheelchair sport similar to hockey—featured seven teams from six countries in April 2022.
Competing on an international stage against nationally supported teams, Pasik called the week-long experience a major win for the MSU-based team and a personal highlight in his athletic career.
The team played eight games in three days and tied a game (against hosts Switzerland) for the first time in international competition. The player who nearly missed the flight made the all-tournament team, a collection of the event’s best athletes.
It was the second international competition for the MSU contingent, which traveled to the Netherlands in 2019.
The team is an offshoot of MSU’s Adaptive Sports and Recreation Club, founded by Pasik in 2014 as part of a master’s degree internship. (Pasik is a two-time College of Education graduate, with master’s degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling and Kinesiology.)
Pasik, who has cerebral palsy, is passionate about providing equal opportunities for students with disabilities and started the club as a health-oriented initiative rooted in a quest for equity.
What began as a weekly 90-minute club has grown into 10 hours of sports programming per week for individuals with disabilities—both MSU students and community members.
“An able-bodied student has access to four facilities anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day,” Pasik explained. “Why should a student with a disability not have somewhat comparable opportunities that are readily supported? That’s why we meet as often as we do: We’re always looking at things through an equity lens.”
Since 2014, the club has included more than 200 athletes and nearly 1,000 volunteers. In addition to providing opportunities and community for individuals with disabilities, Pasik also uses the initiative to educate and engage with the university and broader community.
It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and passion of Pasik, who contributes his time as a volunteer and, with the support of Kinesiology faculty, has helped the club secure nearly a quarter-million dollars in grant funding for adaptive equipment and operating costs.
The floorball team is looking ahead to future events, including a tournament in Sweden this fall and the possibility of one day hosting a tournament at MSU. As the only U.S. university to support a floorball team, Pasik is reluctant to turn down any opportunities, seeing them as a chance to open doors for other athletes with disabilities.
“With readily available opportunities to go abroad and compete, we’re becoming a destination for students with disabilities,” he said. “If our able-bodied students have access to these things, our students with disabilities should have access to these type of things as well.”
The MSU Adaptive Sports Club does not receive any internal funding from MSU, and relies mostly on grants and support from donors to the university. If you’d like to offer a contribution to for the program, start here, or reach out to a member of our Office of Development and Alumni Engagement team at (517) 432-1983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Liam Darr, Kinesiology student and Wheelchair Floorball team member.