Adapted sports: MSU adds wheelchair rugby to award-winning club

August 2, 2017

The Adaptive Sports and Recreation Club at Michigan State University recently received new equipment thanks to a grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Leaders used the $12,000 award to purchase four rugby wheelchairs. With these highly specialized chairs, the club was able to start offering rugby and even begin a competitive travel team for the sport.

Piotr Pasik, a master’s student in Kinesiology, started the highly inclusive Adaptive Sports and Recreation Club over two years ago. Since then, it has grown rapidly to offer a dozen different competitive sports serving more than 130 athletes, who come not only from campus but the surrounding region. Participants represent a wide range of disabilities—and at least 11 nationalities.

Pasik, who is originally from Poland, leads a team of interns and more than 330 volunteers who help organize weekly practices and other events. He also coordinates partnerships with MSU Athletics, Recreational Sports and Fitness Services, the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities and the MSU College of Engineering.

“A win-win situation for everybody”

Portrait of Piotr Pasik

Piotr Pasik, director of the Adaptive Sports and Recreation Club at Michigan State University

Under Pasik’s leadership, the club received an Excellence in Diversity Award from the MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives last year.

“Piotr is a huge advocate for his participants,” said Janet Hauck, assistant professor of Kinesiology.

“Part of what we do is normalize disabilities,” said Pasik, who also received a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from MSU. Born with cerebral palsy, he knows that many people with disabilities are “taught to be passive,” letting others make decisions about what’s best for them—including whether they should play sports.

Pasik designs the club to promote regular, consistent physical activity and opportunities to get competitive. He is passionate about making every participant feel encouraged and welcome.

This creates a powerful learning experience for students who volunteer—including many Kinesiology majors—giving them exposure to disabilities in an informal setting.

“Being afraid of offending us doesn’t solve anything,” said Pasik. “What we do is try to bridge that gap of understanding and create a win-win situation for everybody, the athletes and the student volunteers.”

Dean Transportation President Kellie Dean, an alumnus of the MSU College of Education, plans to provide complimentary transportation for the rugby team.