Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Just Doin' It! Track and Field Inspires Personal Bests

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Just Doin' It! Track and Field Inspires Personal Bests

Article excerpt

Track and field is a great "starter" sport: simple and basic. Plus, it's fun to meet kids of similar ages and abilities to see who can go the fastest or throw the farthest.

A great way for kids with disabilities to learn about healthy competition and fitness, track and field events do not need much equipment or expertise to start out. There are no team concepts to learn, and you do not have to worry about tennis balls or basketballs flying in your face. Track and field is just getting out there and learning by doing.

As a sport, track and field events fall under the direction of "governing bodies": national disabilities sports associations that record and maintain the statistics from events and oversee local, regional and national networks of athletes and competitions.

The main governing bodies for general track and field events for children with disabilities are Wheelchair Sports USA, United States Cerebral Palsy Athletic Association (USCPAA), United States Association for the Blind and Special Olympics International (SOI) (see box). Contact with the national association can help locate the local group operating nearest you. That group will show your child the basics of track and field skills and start him or her practicing and competing in events.

There are many ways of "doin' it," ranging from local and regional events to intense national competitions. The governing bodies organize all types. Track and field competitions are unique for people with disabilities because of a classification system that insures equitable competition. Each national disability sport association implements this system which assures that competition is fair, based on age and ability.

Off to the races

Though track events are all usually held on a standard 400-meter running track, they consist of a number of races varying in distance. These distances are the same for all track athletes, whether they run or wheel. Sprint races are those shorter than 400 meters, including the 60-, 100-and 200-meter races. Long distance races begin with the 800-meter race and go as long as 10,000 meters.

Racers are as diverse as races. Some specialize, choosing, for example, to only do the sprints or to opt for long-distance races. Still others prefer to do them all. For athletes competing in power wheelchairs, the USCPAA organizes two types of races: 60-meters and 60-meters through staggered cones. In these races the object is speed and control: the winner is the athlete with the best time while staying in one lane.

In all races the challenge is not simply to win, but to achieve. The competition is not only the other athletes, but your own best personal time. Even if others finish first, the athlete who beats his or her own personal time is also victorious.

Playing the field

Field events are usually part of a track meet, using the infield of the 400-meter track (the infield is the size of a football field). …

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