For the past two years, Harlon Matthews has held the Adaptive Sports Camp. This year, Matthews, the Henry County Parks and Recreation Department wheelchair sports coordinator, decided to morph the camp into something else.
“We are going to take some of our current Henry Hurricanes athletes and do a serious, two hours a day clinic,” Matthews said. “We will work on basketball and agility. It won’t be like what we have done in the past. We will focus on basketball and training.”
The Henry Hurricanes compete in the wheelchair division of the Georgia High School Association during the school year. This team awards letterman’s jackets and certificates like every other team associated with the GHSA.
The Hurricanes participate in handball during the fall, basketball during the winter and football during the spring.
Matthews said he wants to have the Hurricanes ready for the basketball season in the winter.
“We will be training these athletes on pushing the chair and other basketball skills,” he said. This will be a serious camp for the handful of team members who can make it here.”
Matthews said the Hurricanes are an open enrollment program through the Henry County school system. It is open to children in Kindergarten to 12th grade.
Matthews said the sport is designated as a wheelchair sport, but the athletes do not have to use a wheelchair all the time to be included. He said the athletes do have to be in a wheelchair during competition.
“The general perception is that if you use a wheelchair you take a step back in life,” Matthews said. “But if you sit in the wheelchair and you see how fast you are moving, there is only one word for the feeling, liberated.”
Matthews said his goal with the summer clinic is to build strength and endurance and understanding of wheelchair mobility. He said he expects anywhere from three to eight of the Hurricanes team members out this summer.
Matthews said he is like any other coach during a skills clinic.
“They feel like athletes out there because that is how I treat them,” he said. “I let them know when they don’t meet my expectations. I challenge them according to their abilities. The same stuff works with kids with disabilities that works with able-bodied kids. And they gain life skills from our practices and games.”