Stories

OZASA. How Chicago Athlete Builds Inclusive Sports in Arkansas

People playing wheelchair basketball
Source: OZASA

July 21, 2021

Delia Murry

Ozark Adaptive Sports Association, or OZASA, has made a name for itself as one of the first adaptive/inclusive sports programs in Arkansas. Originally from the Chicago area, founder and President, Sean Kent, took the steps needed to establish wheelchair rugby and basketball teams in the Northwest Arkansas region.

In 2011, while still in Chicago, Kent was in an accident that affected his neck and resulted in him being in a wheelchair.  While attending in-patient therapy after his accident, his peers kept encouraging him to watch the 2005 film Murderball. Murderball is a documentary that follows a quad rugby team in the United States, and in the end, Kent describes himself as “loving it instantly.”  His rugby career started soon after, “I played in Chicago from 2012 to 2018, but I knew there was no team here when we were moving.”

At the time the closest team was in Kansas City, which Kent was a member, making it very inaccessible to people not in the area or who do not have consistent transportation. At the end of 2018, Kent began taking initiative to create an Arkansas based team, with members spanning from Little Rock to the Fayetteville area. It wasn’t until he met a principal from a local high school that he realized he needed to scale his program out. During their conversation, the principal described to him that “kids at [his] school with disabilities have no activity, no sports. They come to school and go home.” This is the moment Kent decided to establish OZASA. 

The program initially only included wheelchair basketball, the original quad rugby, as well as a program to get members into sports-adaptive wheelchairs of their own. With the help of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission (ASCC), which helps to track and assist people with spinal cord injuries, more members have been able to be recruited and learn about OZASA. “Because of HIPPA, they can’t give me that information, but I have somebody I can give pamphlets to.” Kent is able to reach out to people who may not have reached out on their own behalf because of his connections within the ASCC. The organization is now housed in Springdale, Arkansas, as it is hopefully “more accessible for members in Rogers and Fayetteville.”

Recently, the organization has expanded its activity list to include a few new sports: cycling, tennis, and pickleball. Seeing as Arkansas is one of the only states not listed on resource sites for adaptive sports, it is more important now than it ever was to expand the accessibility. “People don’t leave their cities very often here,” but through organizations such as Ozark Adaptive Sports Association, the face of sports in Arkansas are becoming more accessible by the day!

Find information on how to join OZASA (wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, cycling, tennis, and pickleball) in a SameSport database of adaptive and inclusive clubs in Arkansas.

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