#RioRecap: Physical Activity
By Whitney Neal
Becoming a Paralympian is no easy task. It requires hard work and dedication. Whether you have a spinal cord injury and wish to play wheelchair rugby or you are visually impaired and want to become a member of the goalball team, the basic components are the same. Here is an outline of the requirements:
Train. You should try to train a minimum of five days per week with a coach or training group. Your training must be with a plan and a purpose connected to your sport.
Know the standards for your classification and event(s). Paralympic athletes have one or more impairments in body structures and functions that lead to a competitive disadvantage in sport. Classification is the process used to assess these athletes by reference to the impact of impairment on their ability to compete in a specific sport. Detailed information related to Paralympic classification can be found here: http://www.teamusa.org/US-Paralympics/Athlete-Classifications.
Know the minimum competition requirements. For example, Track and Field requires that you compete in a minimum of 6-8 competitions per season and to submit proof with the official results for each competition that you attend. Check out the official Paralympic website for your sport(s) of choice to find out the minimum requirements.
Compete! There is no way to know if you are capable of becoming a successful Paralympic athlete if you never compete against others. Start by entering competitions at the local level. As you improve your skills, you will be able to perform your sport at higher levels.
Become identified as an Emerging Athlete. Emerging athletes are those who are identified by the U.S. Paralympics Emerging Sport committee as meeting the Emerging standard for their sport. Each Paralympic sport has an Athlete and Sport Program Plan that includes qualification procedures and criteria for the U.S. Paralympics National Team as well as other helpful information. If after reading the criteria you feel that you meet the standards, fill out the Emerging Athlete questionnaire here: https://www.cvent.com/Surveys/Welcome.aspx?s=bb4f4603-3293-444e-8c6e-a6de33985d15. If the committee feels that you have high performance potential, they will provide information and possible resources to assist you in pursuing your sport at a higher level.
These are just the basic components to begin the journey to becoming a Paralympic athlete. For more detailed information, check out the U.S. Paralympics website at: http://www.teamusa.org/US-Paralympics.