February 27, 2004
Mississippi's quad rugby team to compete in Wisconsin
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Months of practice and some challenging tournament play are paying off for the Jackson Jags, a quad rugby team sponsored by Methodist Rehabilitation Center and the Mississippi Paralysis Association.
The Jags have qualified for sectional competition March 19-21 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and are readying for the contest with a new level of confidence, said team veteran Wiley Clark of Moss Point.
“I think we are playing better as a team than ever before,” Clark said. “It takes some time to get to know each other and get the strategy and technical parts of the game going at the same time. We’ve won more games this year and the competition has been harder.”
Developed in the 1970s by Canadian quadriplegics, quad rugby has been a hit in Jackson since the team was formed in 1997. Players use specially designed wheelchairs to take the rugby ball down a basketball court and across the goal line. It’s a full-contact sport and players are rough on each other and their wheelchairs. If it gets too rough, players spend time in a penalty box, like in hockey.
“Really the chairs take most of the beating. If you sit and watch and listen to it, you would think we are trying to kill each other. It makes a lot of noise,” said team captain Mike Blackburn of Newton. “But the chairs are designed to take 75 percent of the jolt when somebody runs into you. They don’t take all of it. You know when you’ve been hit.”
Clark, a member since the Jag’s inception, said they have really come together as a team the last few times they have taken the court in competition.
A recent Atlanta tournament gave them an opportunity to implement some new defensive strategies that worked well. “We were successful using a double-double defense for the first time,” Clark said. “We’ve come to really understand the importance of every player, from the lowest point player to the highest point player.”
Clark was referring to the way quad rugby teams are formed. All members are quadriplegics, but players are assigned points based on their level of function. Teams are made up of four players, totaling no more than eight points.
Boydston said the games are rewarding because everything learned in practice is brought to fruition. “You practice for months and months and then you start seeing those plays come together on the court. And you learn a lot from watching the other teams play.”
She said they are looking forward to sectionals. “We are preparing physically and mentally for it. It’s going to be good, strong competition.”