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Northridge Knights

     It always amazes me how the turnover of a player or two change the dynamic of a team. For example, the addition of a great international player can take a team from “almost there” to multiple championships. It also amazes me that our team was 6th in the nation in 2007 during a season when we beat the Portland Pounders at Nationals. Two seasons later in 2009 we increased our ranking by one to hit an all-time high of 5th in the nation. What was special about that team was the inclusion of a dynamic import who not only had the ball-handling skills and speed to make an impact, but also the floor leadership to guide the team through difficult on-court situations.
     Fast forward four seasons and you’ll see a team that is missing the entire starting line-up from that 2009 season and has gradually slipped in the standings from 6th to unranked. What does a team in this position do to try and rebuild their status? If this were a pro sport, we could use a high draft pick to add new speed and power. Maybe we can start recruiting players from other teams to move to beautiful Southern California (just ignore the traffic and high cost of housing.) Seriously though, there is only one thing we can do: Keep playing Rugby. We are now looking at starting lineups that sometimes include four players benefiting from the “45-and-over” rule (no offense old guys.) Actually, we could probably put out the oldest legal line-up of any team in the league. Other lineups rely on second year player as our number one ball handler still learning all the intricacies of the game while being double or triple teamed. It can be discouraging at times, but in the end it is still fun.
     The things that have kept our team together through the years are our camaraderie between players, a terrific sponsor in Northridge hospital who provides us with enough funding to send our whole team to at least 3-4 tournaments a year, and a coach who has dedicated a large chunk of his time over the last two decades to wheelchair sports. Coach Mike Doom was introduced to the sport when someone convinced him to build a sports wheelchair in his shop where he specializes in building and restoring custom and classic motorcycles. If you have ever met Mike, you know it is just as easy to picture him on his bike cruising the highway versus pacing the sideline of the court. Anyway, he started working on sports chair designs, got involved with Northridge wheelchair sports and has been volunteering with the teams ever since. He has been incredibly selfless ever since I met him. He is always willing to fix tires, straighten axles, and weld chairs for his team. He is also an expert at sorting out chairs in an airport jetway as a dozen players sit in the plane wondering if their chair made it down the luggage ramp in one piece.
     As our season reaches March and April, we had a pretty good year. We started with a local three-team tournament hosting Sharp Edge and Sierra Storm. Following that we were able to travel to some great new places including Tucson, Sacramento and Denver. We did not win a lot of games, but we did manage to come in second place in Denver. That is, second from the “other” end of the standings. We look forward to Sectionals and unleashing our new and improved game plan.
Thanks for reading.
Joey Mearig
March 6, 2013 — 10:00pm