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UA Wheelchair Rugby honors the past, looks to futureTUCSON, Ariz. – The University of Arizona Wheelchair Rugby team said farewel

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TUCSON, Ariz. – The University of Arizona Wheelchair Rugby team said farewell to a beloved coach and welcomed new beginnings in their 2015 – 2016 season.
After a seven year run, Bryan Barten stepped down as head coach and passed the reigns to nine-year player Brad McFadden and Assistant Coach Pete “Chief” Padilla. “I was very happy when Bryan asked me to be assistant coach three years ago. We worked well together and I will miss him,” said Padilla. “He has definitely done a lot for this program, but I am very excited to be working side-by-side with Brad.”

Barten started out as a student athlete with the team in 1998 and was asked to coach in 2007. The team received titles such as the 2010 Mountain Sectional Champions and the 2012 National Championship Finalists, among other high honors, during Barten’s leadership. Barten’s decision to step down was difficult, but knew the program would prosper under McFadden and Padilla. “Brad has a long history with the program. In the last two years of my coaching, he stepped up and showed he had the skills to be an elite coach,” said Barten. “His character, knowledge of the game and vision is exactly what the program needed.”

McFadden accepted the position not only for love of the game, but also saw how the program could implement change in a youth’s life. “To be able to influence younger people to have a healthy and productive life is rewarding and what’s kept me involved in the program,” said McFadden.

McFadden and Padilla plan to carry Barten’s philosophies throughout their leadership and use the program to mentor their players to be successful in all aspects of their lives. “We take a lot of pride in not just having people that play rugby. We want you to be somebody with direction,” said McFadden. “If you are going to be in school, we want to support that. If you’re going to be a community member, we will support that as well, but you have to be dedicated in training and have purpose.”

A new year brings new challenges The 2015 season brought new challenges after the loss of five players, in addition to a new coaching staff. Three players graduated, one left for Olympic training and the other moved due to personal reasons. The team was left with five players. Despite the shortage of players, the team is in the hunt for nationals in April. The opportunity would be a challenge with only five players, as two players would play without breaks. However, the team looks forward to the experience, according to McFadden. “We are looking forward to nationals from a recruiting standpoint. It allows us to let people know about our program and to make new contacts,” said McFadden. “This season has been all about maintaining the players we have, while at the same time recruiting.”

McFadden and Padilla’s efforts in recruitment throughout the season so far have paid off. The coaches received four commitments for the upcoming season, one being international player Travis Murao, who is currently playing for the number one team in the world. “We believe we are going to have much more success with these new additions to the team next year,” said McFadden.

The coaches plan to focus on bringing in more student athletes and taking the program to new professional heights in the future. “My goal is to let people know the University of Arizona has by far the best adaptive athletics program in the U.S.,” said Padilla. “People have an opportunity here to get the best care to excel in whatever they want to do, whether it be in school or any type of wheelchair sport.” McFadden and Padilla have high hopes for the program in the future.
“We are expected to have a lot of people over here and a lot of good stuff going on,” said McFadden. “The future of next season is bright.”

February 15, 2016 — 1:00am