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Baptized in Klister, by Madison Fisher (GLWRC)

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Baptized in Klister
by Madison Fisher, GLWRC

September 26, 2015 I sat in a hotel room 222 miles away from my home with eight guys I didn’t know, at a sporting event that I have never heard of.  Some may say I was crazy, I liked to think I was ambitious.
“Come help out at our wheelchair rugby tournament” they said. “It’ll be fun” they said.
After 40 hours of watching these strangers smash into each other as hard as they possibly could in their rugby chairs, getting covered from head to toe in adhesive, and consuming as much coffee as humanly possible, I knew for certain they hadn’t led me astray.
I joined the Great Lakes Wheelchair Rugby Club not knowing a single thing about the sport. I would like to thank my team for not only having patience to deal with my naiveté, but for enticing me with the true meaning of passion and intensity.  It is riveting, watching these guys play. Despite being their first year playing together, I could see that not only were other teams surprised by the performance of the Clippers, but the team itself was surprised by their own performance.  Convincingly earning first place at their first tournament, they realized that this was the start of something great.
One man short, the Clippers took second place at the Grand Rapids, MI tournament to number one team, London. They then made their way through the mountains to Slippery Rock, PA and notched another tournament victory. Next we headed to Columbus, OH where Coach Eric Chase and myself were carpooling together. We were driving on the highway, about halfway there when we got shot. (Okay, we didn’t actually get shot, but in the moment we thought we did).  The back window exploded into the van, forcing us to pull over.  We bought a few tarps in the gas station and a roll of duct tape, transforming his minivan into a rolling homeless shelter.
Upon arrival at the gym the next morning, we discovered that one of our starting players didn’t have his wheels (someone else was packing his stuff – it’s a long story). Two of the team’s starters got back into their car and headed back to Michigan to retrieve the wheels, leaving the Clippers shorthanded for an important game. Despite the series of unfortunate events, we placed third at this tournament and finished the first half of the season with a record of 17-3.
In January, the Clippers then took to the skies to escape the cold and landed in Jacksonville, FL where our 4 man roster battled thru quadruple overtime to victory over the Swiss.  We won 4 of our 5 games but, because of the 12 team tournament format, only finished fourth overall. The Clippers were then ready to host their own tournament at Michigan State University (where the MSU Adaptive Recreation Program has been so kind to let us practice these past few months).  The championship game in East Lansing was a rematch with London, but this time the Clippers took home the big trophy.
Rugby is a sport that brings together people from all different backgrounds and experiences. It allows people to compete at the same level whether they be a spinal cord injury, neuromuscular disorder, amputee, or some any physical disability that impairs all four limbs. Although I still end a rugby weekend with adhesive stuck to all of my clothes after consuming unbelievable amounts of coffee, I can now say that I am fully baptized by Wheelchair Rugby and tend to be the loudest on the court. This sport has helped me build relationships with absolutely intriguing individuals who come from all around the world. Rugby has not only allowed me to travel, it has opened up a new world for me full of people who are truly devoted and enthusiastic about their sport. 
February 17, 2016 — 8:00am