The Landscape

Murderball - Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby with Gary Pate

August 02, 2020 Naveh Eldar / Gary Pate Season 1 Episode 12
The Landscape
Murderball - Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby with Gary Pate
Show Notes Transcript

Gary Pate is a retired divorce judge from Birmingham, Alabama, who discovered and fell in love with wheelchair rugby, which was originally called Murderball. Gary is a staff member with the Paralympic team, and has also been an NBC Paralympic color commentator, wheelchair rugby official, and President of the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby Association. He's witty, knowledgeable and passionate about the sport, which makes for one entertaining episode! Hear him speak about the only full contact wheelchair sport out there, from how practices are run, to how teams are picked, to why there are specialized chairs that can be quite pricey.

For those interested in the the Angel City Games to participate or hear from professional and Paralympic Athletes, please visit:

Next episode will be with leadership from ESPN on their relationship with the Special Olympics, disabled athletes and their dedication to being an inclusive employer. 

Host - Naveh Eldar 0:00  
Welcome back to my series of episodes on some of the most elite athletes in the world. But you don't have to be an elite athlete to be active and it's important for everyone's health to get out and exercise and do something and be included. Have some fun and get active for free with your families and friends. When you register for the 2020 Angel City games presented by the Hartford at Angel City We invite adaptive athletes, family and friends of all ages and ability levels to participate in the all virtual fun. Sign up for free today, and you'll get access to all kinds of exciting online events including live virtual sports clinics, where you can learn a new sport or hone your skills with professional and Paralympic athletes right in the comfort of your own home. And best of all, enjoy Angel City virtual concert series with live music and celebrity hosts free to sign up and join in the fun, and you can find additional information on my FaceBook page and Instagram page. And now to this week's episode.

Host Naveh Eldar  1:27  
Welcome to the landscape, a podcast to shed light on the people programs and businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host Naveh Eldar. Today I speak with Gary pate, Paralympic wheelchair rugby staff person who has been an NBC Paralympic color commentator, wheelchair rugby official and President of the United States wheelchair rugby Association. Kerry has seen the sport from many angles and brings us joyful and sometimes comedic touch to this entertaining episode. Gary starts the episode explaining how a divorce judge in Birmingham, Alabama, got involved in wheelchair rugby. Also known by his original name of murderball.

Gary Pate  2:12  
I had a young friend about 20 years younger than I am Who, who spent a number of years trying to talk me into going rock climbing with him. And I told him I didn't like heights and what wasn't gonna do it and finally went and the first time I went, I was hooked. And unfortunately, I waited until top rock climbing at about age 45 as opposed to 15. And so, at age 45, I knew I could figure all this out that I was I was gonna be the best climber ever. And I was at a place not too far from Birmingham, Alabama, and was about probably about 20 to 25 feet up in the air and I was doing what's called lead climbing where you place the equipment into rock as you go up. And I got to a spot that was a little sketchy and told the fellow that had me On Belay that I was going to pause for a moment and when I paused, I failed. I came off and I splat it I went all the way down all of the pieces I had put in, pulled out and I fell about 2025 feet and hit lock a lot of people when they when they meet me, they think I landed on my face. I didn't I hit my back, I hit my back. The face has always been this way. And so I was hoist hoisted out of the out of the crag and take them to the University of Alabama in Birmingham and I had a burst fracture at L three. The doctor said let's give it about a day some people respond without surgery. I was not one of those people is the most it's the most amazing pain of my life. I wept. I was just I would just like I would I was in bed cry. I hurt so bad. And so, three days before Christmas that year I had surgery have fused from il two, three and four. And it's been about a week in the hospital, went home and then began my rehab and I did most most of my rehab. The Lakeshore Foundation, which is a rehab facility in Birmingham. And in addition to the facility part, the rehab part, it's also an amazing Olympic and Paralympic sports center. And so during my rehab here, the very first time I came into lecture, I was on a walker and was determined to make a lap around the track, which is an eighth of a mile and I made it about 20 feet, it had to sit down, I just, I just couldn't do it. It overestimated again. I've spent most of my life overestimating my abilities. And after months, so I got so I could, I could handle the track and do do other things. And there's Lakeshore has a wonderful club wheelchair rugby team, a sport I had never heard of a sport I'd never seen. And I became really good friends with a couple of the players on the team and one of one of the one of the Grand things about wheelchair rugby. It's the only Paralympic sport that I know of, and maybe maybe there's one hidden out there, I don't know, but it's co Ed. Man. Men and women play on the same play on the same slide and I met at brooder and Bob Doohan. Oh, Bob actually was, I believe, twice on the USA Paralympic team. And Amy does not play rugby at that level. But Amy has appeared in five Paralympics as a swimmer. She She and one other guy hold the record for a number of Paralympic appearances. And so I got to know these amazing athletes and they said to me, why don't you come to rugby practice? And I said, Well, I can't play rugby. And they said, Well, we don't want you to play we want you to learn how to fix the equipment and I will, okay. Okay, and found out that their equipment person had gotten frustrated and quit. And so I began working on wheelchairs and I had never, I, I remember it. Well, the very first time I went, I did not know how to take the wheel off of the axle. I didn't even know how to do it. And they taught me and they were so patient and everybody was so patient with me, in part because that was the only thing they had. But I think they also saw that our I really quickly got a love for it. I liked doing the tactile parts of it. I liked fixing wheelchairs, I like taking them apart and putting them back together and so I was not very good at changing tires. That that's remains a little bit of a mystery to me even to this day. I've been known to pop five or six tubes at one time. It's a great seal of that. So from that, I began working with the local club team. And then I certified as a referee in 2008. And my then girlfriend now wife also certified as a rugby referee, and she will tell everybody that Gary studied for about two months, right? Ah, she literally did not open the case book. We took the test at the same time and she made a 96 and I made a 94. So she's not only a better rep, she's basically a better human being that I am. She's a basically better everything that I do. So I'll begin wrapping during the equipment and in 2008 right after the USA squad got back from Beijing, there was an opening on the USA squad. And I thought I'm gonna put an application in.

Unknown Speaker  7:11  
We'll see and lo and behold, they picked me. I got selected to work with the squad. And from that, oh gee, spinner, an amazing ride. I found myself four years later living in the Olympic Village in London, which is at my age and from my background is something I never saw coming and was in London for about 18 days with the Paralympic squad. And then between London and Rio, my wife and I had twins, and now have six year old twins at that point. They were born in 2014. So when Rio came up, I declined the trip to Rio, it was going to be gone about three weeks and everybody said it was not going to be a good idea to take wife and kids that small to Rio. And I didn't want to be away from them. So I declined. Go into Rio. And because I turned Rio down, I got a phone call from NBC Sports. Because they were looking for somebody to broadcast wheelchair rugby. And obviously anybody that knew anything about wheelchair rugby was in Rio. But guess who wasn't in Rio. And they needed somebody who was verbal. And my, my therapist has been really happy with the progress I've been making on being more verbal and being able to talk with people and show Yeah, right. So NBC flew to New York for an audition, and they picked me. And it was funny. I was talking with him later about that process. And that's it. How did I get pick? and nice lady I was talking with said, well, in every sport, we had identified three or four people that we wanted to interview and frankly, our process is, we started with our number one choice. And if that was it, we never interviewed the rest of them. We just would pick that way. I look at our asset so what I was what Phil

Unknown Speaker  9:00  

Unknown Speaker  9:01  
and she laughed she said no, you were number one and But to this day, I'm not sure that's true. But then got to go to connected the NBC Sports and broadcast the Paralympic Games from Rio which was an astonishing experience to sit in the studio up there again, a place I never thought I'd be at much much like ending up in London and ending up there and other things in your life where you just look around and you really just have to kind of breathe in the moment.

Unknown Speaker  9:30  
So you've seen rugby from a few different angles or your equipment manager, you are an official, you are commentate color commentator. So you're a perfect person. Probably the majority of people listening to this aren't super familiar with wheelchair rugby. So can you give us kind of a breakdown of the history and the basic rules of the sport?

Unknown Speaker  9:50  
Sure. Oh, wheelchair rugby was originally called murderball. And if your listeners would Google that they can find it on YouTube and they can find it I think I'll used to be on Netflix, I don't know that it's still up. But it's an amazing documentary about the sport is the name murderball, which was the original name of the sport. It was originated in Canada. And it was the idea that, you know, so not now not everybody, but so many of the guys and gals that end up quads ended up in wheelchairs, their injury or their disease, or whatever happens, happens in their prime of life. I mean, there's plenty of old folks like me that that my, but a lot of these are guys and gals who are 1819 2021 22 they were in a car wreck, perhaps driving foolishly, we've likely seen an influx of men and women who injured in the military. Right. So So you've got men and women kind of in their athletic prime, but all of a sudden, they're being told there's nothing available for him. So these clever Canadians figured out Oh, yeah, there Something that we can do, and which are rugby is a full contact sport which people just get. They're astonished for the first time they see it. You can travel from one link of the court to the other in under six seconds. So imagine how fast you're going to travel the length of a basketball court, which is where the game is played. We do play indoors, not outdoors because the wheelchairs don't do well in grass. You got to have a hard surface. So you play on the basketball court and the superior players can go five, six seconds, the length of the court and the amount of speed and force that's built up. So when I say it's full contact, it's full contact. It is a basically a terrible game for somebody who doesn't get hurt or somebody there's not blood or you know, you don't have to pick people up out of the floor. It's it's a great outlet. There's other wheelchair sports, but nothing else is full contact. So it's played for four on the side. There's a classification system in wheelchair rugby, just like in all of the Paralympic sports Where depending on your degree of ability, you are given a point system. And the greater the ability, the greater the function, the higher your point is to play wheelchair rugby. The highest you can grade in is a 3.5. If you grade in as a four, which is what you would grade in it, you would write in a four because you, you have full use of your trunk and full use of your arms and your legs. Okay? So if you don't have full use, then there's a grading system that frankly, goes all the way down down to a point five. So it's three, five down, depending on the amount of ability depending on the degree of function, which is usually not it's not it's not 100%, but it's largely It stems out of the type of injury that you've had. And I keep mentioning injury. It's easy to think classically about the young man breaking his neck in a car accident or a motorcycle accident that that but that is the classic. But listen, we have a lot of people that play because of a congenital defect. We People in the sport because of disease illness, cerebral palsy, there's a actually a superior player, a young lady who's in a chair due to Lyme disease that's affected her and all of her limbs.

Unknown Speaker  13:15  
So it can be disease, it can be injury, it can be congenital, we have some number of players who are quite amputees who are missing arms and legs, which is everybody's always astonished to see these guys and gals playing the sport. So depending on the nature of the injury and the amount of ability, you have your point system, each team can only have eight points on the floor at a time. So it creates the opportunity for athletes of varying abilities and disabilities and function to participate in the sport. If you can only have eight points out there. You can have one hop one or you can have a 3.5 more or maybe you can have two hot corners that sort of 3535 that's seven, but then how do you get your other players On the court Well, at that point, you need somebody who's rated very lowly who's appoint path, right. So it creates a lot of strategy on the parts of the coaches to try to balance the team to try to get as much speed and function out on the floor as you can. It is played in for eight minute quarters. A lot of the rules are similar to basketball in that you have, you have 10 seconds to inbound the ball, you have 12 seconds to get the ball across half court, you have 40 seconds to score. So there's a clock that's ticking that keeps the game extremely fast paced, and it's much more of an offensive game than it is a defensive game per se, especially with the clock ticking 40 seconds. with eight guys, I don't know, four in wheelchairs, goes amazingly fast. As a referee, I can tell you there are times well, candidly, the players can go faster down the court than I can go. You can go faster in two ways that I can go on that I can go on two legs, so it's extremely fast paced, extremely high contact high energy. The files are very similar to in basketball, you know, reaching things of that type you when I say it's it is contact, the players hit each other, but I, for instance, I can't smack you in the face, you know that that would be a foul. So

Unknown Speaker  15:15  
I was going to ask about that because I actually watched murderball and it is like watching hockey players check each other. I mean, they take their their wheelchairs and they, they flip each other. Sometimes they hit each other so hard. And so they have specialized wheelchairs for this sport, because it's so it's so aggressive. So one who makes these wheelchairs and maintains them,

Unknown Speaker  15:41  
oh, several things about the chairs and particularly for the listeners who have never seen seeing the chairs today. They're way different. If you go back to the early days of the sport, you almost got to take a hats off to these guys and gals. They were playing the sport originally in their everyday chairs, just the chairs that they live in, right. That's what They were playing yeah and taking these sort of impacts and hits and as the sport developed, the wheelchairs develop and they're now the kind of the common phrase you hear people say it's kind of like looking like Mad Max there's these kind of armored looking wheelchairs and they're not they're not really armored but it is a it is a heavier with some protective shields type things. I don't mean shields in front of them. But in the back and in the front, there's there's a bumper there's a grill, there's a kind of a shielding, but it is the shooting is not to protect the players is to protect the integrity of the chair. Again, go back to what I said about how fast people go into impact. They tear those chairs up. And when I say tear up chairs you're talking about, it all depends on the chair. It depends on the manufacturer, but I will tell you most of these chairs are in the six $7,000 range. This is not cheap. This is not a cheap sport. The players all love to get a official chair sponsor. There are three or four chair manufacturers in the United States there's actually two in Atlanta. And there's one on the west coast. There's a couple chair manufacturers in Australia that that make a great chair. Those are where most of the USA players get their chairs are either out of the manufacturers in Atlanta, the folks on the West Coast or the folks out of Australia. That's that's where that's where most of them come from. But in addition to the chairs themselves, costing six $7,000, everything they're using cost a lot of money. We was laughing about my inability to change a tire and popping those tubes. Well, every time whether the players popper tube or I popped the two that's about 20 bucks a tube. And so you think about a weekend tournament where a team may play seven or eight games within the span of a tournament. And if you're popping even just two or three tubes over the weekend, you're you're dropping 100 top you're dropping $100 on tubes. The tires were just like the tires on your car. Things get hit thing brake and all of those little parts on the wheelchair, just like the parts on your car, all those little parts have got to get fixed. The chairs are very expensive to maintain them is very expensive. These guys and gals, at whatever level they're playing, whether it's on the USA squad or whether it's on a local club team, there's, there's there's some 40 it changes from year to year but most years there's there's around 4448 local club teams. There's one near you and that's sponsored in part mtsu. There's one in Atlanta, there's one in Birmingham, there's four or five teams in Florida. There's a team in Charlotte, a team in Raleigh. There's teams everywhere from New Hampshire to Portland. But again, there's there's it It depends but somewhere around 44 to 48 Club teams that play a whole season.

Unknown Speaker  18:53  
Like everybody that goes to the Paralympics, these are elite athletes, and this is a violent sport. So is that They're a personality type that's drawn to it like, like, are these individuals that were drawn to extreme sports to start with or foot more contact sports? Do you find that at all?

Unknown Speaker  19:12  
That's a great question. I so many of our of our athletes were injured. When they were in their physical prime. They were 18 years old. They were 20 years old. They were in the military. They were the captain of the USA squad played college football. There's, there's there's all levels of that talk. But let me say they say we also have players in the sport, maybe not on the USA squad, but we have players in the sport, who this is the first time in their life. They ever played a team sport. One of the terrible statements about our society is you take a child who is born with a disability, whether it's a cerebral palsy, or whether it's some more of a physical manifestation or spinal bifida, whatever you get that we do a terrible job. We do a terrible job as a society of employees. Including those kids and sports activities. Oh, isn't it great they get to sit and watch or we hand them a pompom and let them shake them. One of the amazing things about the Lakeshore foundation here in Birmingham, Shepherd Center in Atlanta, I could name others, a real emphasis on youth sports and creating that opportunity for kids as young as five or six years old who have a disability, to give them that opportunity to participate in a team sport. You gain a lot as a child by having teammates, you learn about frustrations, you learn about encouraging your teammates, you learn about helping your teammate deal with defeat, you learn to pat him on the back and sometimes kick him in the bottom. You you learn all these things as a child through team sports, not saying you can't learn them otherwise, but that's a classic way to do them. And, you know, I look at some of the athletes in our sport today, who perhaps as a child never had that opportunity. And to realize that there is a sport out there. So I'm responding that when you say personality types, yeah, we get a lot of the aggressive athlete. I want to go kick somebody type. Of course you do you get that in every sport. But it's broader than that.

Unknown Speaker  21:17  
Yeah. I'll tell you what I enjoyed about it was, there's this stereotype that people with disabilities are fragile, and you watch this sport, and you see just how, gosh, you know, like I said, just physical and it's almost like they revel in smashing and flipping and doing all these things. In so it's a it's a good it's a good statement to let people know that people with disabilities are not fragile individuals that need to be put a bubble around.

Unknown Speaker  21:48  
Yeah, one of the great quotes was from a former USA player, who when asked about was it he afraid to get hurt while playing and he said, What am I gonna do? break my neck again? They're nearly all already been through about a severe of injury. And so the idea that there's now a way there's now that outlet to hone your athletic skills and hone your hone that competitive nature that we're talking about. society doesn't create a lot of opportunities like that. And so I think all of the Paralympic sports but particularly wheelchair rugby, create that opportunity that again, we've done a terrible job of creating and it's just a wide open field out there to say, yeah, go get somebody It's crazy. It's

Unknown Speaker  22:34  
so how good is the US team right now? heading into Tokyo for next year? were the best.

Unknown Speaker  22:41  
Really? Oh, yeah. Well, I've high Of course it's the truth. Of course it is, though. Okay. Serious, very serious answer. Yes, we are the best but let me let me say this. There are traditionally the top teams in the world are Canada. As I said Canada is where the sport originated. Canada is always a strong, strong squad, Japan. Japan is a amazingly talented team. And it's coached actually by somebody who lives here in Birmingham, Alabama, who is it's a his coach for several of the national squads like that. Australia is a dominant team, they've got one of the finest players in the world who kind of is the nucleus of that squad. And those are the top five squads. Part of that is because, and it's not the only reason, but part of that is because of the length of time those countries have been into sport to you, you have the chance to kind of develop a form system or develop ways to recruit players and, and again, you go back to the expense of these chairs, and I mean, I mean, the the expense is phenomenal in in this and so to have a history in the sport to have been able to find good sponsors to be able to build a financial base. That explains part of why these five countries seem to kind of dominate. There's a lot of other great teams out there that say that it sounds like I'm slamming. I'm not. There's some very fine teams out there that are capable of beating any of those teams that I mentioned. But traditionally, those are the five powerhouses.

Unknown Speaker  24:16  
Does the United States have a main rival?

Unknown Speaker  24:20  
Canada? Canada? Oh, yeah. easy answer. Oh, easy answer. easy answer. Canada would say the same thing. If you say if you say who is who is? Who do you enjoy? You know, it's a it's like having a sibling. If you're playing a even a card game. How do you want to beat it? You want to beat your brother, your brother, your sister?

Unknown Speaker  24:41  
I'm not even sure Canada wants to be considered our sibling. But yeah, they're

Unknown Speaker  24:46  
they they have beaten us and we have beaten them enough times that it's a really good rivalry.

Unknown Speaker  24:53  
And so what does what will the practices look like how much time is spent practicing leading up to major international competition like the world championships or the Olympics,

Unknown Speaker  25:04  
well, you know, right right now with the COVID virus, everything is really upside down. We have we have not had a camp since I believe February either January or February, we, we should, leading into what should have been Tokyo 2020. Coming up in September, we would have had a week long camp every month we we would have met here in Birmingham, which is where we try at the Lakeshore foundation. We would have met in Birmingham, most of the camps for a week at a time. So you come in for a weekend, a weekend. June we can July, we have cancelled all our camps. Now through the summer. We had camps June, July and August and they're all canceled. One of the dilemmas there is, you know, many not all but many of the athletes that play could have a compromised immune system or could have some some health issues and the idea of traveling and going to airports and Bringing 1516 players and plus staff from all over the nation passing through all those. We just decided the risk was way too high of doing that. So usually we have week long camps we usually go to a day we have sometimes done three days over my strong objections by I'm getting too old for three days and, but usually about three hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon, try to create time, particularly if you're in camp for a week or more try to that is a lot of energy. That's a lot of energy and create times for the players to socialize, create time for the players to get out of their chairs. That's very important. It's very important. If you're in your chair all day, it's important to be able to get out of it and to stretch out to go lay down in your bed to just have some downtime. Sure, and not just physically but also mentally you. You cannot train fever pitch, day after day and didn't have anything left when the competition comes up. Right? That's a great balance for any athletic team.

Unknown Speaker  27:06  
Do you were also the president of the US wheelchair rugby Association from 2011 to 2014. So what does that entail? What What were your functions in that position?

Unknown Speaker  27:18  
Trying to keep people happy

Unknown Speaker  27:21  
that the United States association is the Association of the club teams that are mentioned where you've got about 40 to 48 different teams and everybody with their own strong personalities about who knows what's best and how the sport should be run and how competition should be handled. And a lot of the policy and that sort of stuff is set by the President and the board. There's also a commissioner, who pretty much handles that day to day sort of the day to day routine stuff that would drive it in a body over the edge being Commissioner is a lot tougher job than being president, but as President, this is almost one sound bad, I don't mean to say it, just stick your head. But, you know, a lot of times with any organization, you need somebody who can run the meetings and can, again, make sure everybody gets heard create the opportunities for people to participate. And that's, that's a large part of what the president of that association does is to kind of facilitate the running of it, and to not only be a voice for everybody, but also to be a good listener to everybody.

Unknown Speaker  28:28  
And so does the national team come out of those club teams? And if so, how are they chosen? Like, is there a committee that evaluates players we

Unknown Speaker  28:36  
have a selection camp, the selection camp for Tokyo 2020, I believe was this past I believe it was it all runs together. I think it was this past December, where the USA, wheelchair rugby sends out invitations, and the invitations go to anybody who believe it's the preceding two cycles. Anybody that has been on the USA squad Whether is one of the 12 that travels or or as an alternate, and then also to other premier players, they're there. If you can't take my 12 players to a tournament, trust me, there's there's a lot more than 12 really good players in the United States. So, at most of our training camps up most of our selection camps you'll have a probably somewhere between 35 to 40 athletes here. And there is a whole grading process. It's all part part of it's very objective. It's not just oh, well, I think you're cute. So you get to be on the team. It's up. It's a very objective process, in part that we do everything from what's traditionally dreaded as the Lakeshore mile where the players get on the track at Lake Shore, it takes eight laps to make them out and they have to push a mile and we time them we time to see so that if you've got 10 players who are all classified as a 3.0 Who's the fastest of that bunch objectively who is the fastest. So you put them on the track. And everybody's got their stopwatch and you time them on the track. And then you do that in the morning, and you do that clock loss. And then in the afternoon, you turn around and you do it counterclockwise, because it's it because it's a different arm. It's a different arm motion, whether you're pushing more with your right arm, or your left arm. And some players that are the absolute fastest pushing with their right arm or in the middle of the pack pushing with their left arm and vice versa. So so there's things like time trials of that tab, there's a lot of accuracy things where the player literally is given a ball. And if you have impairment in your arms, how far can you throw the ball? And not only but not only how far can you throw it, but how accurately Can you throw it? A lot of the low corner so folks with less of the ability actually have great, don't trouble throwing, throwing the ball like you are I would throw the ball and so they bounce the ball, they will bounce the ball one time and then hit it with their hand. Yeah A bounce pass kind of thing, where you bump it is what we call it. And if you are trying to bump the ball 50 feet accurately, we can't do it and you watch some of these guys that have been doing it for 10 years, man, they can drill it, they could just put it right on the dice and put it right in the middle of the target. So so there's a lot of objective things of that type that are a part of the selection process. And you and I also know in putting together any team, part of what you think about is the chemistry. Mm hmm. How can you put together these 12 men and women and take those skills that you have, hopefully, objectively evaluated? And the subjective part sometimes is, and then how do we put them together as a team? Are these the right 12 personalities? Right, that that can't help but and I'm not on the selection committee and somebody, I had been on some selection committees in the past for some other things. And somebody on the selection committee committee said, Well, we we don't do that. But come on. I mean, we all know that. There's a A lot of different evaluations that go they have to because because you're not just gauging the individual athlete, you're gauging that athlete as part of a team.

Unknown Speaker  32:10  
Does the coach have a lot of input in that? Because I would imagine since you're only allowed to have so many points on the floor at one time, can he say I need X number of people in this range X number of people in that range?

Unknown Speaker  32:24  
Well, certainly, I think there's two components to that one, you have to look at what's available to you. I mean, you can say all you want to that, oh, gee, I will, I want this but if you if those aren't your quality players, then that's not how you will put your team together. But certainly, if you look out, I mentioned Australia, Australia dominates with a player named Riley bat who is a physically a very commanding player, very talented on the court. Also, also, thankfully, one of the nicest human beings you ever spend time around and certainly the coach of like the Australia And knowing that he's got a dominant player, it is the, you know, he's the LeBron James or the Willie Mays of whichever. He's got a dominant player. So he obviously crafts his team around that. USA has some astonishingly good players who had been on the squad for a while. So and again, obviously, you're building your team around your nucleus. So that's a real difficult balancing thing. You You mentioned the coach's role in that the head coach and the assistant coach sit on the selection committee. But having been on some of those committees in the past, they don't dominate it, you know, they truly don't insist Well, we have to do that. It's all a matter of input. It's about three or four people sitting there and over the span and a selection camp over the span of about three days just trying to look at the objective statistics you have and then watching them on the court. How do they play with each other?

Unknown Speaker  33:58  
And so what are the chances Have you going to Tokyo? If hopefully we will have an Olympics next year? But if so, what are the chances of you going?

Unknown Speaker  34:07  
Well, I have completed the process to be included there. There's a whole application process that you go through as part of any Paralympic squad. Part of its for security part of it. There's there's different levels where they get your passport and to do this, I completed the process. A part of me says, this is probably my last round. I may as you can tell them, Look at me, I'm like nearly 100 years old. So so I'm getting kind of close toward toward the end of doing this. And part of me says it would be an absolute joy to go to Tokyo is kind of the swan song on this. I don't want to go on this. I can take my wife and kids. It's just not on my agenda to be gone for three weeks without them. And then frankly, I'll see if NBC reaches back out to me again, whether they think I did a good enough job and would like for me to go to Connecticut for a week. I don't know I just kind of decide between now and then and You know, see what other options and opportunities come out there. I'm, I'm certainly believing that a whole realm of entertainment opportunity is going to open up to me after this podcast.

Unknown Speaker  35:11  
Of course, of course

Unknown Speaker  35:12  
it well.

Unknown Speaker  35:15  
The last question before I have some personal questions worry, we always end with personal questions. How would you encourage a person who has a new injury in the importance of getting out there and doing something like adaptive sports just for like, mental health recovery even

Unknown Speaker  35:34  
the message I would say to anybody is one Be patient. You got to be patient if you're if you're newly injured, if you're if you're dealing with this right now, a good physical therapist or your good doctor or anybody around or if you talk to a Paralympic athlete, they will tell you where you are today is not where you're going to be in six months. And it's not where you're going to be in a year. It's not even know where you're going to be in two years. The body continues to heal and adapt and you figure things out. One of the great things that you see in adaptive sports is everybody helping each other. I've certainly seen this in rugby with a brand new player who cannot apply take to their hands. So one of the things that players do is they always tape up to keep them tearing your hands up on the sides of the rugby chairs. They can't take. Some of them cannot transfer from their everyday chair into the rugby chair and you got to pick them up and move them. You will see these veterans, these folks who have been here for a while talking to these younger players or to these not necessarily younger, these more newly injured players explaining how you do things. Sometimes I'm kidding them a lot about I can't believe that you can't do that. You see a lot of the newly injured people are very, very hesitant about traveling. Then the only traveling they've done is from where they got injured to the hospital to therapy and then back home again and the idea of getting on an airplane Without their caregiver or without their, their wife, their husband or their somebody is just overwhelming. The idea I'm about to, I am in this chair and I'm about to travel for the first time. And one of the real benefits is these more veteran people who have been there can say, we can do this. So so that learning process is a big part of what I would say to anybody considering this watch. murderball and when you watch the movie murderball watch it from this perspective, every single person in that movie is exactly where you were. It's one point. They were newly injured. They were newly in a chair. They were overwhelmed by this. They were impatient, they were angry, they were scared, they were frustrated. They were all of these every person in that movie. Yeah. And you look at them today and you say I can change I can. I can be every bit of that.

Unknown Speaker  37:53  
One of my favorite parts of the movie was one of the looks like he was somewhat of the captain of the team at that period of time. And he had a huge chip on his shoulder. And they interview some of his high school friends and they said, you know, some people think he became a jerk, because he had this accident, but he was actually a jerk way before he had the accident, right, like in high school. But he that's how he was. I mean, he was he was brass and he was confrontational. But he went to a rehabilitation facility and saw a young man who was look like he was in his late teens, early 20s, who was in a really fragile place, and he just really enjoy talking to him, and encouraging him slowly, kind of like what you said he was he was almost tender, which is the only time you saw him like that. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  38:42  
many of the men and women, some of them officially, I mean, some some of them do it. Like it's like a job officially. A lot of them do it informally, our mentors. They will connect with some of the rehab facilities or some of the rehab hospitals or whatever and serve as mentors will actually go Spend some time there like like you see in the movie, when you go and spend time to mentor and decide as bad as as frustrated as you are right now, as bad as it seems right now, you can do this. Yeah, I was exactly where you were and you can do this.

Unknown Speaker  39:16  
Okay, well, let's get to some personal questions, which is always everybody's favorite. I am going to start with you are a retired judge. So my question is, one did you retire when you were like 35. And into what is your favorite part about being retired?

Unknown Speaker  39:34  
Oh, that's, that's a good question. I came off the bench in January of 2011. Yes, you're right at the age of 30. Now, though, I am. I am right now. 69 years old. I was 69 last week, and I retired. I had been on the bench 21 years and I was the presiding domestic relations judge. I was the divorce judge here in Birmingham. Okay, for all that time, and That is I had been basically a family law practitioner before I went on the bench. And I taught domestic relations for Family Law at Cumberland School of Law for 30 years. It's kind of what I knew it was just what I knew, and so had the opportunity to serve as a judge. And that came off in 2011. I just knew it was one of those, it was one of those things. My joke was always, if it's ever not fun, two days in a row, you need to quit. We all can have one bad day, but if there's ever two bad days, not stopped off time again, so I just kind of knew that that was the right time for me. And I retired in January, and I married in May. Following that I tried to find a young woman who was interested in marrying somebody who was not employed. Also, you have so you have low standards, you'll marry me and I don't have a job. Yeah, so my favorite part of being retired is, well, there's several parts one, it gives me The chance to do rugby I got gives me an opportunity to do that. But my wife and I had twins in 2014. So I have six year old twins. They were actually born on my birthday that day or my birthday gift. And as I tell people this year, we turned 81. So, I have a little boy, a little girl. And they are such an joyful part of my life that I even a year ago, got talked into, I got asked if I would do it, and I said, No. And then I thought about it. I said, Oh, I'm going to do that. I've actually become a substitute preschool teacher. Oh, wow. And some weeks I could work every day if I want to. There's such a need to know. And I always said, we don't have enough men that do things like that. We don't have enough men in the lives of young kids. And I thought I can do that. And I was so convinced that it was the right thing when after the first week and a half or two weeks of doing it. I'm the only guy to preschool Right, I'm Elliot and all the kids called me miscarry. I did

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