For Pat and Chuck McCloskey, wheelchair rugby is a family affair. In 2011, Pat joined the Magee Eagles after an ice hockey accident shattered his C-6 vertebrae five years prior. His dad Chuck volunteers with the team. Community Programs Coordinator Keith Newerla sat down with the McCloskey men to learn more about their story.
Keith Newerla (KN): Describe what that first rugby practice was like.
Pat McCloskey (PM): It was nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time. I was learning as I was playing, but it felt good to be a part of a team again and feel like I made a contribution. Playing rugby allowed me to finally answer a question that had been looming over my head for five years, “Can I ever be competitive again?” The answer is yes!
KN: How has wheelchair rugby helped each of you adapt to life after spinal cord injury?
PM: The goal of every person with tetraplegia is independence, and levels vary. Wheelchair rugby has helped keep me active. The stronger and more flexible you are, the more you can do things you once thought were not possible. You gain confidence that was once lost. Plus, you build bonds and friendships and gain knowledge. Because of rugby, I do not consider myself disabled and broken, but rather as a capable human being with aspirations and goals.
KN: Chuck, what motivates you to volunteer with the sports program?
Chuck McCloskey (CM): Watching how hard these guys and gals work, and the fun they have doing it, that’s my motivation. They allow me to be a part of something ve
ry special. The competition can be fierce, and the games are really exciting to watch. Once you get an understanding of how the game is played and the strategy the teams deploy, you’re in for a great afternoon of hard hitting rugby.
KN: What would you say to someone who is considering a sports program for the first time?
PM: Life is all about experiences. You are physically a new person with a plethora of opportunities to be whoever you want to be. The hard part is taking the step forward to find out who that is. A sports team can help guide you to becoming the most independent and happiest you can be.
KN: Pat, what is it like to have your dad helping out with the rugby team?
PM: It’s an absolute joy to have my dad help out with the team. It’s like having your biggest fan on the sidelines cheering you on, then helping you change a flat. What makes him so special is his passion and dedication not only to myself but also to the rest of my teammates. I am very lucky to have the best dad on the planet! When I look back and sports are over, it’s the time that I have spent with my Dad that I will cherish the most. Love you, Dad!
April is Adaptive Sports Awareness Month. To learn more about Wheelchair Sports at Magee, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-587-3412.
Check your mailbox for the Spring 2016 edition of Can Do! magazine, featuring the McCloskeys’ story and much more.
The 16th Annual Night of Champions fundraiser on May 6, 2016 supports patient and community programs like Wheelchair Sports. For tickets and more information, click here.