ADAPTED SPORTS AT THE MACCABIAH
By Michael Rosenkrantz
I’ve developed a strong passion for creating and developing adapted sports opportunities. No matter one’s abilities, playing sports enables participants to be healthy physically, socially, and emotionally. We all learn life lessons especially from playing team sports. Adapted sports opportunities level the playing field and help to provide a vehicle for creating further societal inclusion.
I’ve been on the adapted sports path since I joined Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in India in 2009, working for the Government of India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Through this experience and then after in Nepal, I used my love of basketball to learn how to play and coach wheelchair basketball and numerous other adapted sports. Since then, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked for a collegiate adapted sport program at the University of Arizona and two adapted sport organizations. I have also co-founded two adapted sport organizations in the US: Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports in Tucson, Arizona in 2017; and most recently SoCal Adaptive Sports in 2020 in Riverside County, California, where I’m currently the Executive Director. This brought me to becoming the coach of a combined US/Great Britain/Israeli wheelchair basketball team for the 21st Maccabiah in Israel during July 2022.
The combined team earned a silver medal playing against three Israeli teams and had a segment on ESPN when in the third game of competition with seven seconds left and our team down by two, an Israeli on the opposing team missed a free throw which we rebounded and then passed to one of the Israelis on our team and with time expiring made a half-court shot!
Besides wheelchair basketball there was also para-swimming. These were the only two adapted sports competitions at the Games. There were more than 10,000 athletes at the Games with less than 50 being para-athletes. But like the need to have additional adapted sports and multi-country para-athletes at the 2025 Maccabi Games, more can be done. It is important that every athlete have the opportunity to participate, to level the playing field.
The experience made me want to coach again in 2025 but ultimately needing to recruit more US Jewish athletes with disability, encourage more countries to participate and develop more adapted sports. One American para swimmer also came to the Games and he participated with both able-bodied and para swimmers from Israel, winning six medals. Building the Paralympic side of the Maccabi Games is important for expanding the reach of the Games and making them more inclusive.