by Jennifer Parsons
After winning the National Championship last year, the Shooting Stars of Casa Colina, a rehabilitation hospital, are competing once again in the National Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, held through tomorrow in both University of La Verne gyms.
The Shooting Stars, consisting of 10 players, will be competing against 10 teams from California, Texas, Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota and Mexico City in a total of 21 games.
After being in existence for only two years, the Shooting Stars earned the 1996 National Championship, and the No. 1 seeded team plans to do so again this year.
After being injured in a motorcycle accident 10 years ago, Andy Houghton, director of wheelchair sports at Casa Colina, refused to participate in any sports.
“I became out of shape, unhealthy, but swore I’d never play in a wheelchair,” he said.
Five years after his accident, he tried snow skiing and realized what he was missing. Houghton then put on a wheelchair sports camp and soon after applied to Casa Colina in January of 1996.
Houghton’s arrival brought expansion to the wheelchair sports program, founded 15 years ago. Not only did Houghton expand Casa Colina’s hockey team, but he began the wheelchair sports camp held every August. It offers 12 different sports from jet skiing to rugby. From there, Casa Colina recruits players onto their teams.
“There has to be a program that people can access after leaving the hospital. They go home and feel comfortable in their environment. Sometimes they remember us talking to them about the program,” Houghton said.
Lou Ann Shier, business manager of the athletic office at ULV said, “It’s great to have this type of tournament on campus. It is really good publicity and it’s great we are able to help [with gym facilities].”
“People play sports for different reasons whether they have disabled or able bodies. Some disabled play as a means to learn more about themselves, to meet other people, for recreation or health. Others do it because they want to be top level competitive athletes,” said Houghton.