Hillsborough County, FL

01/13/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/13/2020 13:29

Rugby Players Wheel into Weekend Tournament at County Gym

Wheelchair rugby is not for the squeamish. It's a tough, slash-and-bang sport.

The local team, the Tampa Generals, has been around since 1989. The squad's longevity makes it an elder statesman among wheelchair rugby teams in the United States.

The Generals will compete in the 28th annual Tampa International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament on Jan. 17, 18, and 19 at Hillsborough County's All People's Life Center, 6105 E. Sligh Ave. Tampa's squad of 10 men, one woman, and a 14-year-old boy is among six teams from the United States and Canada competing in the tournament.

Admission is free for spectators.

Tampa International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament games begin at 11 a.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. on Saturday; and 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Currently ranked sixth nationally, the Generals belong to the United States Quad Rugby Association and practice at the County's Jackson Springs Community Center. 'We are really thankful for our relationship with the County,' says Justin Stark, the team's manager and director of the weekend tournament.

Other teams participating in the Tampa International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament are from Phoenix, Denver, Austin (Texas), Quebec, and Ontario.

Wheelchair rugby has elements of rugby, basketball, and hockey. It's a game of speed, skill, and endurance that provides physical and social benefits for participants. The league's motto: 'Smash Stereotypes, One Hit at a Time.'

The game usually is played on a hardwood court. Players are men, women, and teens with physical disabilities. The four players on each team use specially designed wheelchairs to block opponents and protect the ball while trying to cross the other team's goal line. Games have four quarters, and last about one hour each.

It's a Paralympic sport, with 26 countries fielding teams in international competition. This year's Paralympics is in Tokyo this summer.

Teams participating in the local tournament will play multiple games, culminating with a championship match on Sunday. The outcomes are tallied along with results of other games during the October-March season. Sixteen teams will be selected for the March 27-29 national championship tournament in Rockford, Illinois.