DFW area gaining reputation as a leader in adaptive sports

Pie chart shows nearly 17% of the U.S. Mens wheelchair basketball team are UTA alums.

Jakob Gorton

Nearly 17% of the U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team are UTA alums.

Jakob Gorton, Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas –– The Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to numerous successful sports teams.

With teams ranging from collegiate to professional sports, the DFW area is no stranger to success, but there is a side of success that is not known to many: DFW has become a hub for adaptive sports, including wheelchair basketball.

At the collegiate level, the area has hosted the 10-time national champion wheelchair basketball program in the University of Texas at Arlington Movin’ Mavs since the team’s debut in 1976 as the UTA Freewheelers. The Lady Movin’ Mavs have also won two national titles since their establishment in 2013.

The success of the wheelchair basketball program has drawn the interest of many players who want to improve their game while competing at the collegiate level, including UTA Movin’ Mavs freshman Rodrigo Linares, who is a native of Houston.

“It is pretty interesting that there are a lot more opportunities in adaptive sports here than in Houston,” Linares said.

Members of the UTA Movin' Mavs come from across the country and world.
Members of the Movin’ Mavs come from across the country and around the world. Team members hail from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Utah, Australia, Israel and Canada. (Jakob Gorton)

The Movin’ Mavs have also helped to grow the exposure of adaptive sports due in part to their recent back-to-back National Wheelchair Basketball Association intercollegiate championships. Andrew Tineo, a former sports editor at The Shorthorn, has seen this success firsthand while covering the team.

“It’s changed my perspective tremendously, in just knowing the hard work that gets put in,” Tineo said. “From two-a-days in August and the amount of skill it takes to make some difficult shots and make incredible plays.”

The hard work doesn’t just stop when the season ends. Many people come from all over to train on the UTA campus with scrimmages happening almost every night during the summer. In fact, UTA also hosted a Team USA men’s wheelchair basketball training camp leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Aside from the Movin’ Mavs and Lady Movin’ Mavs, there is also the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks who have made a name for themselves in the NWBA Adult Division. A team consisting of perennial Team USA hopefuls and Movin’ Mavs alumni, the Wheelchair Mavericks have won more than 15 NWBA Division I championships dating back to 1997.

Although the area has seen great success in wheelchair basketball, there is still much to do on the forefront of exposure.

Forrest Lodge, the program development manager at Sportable Adaptive Athletics in Richmond, Virginia, has worked to grow adaptive sports nationwide over the past few years.

“There are many options out there from individual to team sports, ball sports, extreme sports, outdoor/indoor sports and more,” Lodge said. “The beauty of adaptive sports is the community that you join along with it. The impact of adaptive sports goes beyond the playing surface, as it is a vehicle for social, physical and mental health as well.”

Lodge also noted the importance of representation when discussing adaptive sports.

“More representation and awareness of adaptive sports and people with disabilities represented appropriately in the mainstream media can help tremendously. We’ve seen some progress in that regard over the last few years, especially with the additional coverage of the Paralympics by NBC Sports and their Peacock platform,” Lodge said.

Although the exposure may be underwhelming, the DFW area continues to be important in the adaptive sports world and will continue to be notable to those interested in adaptive sports.