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Benefits of new Adapted Sports class extend well beyond the grade

York College Adapted Sports class
Students in York College's Adapted Sports class participate in an adapted kayaking lesson.

Cole Fenton was born without a radius bone in his right arm. Despite many surgeries, his right arm remains much shorter than his left. 

“I was a disabled kid growing up,” says Cole, a native of Hopewell, New Jersey. “I was always considered that guy.”

Today, Cole majors in Recreation and Leisure Administration at York College of Pennsylvania. Last semester, he heard about a newer Special Topics class called Adapted Sports. It clicked with him immediately, and he enrolled as soon as he could.

“When I found this class that’s showing me how to adapt things into a way that I could’ve used growing up, it made me instantly love it,” Cole says. “I can help so many kids that are in a position like I was. It can give them a way to express themselves, play sports, and do things that I didn’t have growing up.”

Cole, a sophomore, says the class was kind of a hidden little secret.

“For someone who didn’t know a lot about what the class was and just went with it, I’ve never looked back,” he says. “It’s awesome.”

A vast scope of participants

Pamela Lehnert, who has 25-years of industry experience, co-teaches the Adapted Sports class with Matthew Ernst. Ernst graduated from York College after studying Therapeutic Recreation and is the current Vice President of Programs and Business Development for the Central Region of Easterseals in Western and Central Pennsylvania.

“Adapted Sports is the process of taking a standard existing sport and modifying it in some way to accommodate an individual’s needs,” Lehnert says.

"This class is all about having opportunities for all, regardless of ability," Ernst added. "Whether you are going into sports management, therapeutic or community recreation, human services, or a variety of other fields, this helps you to think outside the box and develop opportunities serving everyone."

Those needs can be any range of disabilities. It could be someone with autism or an intellectual or physical disability. 

“The scope of the individuals who take part in these programs and services is very vast,” Lehnert says.

Class details

The class is currently held two days a week. One day is lecture. The other is an experiential class held in the Field House. There, the class introduces students to a variety of adapted sports that vary by semester.

They include the following:

  • wheelchair tennis,
  • wheelchair basketball,
  • adapted kayaking,
  • cycling (handcycles and recumbent cycles),
  • sitting volleyball,
  • and goal ball. 

Students are also introduced to adapted equipment used in teaching adapted water skiing and snow skiing.

The current maximum number of students allowed in the class is 12.

“If the class is too large, it’s more difficult to get everyone engaged,” Lehnert says.

Growth and benefits

Adapted Sports is a professional field with the potential for significant growth.

“There’s been a big push for inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities in regular mainstream programming,” Lehnert says.

For students, it’s more than a filler class to reach the minimum number of credits needed for full-time status. The benefits extend well beyond the grade.

“It really shows you how everyday life is affected,” Cole says. “You see how different the world is – say, from a wheelchair – than just walking around.”

It’s an opportunity that few people get to have or experience, he says.

“It’s cool to be able to make a difference.”