Who Let The Red Dawgs Out? Wheelchair-Bound Athletes Roll To Easy Wins By David Lias
Plain Talk People who came to the DakotaDome Saturday learned one thing without a doubt: Some of the top basketball competitiors to ever play there don't run up and down the court. They roll. A wheelchair doesn't mean you're limited on the basketball court – unless, of course, you're used to using two good legs to move about on the floor. If you're a member of the Nebraska Red Dawgs basketball team, a wheelchair is a standard piece of equipment; something you use day in and day out to compete. It means you have a unique advantage athletes who normally don't move about with the help of wheels. The Red Dawgs faced the Vermillion All-Stars for an exhibition contest Saturday afternoon. In addition, the Dawgs competed later that day at halftime of The University of South Dakota versus Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville men's and women's basketball games. The Red Dawgs are a group of young athletes (ages 19 and under) with permanent lower-limb disabilities who are from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Dylan Fischbach of Vermillion is a member of the Red Dawgs team. He was the MVP of the national tournament in 2007-08. The Red Dawgs, who are undefeated this season, are defending national champions and also the 2009 Northern Conference Champions. At halftime of the USD women's basketball game, the Red Dawgs faced a collection of female athletes, while at halftime of the USD men's basketball game, the Red Dawgs played against members of the Coyote football team. Well-known members of the Vermillion community also served on the All-Star team. They, too, struggled to keep up with the Dawgs who easily dominated the action on the DakotaDome court, to the point of not eliminating any hopes by the opposing team of being competitive. Anyone in high school or younger can compete as a Red Dawg. The only requirement is that to be unable to compete/participate in traditional athletics because of a disability. The Red Dawgs use wheelchairs but some don't require them for day to day use. The team also provides wheelchairs for those that don't have one of their own to use. The team began as an offshoot of the Omaha Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp in the early 1990s. The wheelchair sports camp's was to introduce sports, recreation and the associated benefits to physically challenged youth. These benefits include a chance to improve strength and endurance, develop self-esteem and confidence, and meet others with similar disabilities. Campers also meet positive role models and are given opportunities to excel. For volunteers, the camp provides a great educational and rewarding experience. The Omaha Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp offers instruction archery, aquatics, basketball, body conditioning, tennis, track and field, basketball and softball. Recreation and leisure activities may include photography, pottery, creative dramatics, and ceramics Since its inception, the Nebraska Red Dawgs varsity and junior varsity teams continue to be ranked nationally by the National Junior Wheelchair Basketball Association. The team's itinerary takes it to regional tournaments in Minneapolis; Whitewater, WI; Dallas; Kansas City; Chicago; Arkansas; St. Louis and national tournaments at Berkeley, CA; Stillwater, OK; Southern Illinois University and Birmingham, AL. Several Red Dawg alumni have gone on to play college wheelchair basketball, represent the United States of America on international wheelchair basketball teams and even play professional wheelchair basketball. Both Red Dawg teams practice every Saturday morning from September to March at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.