The Red Deer Reapers wheelchair rugby team can cross off another milestone for the club.
Last week they took part in their first competitive tournament, the Capital City Showdown in Edmonton since the team’s inception in March.
Reapers founder Gerry Kress said they didn’t win any games but everyone got to play and enjoy themselves.
“We learned a lot,” he said. “There was no doubt quite a few experienced players there on the other teams. We had a lot of fun and everyone knows each other from other provinces so it’s quite a close-knit community.”
In total, there were five teams involved including two from Edmonton, one from Calgary, and one from British Columbia. The Reapers didn’t make it past the round-robin portion of the tournament but got to play four games throughout the weekend.
“It was quite the learning experience,” he added.
In June the Reapers hosted their first-ever tournament called the Wheelchair Rugby Community Challenge in Penhold. It wasn’t an official tournament as all the teams involved were split up.
After receiving a Participaction Community Challenge Grant, the Reapers were able to invite the Edmonton Steel Wheels Wheelchair Rugby Team and the Calgary Inferno for a jamboree-style event.
It is a full-contact, high-paced sport with two teams of four players competing to score goals by carrying the ball across the opposing team’s goal line.
The players move around the court while carrying the ball and while doing that their teammates block for them while getting hit. You also have to either bounce the ball or pass it within 10 seconds.
It is a mixed sport with both male and female players but in order to play you must have a physical disability such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, amputations, or a spinal cord injury.
Since the jamboree Kress explained they’ve had a few new players give it a try but no more that have fully committed.
“As far as recruitment goes in Red Deer we’re still searching for more classifiable players so that we have a team that is actually going by the classification rules,” he said.
Despite that, Kress said the players involved have improved quite a bit since they first started earlier this year.
“We are getting better and we need to do more of these competitions like we are doing just to see how other teams that have a lot of experience play,” he said.
“It’s a learning curve and doing these competitions will only help our team in the long run.”
Next up for the Reapers is a tournament in Regina, Sask. on Nov. 2 where they’ll compete against various Canadian teams. There will also be a few clinics there for those to learn more about the sport.