By John Pope, MS, MPO, CSCS
Crossroads Adaptive Athletic Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a stronger community for adaptive athletes and their coaches. Its vision is to “help athletes with permanent needs participate in life-changing fitness opportunities through education, grants, and competition.” It is a champion for inclusion, awareness, and advocacy in the adaptive population.
A while back, I attended the Crossroads Adaptive Coaches Seminar in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The seminar was not held in a classroom, and there were no chairs or snacks. Instead, it was held in a CrossFit facility where weights, sledgehammers, and gymnastic rings surrounded the participants. We didn’t take turns telling everyone our names and why we were there. We separated into groups and started the day with movement. I sat on a rowing machine between a bilateral below-knee amputee and a local gym owner, and we rotated through a circuit of exercises with everyone doing the same workout. Best icebreaker ever!
Crossroads co-founder Sara Olsen and her seminar coaches then discussed the organization’s purpose and its importance to those it serves. I was struck by the diversity in the room. There were gym owners, trainers, healthcare professionals, and adaptive athletes. Everyone was there to learn, understand, and gain new insight into how we move.
After lunch, we repeated the same circuit of exercises as before. But this time the exercises were adapted, which challenged us to perform the movements in a different way and understand how others are required to move. This highlights the broader understanding of movement that Crossroads creates for the athletes and their coaches.
Putting the person first is Crossroads’ first rule, and the organization challenges the concept of disability, helping everyone realize that “disabled” is a label that doesn’t define the person.
The purpose of the seminar was not just to teach coaches how to adapt movements; it was a gathering and sharing of knowledge. Its purpose was to provide perspective, open minds, and create conversations that lead to advancement. Bringing amputees and professionals from diverse backgrounds together is how new insights are created.
Whether you are an amputee or a healthcare professional, consider participating in a Crossroads seminar where you can learn from great coaches and become part of the community. Adapted athletics creates opportunity, empowers and enables participants to take ownership of their “disability,” and challenges social and perceived norms. Building these relationships in your local community creates opportunities for amputees that they might not have otherwise considered, introduces them to the benefits of an active lifestyle, and can help healthcare providers expand their outreach.
Crossroads doesn’t just impact the adaptive community. Rather, as Coach Max Conserva said, “Crossroads inspires all professionals to innovate and to create change; Crossroads raises the bar for everyone.”
For more information about Crossroads and the services and seminars it offers around the country, visit www.crossroadsalliance.org. Other nonprofit organizations that benefit individuals through sports include the Paralympic Foundation, the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the Reveille Project, Sportable, and the Orthotic and Prosthetic Activities Foundation (OPAF).