Adaptive Rowing Provides Personal Challenges and Rewards

Clinical Expertise

Sep 30, 2016

In the world of adaptive sports, rowing is not known as the most spectator-friendly competition.

Team sports like wheelchair basketball and quad rugby often gain attention for their flashy moves and large collisions. However, athletes like Stephen Wilson and Joel Howe, who participate as individuals or in pairs, bring the same level of drive and dedication to their sport.

Competition That’s Personal

Stephen and Joel are two of the most active participants in the Brooks Rehabilitation Adaptive Sports program. They can often be spotted at events having fun and supporting their friends. However, rowing 20,000 meters a week as part of a practice routine is something that Brooks Adaptive Rowing Coach Scott Brown believes goes way beyond recreational fun.

“They give this everything they’ve got,” said Brown. “This is their outlet that makes them happy in life and helps them overcome their challenges.”

For Stephen, Brooks has helped him for decades to overcome restrictions that come with cerebral palsy. Growing up, Stephen’s father was part of the management team at Brooks, which allowed him to foster strong relationships within the Brooks community. As an adult, Stephen has become one of Brooks most tenured employees working in the hospital’s mailroom, and continues to find niches, such as adaptive rowing, where he can succeed and flourish.

Joel Howe joined the adaptive sports program while recovering from a brain injury, and he’s developed a strong passion for the sport. Although he has limitations due to his injury he competes actively with the adaptive sports team and with the Jacksonville Rowing Club.

“When Joel first came around he was sort of skeptical about participating, but now he keeps thanking me for his addiction,” said Brown. “He absolutely loves training and putting in the extra effort to do the best he can.”

Hard Work on Display

The payoff for the work that both Stephen and Joel put in year-round came recently when the pair competed in the annual BAYADA Regatta in Philadelphia. The regatta is the nation’s oldest and largest rowing competition for athletes with disabilities.

The BAYADA has several groups of competition for teams and individuals of various ages and abilities. Stephen and Joel were competing alongside athletes who have participated in the Paralympics.

Stephen finished third place in his race, while Joel competed in three races finishing second, fifth and sixth.

”It’s such an honor to even be invited to participate in such an amazing race like this,” said Stephen. “It’s definitely a great payoff for all of our hard work.”


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