Adaptive sports helps Ridgewood student come into her own
Colleen Musselman (left) and Melissa Schaefer get their chairs prepped before heading out to the court to play basketball with the Northeast DuPage County Special Recreation Association. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:29AM
NORRIDGE — A smile graces Melissa Schaeffer’s face as she explains why she plays basketball.
Schaeffer, a student at Ridgewood High School, is in her third season of participating in the Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Association’s adaptive sports program.
“I’m having fun,” she said as she prepared for practice.
The program allows those with different needs to play sports. Adam Kramer has coached for four years.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I always wanted a job where I could be of use to the community.”
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, Kramer said the university has a “huge” National Collegiate Athletics Association program that includes adaptive sports.
“I’m lucky,” he said. “Across the country, there are only a handful of jobs like this.
“I landed at the right place at the right time.”
Schaeffer appreciates his commitment.
“Playing basketball is a good feeling,” she noted, and Kramer has provided the motivation for her to keep practicing.
In addition to teaching her new skills, the program also has introduced the fairly shy teen to many new friends. Kim Schaeffer said she has seen the difference playing basketball has made in her daughter.
“She has more confidence,” Kim Schaeffer said. “Adam has done a really good job with all the kids.
“He makes them set goals, and it’s just awesome to watch these athletes grow up and advance their skills.”
Because the team frequently travels for tournaments, the families have developed bonds.
“I love being a part of this team,” Kim Schaeffer said. “It’s like we’re one big family.”
Her enthusiasm is infectious.
“It’s invigorating to be able to teach people new skills, to see what they’re capable of achieving,” Kramer said. “Sometimes it’s something monumental; sometimes it’s something small.
“But we all bask in that glory,” he added
Melissa Schaeffer has her thoughts on that. The freshman already is thinking about college.
“I want to go to Whitewater,” she said of the Wisconsin university. “And I want to compete in the Paralympics.”