From the Catbird Seat... Peterson makes the most of his abilityWhen Moose Lake’s Kyle Peterson was injured last year in a swimming accident, he lost the use of his legs.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
When Moose Lake’s Kyle Peterson was injured last year in a swimming accident, he lost the use of his legs.
However, he didn’t lose his competitive instinct. As a result, a whole new competitive world has opened up to Peterson – in a sport known as wheelchair rugby.
Peterson commutes to and from Minneapolis twice a week to practice with the Minnesota North Stars, a team that competes against others from around the nation in tournaments and which was in action last weekend in Minneapolis.
The Stars took third in a six-team tournament against teams from Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee and Nebraska.
“We’ve had two tournaments so far, and have another one in December,” Peterson said. “Then we have sections and nationals.”
The sport is becoming an obsession for Peterson, who has found a way to channel his competitive instincts in a sport that is known for physical contact despite the physical realities faced by its players.
“You pretty much score touchdowns between two cones, and it’s full contact,” Peterson said. “You can hit someone else’s chair as hard as you want. It’s fun because there’s a lot of hitting, it’s exciting and it’s fast-paced.”
Players are rated on a scale from one-half point to 3.5 points according to function in their hands and arms. Peterson is rated at 2.5, but teams are only allowed to have a certain number of points on the field at any one time to ensure equality of play.
“I’m a higher point player, offensive more than defensive,” Peterson said. “I have a chair that reflects that.”
Here’s where a fascinating amount of strategy comes into play. Game players have “offensive” and “defensive” chairs, and they look different from each other.
“A rugby chair is different from a regular chair,” Peterson explained. “It’s lower to the ground and the tires are contoured for stability. They are stronger and heavier – mine weighs between 40 and 50 pounds.”
Offensive chairs carry steel guards to brush off hits from defensive chairs, while defensive chairs carry grids designed to jam the tires of offensive chairs and hook them to a stop.
“They’re like battering rams on wheels,” Peterson said.
Don’t think for a moment that because the players are physically challenged there isn’t contact. There is.
“People flip, and you’re strapped into chairs,” Peterson said. “If you get flipped during play, you wait until there is a stoppage. You lay there until certain requirements are met.”
Peterson travels to Minneapolis in Wednesdays and Saturdays for practice for a season that runs from September to April. The Stars’ next tournament is Dec. 4-5 in St. Louis. Peterson can’t wait.
“I like the competitive and mobility aspect,” he said. “I like competing. It’s lots of fun to play.”
Peterson has also used the sport to gain physical strength in his arms.
“I’m a lot stronger now than I was before,” he said. “I’m one of the starters on the team now. When I started a year ago I could barely push the chair but now I can push 10 miles a day. I don’t push every day but I can go from Moose Lake to Barnum and back now.”
Peterson sees his career in the sport lasting a long time.
“I’m young,” he said. “The oldest player on our team is 40. I can play this sport my whole life. I will work as hard as I can to get into a top league – it’s very important to me.”