The wheelchair sports team has been in existence since 2008, according to Coach Christopher Vernon.
“The Henry Hurricanes were formed in 2008 as a trilateral partnership with Henry County Schools, Henry County Parks and Recreation and the [past] Henry County YMCA,” said Vernon. “The team was created to provide school-based sports competition for students with physical disabilities.”
The goal was to provide physical activity, social interaction and improved self-esteem, said Vernon, and thus far, the team has been successful in that pursuit.
A total of 11 students comprise the handball team. Those students practiced diligently afterschool to ensure a top-notch performance.
Structure of the handball games are the same, with a few modifications.
“The premise is the same for traditional school sports except our athletes use wheelchairs to play and with a few variations that relate to a wheelchair,” said Vernon. “The games and practices are structured with strategies for competition against other school systems such as DeKalb or Clayton.”
When the junior varsity team clinched its first ever state title, it was exhilarating for both Vernon and other Coach Harlon Matthews.
“Everyone — the athletes, coaches, parents, staff and volunteers — were ecstatic,” Vernon said. “All of the hard work in practice and competition paid off. There were many tears of joy.”
The team’s due diligence is not over yet.
According to Vernon, team members are currently practicing for basketball.
Football used to be another support team members could participate in, but due budget shortfalls, it has been cut.
“Handball and basketball are school funded by the school system, but budget cuts the school system received from the state have made it impossible to fund football beginning in March,” Vernon said.
He said they are seeking donations to make their football team a reality for the New Year.
Vernon also urged residents to come out and see some of the team’s games.
“Most people would have the perception that the Henry Hurricanes team is a group of low-functioning kids, but when you come to a game you will quickly see that this is fierce competition,” he said. “The kids are not just disabled kids. They are athletes.”
Henry Hurricanes play their games at the Locust Grove Recreation Center, 10 Cleveland St