Adapting to ‘adapted sports’

Matheny School teacher Peggy Zappulla watches as a visitor to the Matheny booth tries out the adapted baseball pitch game.

Children accompanying their parents at the recent New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) convention in Atlantic City were introduced to the world of adapted sports when they visited the Matheny School exhibit.  They were invited to participate in an adapted baseball pitch game, which would be part of a “pitching center” in a Matheny physical education class. Students could throw a ball or grasp and release a ball that was attached to a sklz trainer. The target was the mouth of a bulldog, which is the Matheny mascot.

In addition, a visual and/or physical impairment was added, according to Jim Hintenach, Matheny School supervisor of elementary education. “Some participants covered their eyes; others may have used only one hand or used their thumb, elbows or other body parts to propel the ball, just as our students do.” The idea was to help people understand that students with special needs and all people with disabilities are able to participate in various sports activities, with some adaptions.

The NJEA convention attracts thousands of educators throughout the state who are looking for high-quality professional development and the latest in educational technology.

Play ball!

Jackson Tantleff of Bernardsville, NJ, left, and Brennan Maillot of Gladstone, NJ, push Matheny student Kim Alarcon toward first base.

The annual baseball game played between members of the Somerset Hills Little League and students from Matheny is an event that participants on both teams look forward to every year with great anticipation. This year’s game, in which SHLL players helped the Matheny students bat and field and pushed their wheelchairs along the basepaths, was again a lively fun-filled event and truly uplifting for both participants and spectators.

The game was held on Friday, May 10, at the Kiwanis Rotary Little League complex in Bernardsville, NJ. Baseball is one of several adapted sports played by Matheny students and patients as part of Matheny’s recreation therapy program, which provides a variety of recreation opportunities and resources to improve physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being.

Brad Dallas, left, and Ryan Tantleff, both of Bernardsville, NJ, with Matheny student Shane Szott.


Hitting a home run

Matheny student Najee Rogers, right, with, from left, Matt Oliver of Peapack, NJ, and Adam Lewis and Nicole McCloskey of Bernardsville

“I just like to see them happy.” That’s how Adam Lewis of Bernardsville, NJ, described the experience of playing an adapted baseball game with students from Matheny.

Lewis is a member of the Somerset Hills Little League, which hosted Matheny students on May 11 at the Somerset Hills Kiwanis Field in Bernardsville. About a dozen 10- to 12-year-olds volunteered to participate in the game, and there were lots more students and families cheering on the sidelines.

Neil Klein of Gladstone, NJ, who organized the event, described the experience as “spirited, engaging, tender and heartwarming.”  The Somerset Hills players helped the Matheny students bat and field and pushed them along the baselines. It was a game that everybody won.