An all-abilities youth wheelchair basketball team comes to Rochester

Jul 1, 2019

Nonprofit organization Rochester Accessible Adventures and charitable foundation Endless Highway are bringing wheelchair basketball to young people in Rochester.

Both organizations help provide more accessible activities for people with disabilities. The new team, called the Rochester Rockets, is the only youth wheelchair basketball team in the area, and it is bringing the game to athletes of all abilities.

Rob Tortarella, founder of Endless Highway, said it is a learning curve for the handful of nondisabled players.

"You could tell they had the skills, but they had to learn to use the chair," Tortarella said. "And learn the rule of one bounce and two pushes, and then you have to dribble again, but yeah, everyone was having a great time -- smiles on everybody's face here in the rec center."

Jackie Block drove from the Buffalo area so her child could participate on this team.

"We were interested because of the all-abilities part of it and playing with their friends," Block said. "Especially because of the age gap, so they can play with some of their older friends. It just sounded like fun."

Block isn't the only parent who traveled a long distance for this team. Ducky Cordero drove from Lockport so her son could play basketball.

"This is amazing," Cordero said. "When you have a child that they tell you will never play organized sports ... this is special."

Because of this, Tortarella said they want to bring the sport to more rec centers in Rochester and surrounding areas.

"There are youth teams around, but they have to travel in the northeast," Tortarella said. "So we want to try to really promote this in the greater Rochester area and make more available throughout the rec centers." 

Xavior Major Coaches members of the Rochester Rockets Youth Wheelchair Basketball team at Campbell Street R-center.
Credit April Franklin

Rochester Wheels player Xavior Major coaches the team. He said he has been playing wheelchair basketball for 25 years and has seen what the sport can do for young people who are disabled.

"We've had some of these guys that are out there now, who were once youth players themselves," Major said. "And all of the ones that are here now that have all gone to college and played collegially.

"And so we kind of know what the outcome could be of this, and we want to make sure that we are doing all that we can do to make it happen for the youths." 

Members of the Rochester Rockets learn the rules of wheelchair basketball.
Credit April Franklin

Torarella invites anyone who is interested to join them. The team's next practice is at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at the Campbell Street R-Center.