Athletes With Disabilities Score Win At National Competition - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Athletes With Disabilities Score Win At National Competition

November 6th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Athletes With Disabilities Score Win At National Competition

By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

A Chandler man and Hamilton High School graduate are happy about their team winning a recent wheelchair rugby competition but say they still have much work to do as they gear up for more games.

Scott Hogsett of Chandler and Joe Jackson of Mesa, who graduated from Hamilton High School in Chandler in 2010, are part of the 360 Phoenix Heat. The team won the wheelchair rugby division of the Bank of America-presented 6th annual Duel in the Desert last month at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center in Phoenix. Other members of the 360 Phoenix Heat team live in Prescott, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York City, Nevada and other states, as well as Japan. The athletes in the wheelchair rugby game are disabled with limitations to their arms, legs and for some, their upper bodies.

Hogsett and Jackson describe themselves as being quadriplegic, which means they have limitations in their arms and legs.

Wheelchair rugby is much different than traditional rugby, Jackson, 29, said.

A three-time U.S. Paralympic athlete, Hogsett, 46, said the win was a good way to start their season.

“Ability 260 does a really good job putting on sporting events for people with disabilities,” he said. “For ourselves and the Tucson team that competed it was pretty much our kickoff tournament. For us it’s cool that I try to get as many of my players on the court as possible; it’s a good way to start the season. It’s always nice whenever you can beat your rival from University of Arizona; work towards a national championship in March in Chicago. It allows us to realize what we need to work on and get ready.”

Hogsett, who is also coach for the Phoenix Heat, said the team will play in about four or five tournaments on its way to the national championships in March. The team is ranked number two in the country at the moment, he added.

Jackson and Hogsett both are what Hogsett described as “low pointers,” which he said means they “do all the blocking for guys who carry the ball.”

A wheelchair rugby player for almost 13 years, Jackson expressed similar sentiments to Hogsett over the win at Duel in the Desert.

“I felt like it was a good first step to see where we’re at as far as what kind of shape we’re in,” Jackson said. “It’s still good to see what we need to work on, improve on; see everyone get competitive against another team.”

Jackson and Hogsett also played sports frequently growing up prior to the injuries that caused their disabilities.

Hogsett said he played football, racquetball and golf growing up in Spokane, Washington. His life changed dramatically when he was a freshman in college while at a party in Idaho in 1992, when a guy who had been drinking a lot tried to pick a fight with him. Hogsett said the man picked him up and threw him off a deck. He fell 10 feet and broke his neck, leaving him with limitations in all four limbs. Hogsett said he can’t walk and his arms “work fine, but I have limitations where my fingers don’t work and triceps don’t work.”

“I have good shoulder function and biceps,” he said. “I can type. Over the years I have taught myself how to do things. I learned to use what I have left and it’s allowed me to live a fully independent life. When this first happened to me, it was an extremely dark moment because you don’t really know what to expect. All I knew about was wheelchair basketball. I had no idea about wheelchair rugby and what the future would mean to me.”

Hogsett moved to Phoenix and graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation in 2000.

“I fell in love with the sport and dedicated my life to getting better and better and was fortunate enough…to be selected for the first USA Paralympic rugby team,” he said.

Hogsett was also featured in the 2005 documentary “Murderball” about wheelchair rugby players. He played on the U.S. Paralympic rugby teams that won a bronze medal in 2004, a gold medal in 2008 and a bronze medal in 2012.

“What inspired me is I accepted the challenge of being quadriplegic head on and really did not let my disability hold me back,” Hogsett said. “You tend to think your life is over. For me, my mentality I didn’t allow that to happen. In the beginning, all I knew was who I was before and that was an athlete. I had no idea I’d be a Paralympic athlete. I knew I had the mentality to be there. Paralympic athletes are some of the best athletes in the entire world. My mentality and ability to play this sport at a high level really motivated me to be the best I could be and help out my country. We work out and sacrifice our lives to win that gold medal for the United States. We work out and train every day, two to five hours every day.”

He also does a lot of public speaking around the country and locally. Hogsett is also married to Michelle and they have a son, Jacoby, 8. Hogsett coaches Jacoby’s Little League baseball team.

“For me, being older now, it’s about giving back and working with people, getting people up and out of the hospital and getting them active in a sport,” he said.

Hogsett said Jackson has a “very bright” future. He met Jackson when Jackson was in the hospital after the injury that broke his neck.

Jackson said Hogsett’s visit and words in the hospital motivated him to “get where I need to be to be as independent as possible.” Also an avid athlete, who played football, baseball, basketball, ran track and wrestled, Jackson was playing football at Hamilton High as a junior when he suffered the life-altering injury. He said he can feel his legs but they are impaired, and he can move his arms but does not have movement in his fingers.

Jackson described wheelchair rugby as “very fast-paced” and involving “a lot of strategy.”

“I like the competitiveness and being able to be an athlete still,” he said. “I was always an athlete before…I didn’t want to just stop because of an injury.”

The camaraderie of the 360 Phoenix Heat also appeals to Jackson.

“It’s a good group of guys,” he said. “We’ve all been through the same thing. It’s just nice to be able to talk to someone who’s been in the same shoes as you. Everyone becomes one big family. It’s more than just a sport.”

Jackson’s goal is to be selected for the 2020 U.S. Paralympic rugby team. Besides training and playing rugby, he also runs the Joe Jackson Foundation with his father. He founded the nonprofit organization that is focused on improving the quality of life of children who have spinal cord injuries and their families by offering adaptive equipment.

Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center is a modern, 45,000-square-foot facility in Phoenix owned and run by Ability360. It provides various amenities to help people achieve their health and fitness goals including a fitness center that has wheelchair-accessible weight machines, an aquatic center with lifts and elevators, locker rooms accessible for those with disabilities and other features. Information: