Boy Without Legs is a blog series about one of our outstanding CAF athletes, Paco Torres, and his journey into the disabled sports community. Join us as Paco recounts his journey from “the most disabled person he knew” to an elite wheelchair rugby player in a community of adaptive athletes.
Back in 2009, I was alone in a bar near the University of Arizona, talking to my then-girlfriend on the phone. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw 3 guys in wheelchairs playing pool. For whatever reason I thought, I should talk to these guys. So I finished my beer, stumbled off the bar stool, and glided over to them on my skateboard.
“Hey, do you guys play any sports for the U of A?”
They seemed surprised – probably not by my question but that some dude with no legs had just rolled up to them on a skateboard (Side note: Even in the disability world, I get stared at for not being in a wheelchair). They looked me up and down, smiled at the idea, and said, “Yeah, give us your number, and we’ll call you.”
I thought, Damn, I sound like a fool. I’m an old guy, out of shape, don’t even have a wheelchair, and I think I can just join a university athletic team – like I’m Rudy? I figured they would lose my number, and I’d never get a chance to play. To my surprise, they called me a few days later: “We have open try-outs, so just come by the U of A on Wednesday or Saturday mornings, and we’ll get you a chair.”
My heart sank.
Choosing between what you want to do and want you need to do for your family can be tough. It’s hard to know which one is right, and sometimes being selfish can work out for everyone. However, with a full-time job, custody of my 4- and 6-year old daughters on the weekend, and no childcare back-up plan, I couldn’t see how I would squeeze in rugby practice. I told them I couldn’t make it.
Playing wheelchair basketball at Ability 360 gym
Not long after, a DIII men’s wheelchair basketball team, the Tucson Lobos, invited me to play with them. With Tuesday and Thursday night practices that were close to my office, I could make this work.
For 5 years, I played with the Lobos – improving in every area, except shooting. Our coach would laugh at me, saying that, with only 4 fingers on one hand and 2 on the other, I really didn’t have the hands for basketball. He suggested I play wheelchair rugby.
I continued to play wheelchair basketball.