MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There is the NBA, the WNBA and there is also the NWBA, the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, one of the oldest disabled sports organizations in the world.
The South Florida team, the Miami Heat Wheels, practices three times a week during the season at Gwen Cherry Park in Northwest Miami-Dade.READ MORE: Bob Dole, World War II Veteran, Senator & Presidential Nominee, Has Died At 98
Shooting guard Julio Mendez is a fierce player with smooth moves.
“When I come here, my mind is to get better and help my team out. I love the team, the shooting the friendship among the team,” said Mendez.
Mendez has been using a wheelchair his whole life.
He found the team in 2011 and has been taking a bus an hour each way to get here ever since.
It is worth the effort, he admitted, he would “do anything to come here.”
Alex Puga is a new player. He was always an athlete, is a two-time cancer survivor, and due to other injuries, he uses a walker now.
He was looking for a sport to stay active in and found this to be rewarding and challenging.
“I didn’t think it was going to be easy, but wow. the adjustment is the physicality of it,” said Puga.
The team is managed by the Miami Dade Parks disability program which provides the facility and the coach, Randall Flagler.READ MORE: Banksy 'Charlie Brown' Sells For $4 Million, While Child Prodigy Thrills Crowd With His Artwork
“It started out as a recreational team that went on to win the championship in 2015 for division three and then moved up to division one, and we’ve competed there since,” said Flagler.
This competitive team is diverse in every way, and for each of them, it is about more than the wins.
Israeli Air Force veteran Miki Erez supports the team along with his wife, making shirts and organizing food.
“For me, it’s a way of life – I go to the gym, I work out every day, and I come here to the training that we have,” said Erez.
“I like to be part of the team, and if I can help with something I’m always happy with that.”
Another lifelong athlete, Jervens Casimir, lost his leg to cancer five years ago.
Casimir shared how important your peers and your mindset are.
“These are like my brothers, after you lose a limb or anything sometimes, it’s hard when you have people convincing me, you can’t do the things you did before… you can.”
This is just one of the activities for all abilities offered by the parks department.MORE NEWS: Miami Weather: A Warmer, More Humid Sunday
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