On the rise: Movin’ Mavs seek change

The Lady Movin' Mavs celebrate after defeating the University of Alabama 65-55 and securing their second national title during the 2018 National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament on March 17 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota.

Stroll down Greek Row Drive, and you’ll come upon the Physical Education Building — home of the Movin’ Mavs.

Both the Movin’ Mavs and Lady Movin’ Mavs have risen to the top of Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball in just a few years.

Although the teams have garnered a combined three national championship titles in three years, in terms of visibility, persistence and exposure, there is still much to achieve.

When it comes down to the sport, some people still may not see the players as regular athletes, said Doug Garner, Movin’ Mavs head coach.

“Some people still have that 1950s vision of what people with disabilities can do and should do,” he said. “Getting a college degree and being an elite high-performance athlete usually is not the mindset people have when they think of people with disabilities.”

They’re just regular people, with the same goals, dreams and aspirations that any other student on campus has, Garner said. And they strive for the same understanding, following and crowd support that the able-bodied athletes at UTA have.

The teams have a lot of support, but they see the same faces at every game and want to see new students coming in, said Morgan Wood, Lady Movin’ Mavs graduate student.

“We’re right there with you. We’re athletes, we’re students and we’re working just as hard,” Wood said. “We’re here, we’re representing our school, we’re winning championships and if you don’t want to witness that, then you’re missing out.”

One of the reasons why there isn’t a lot of knowledge about the programs is because it’s hidden over in west campus, said Jason Nelms, Lady Movin’ Mavs head coach.

“You practice in the [Physical Education Building], you play in the [Physical Education Building]. You might get a game in the MAC,” Nelms said. “It’s very rare that you’re gonna see us in College Park, although the question is why?”

For players like Wood, graduate student AlHassan Sedky and senior Rose Hollermann, they love the Physical Education Building for its imperfections and its memories.

“That’s the place where we’ve sweat together, we’ve cried together, we’ve yelled at each other, we’ve had those team breakdowns, where we’ve had the build ups,” Hollermann said. “It will forever be a special place for me in my heart.”

But Nelms said the facility has problems including leaks after rainy days and reoccurring scoreboard problems.

It is outdated and not so accessible in certain areas, creating the need for an eventual venue change, he said.

“In the end, the Movin’ Mavs and the Lady Movin’ Mavs will have to move out of the Physical Education [Building],” Nelms said. “We have a nice area that’s over there, but our goal is to be in College Park. Our goal is to be over there with our athletes, you know, everyone else. Not pushed off to the side.”

Aside from everything, the Movin’ Mavs programs have come a long way in the world of college sports. With the resources they have, they’re still running very successful programs, Sedky said. And if they were given the same resources as other teams, there’d be so much more that they could do, he said.

Nelms said it’s tremendous how far they have come with what UTA has done for the programs over the past few years. He said everyone is happy and grateful, but no matter what, there will always be a fight to have those same opportunities, whether it’s a five year fight or a 50 year fight.

“We want to make sure that UTA really understands that we know everything that they’re doing for us,” Nelms said. “We’re going to continue to fight for more, don’t get us wrong. I think that’s what you have to do, you have to fight.”

With the help of President Vistasp Karbhari, the Lady Movin’ Mavs were fully funded for the 2018-19 season and Nelms was promoted to a full-time position. It’s something the team has longed for, and after their undefeated 2017-18 season, something they earned, Wood said.

“[Karbhari] is probably the most supportive,” Wood said. “There is no way we would be fully funded without President Karbhari. Because when he got here, he made sure that we were a priority, because we had earned it at that point.”

The Physical Education Building isn’t just the home of the Movin’ Mavs programs. It’s the home of national champions, home of Paralympians and the home of athletes.

Nelms said with the help of the UTA community and the Arlington community, the programs plan to build off the foundations former head coach Jim Hayes set in stone, continue chasing their Paralympic dreams and make it known that the Movin’ Mavs fight harder than any other university.

“Whether they’re representing Egypt, USA, Australia, whatever it may be, we have those athletes that are here at this university and a lot of the students don’t even realize that those athletes are wheeling around them everyday,” he said. “We have to be more visible on campus and not put into probably one of the oldest buildings that’s here.”

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