TAMPA, Fla. — Players and enthusiast alike call it “Murder Ball.” The official name of the sport? Wheelchair Rugby. Tampa is home to the longest running Wheelchair Rugby team in the United States.
The Tampa Generals are hosting the 26th Tampa International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament at the All People’s Life Center on 6105 E. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, January 19-21.
Wheelchair Rugby has grown to become one of the most popular wheelchair sports in the world and is the featured event at the Paralympics and Invictus Games.
This year’s tournament brings together four of the top six teams in the U.S., plus teams from Canada. The Tampa Generals look to this tournament as the start of their quest to win a WSQRA National Championship in Phoenix, Arizona on April 19-21, 2018.
Ryan Lindstrom is one of the athletes on the Tampa Generals.
"It’s a full contact sport,” said Lindstrom about Wheelchair Rugby. “Hybrid Sport... mix of several different sports. Basketball, football, hockey and soccer."
It’s nicknamed Murder Ball because of the nature of the aggressive, high pace. In some cases, bone shattering crashes.
"The game will last an hour and a half and you don’t stop in between the whistles, full speed the whole time. It’s grueling," said Lindstrom.
There are four players on each side and eight minute periods. The Tampa Generals have won three national titles and have produced a number of Paralympians.
Of course winning is important, but the players also look for the comradery.
"It’s a good initiative for you to get off the couch, put down your cell phone and just get intense with your other pairs," Davis Selestine.
Selestine says nothing about the game is easy, much like the athletes’ lives, but they are grateful for the opportunity to be part of something exciting.