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NWBA Athlete Spotlight: Alma Velazquez

12/20/2019, 10:00am CST
By Chris Rathje

Alma’s story below is a wonderful example of two things that I have seen consistently throughout my involvement in adaptive athletics. Adaptive athletics builds community and adaptive athletics is an opportunity for young adults to build confidence. 

Alma Linda Velazquez, is 15 years old, and a sophomore at Viewmont High School. Alma was born in Salt Lake City and now calls Centerville, Utah home.  This is her fourth year with the Utah Rush who play at the Varsity level of the Junior Division in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. 

During her first two years of playing wheelchair basketball, Alma focused on learning from her teammates because she was the youngest player on the team at the time, but she continues to grow as she gets more experience.

Alma stated “My favorite aspects of wheelchair basketball are that I am constantly learning and growing and I have met other athletes from all over the country.”

She explained “I have built bonds with people that are just like me, it is an entire community.” 

Outside of wheelchair basketball, Alma really enjoys photography. Right now as a sophomore she is taking AP 2D photography. This is a field of study she is very intrigued by.  Alma enjoys taking pictures of anything that draws her attention. 

Alma expressed, “Pictures tell stories and that is my favorite part about the process. I’m able to interpret the art in photography in so many different ways.” 

Alma concluded her comments with this, “The wheelchair basketball community has given me the opportunity to meet other athletes and coaches during summer camps and get a feel for what the collegiate experience might be. It has been really fun and inspiring to watch my former mentors and teammates play at the collegiate level.” I have also been lucky enough to meet some former and future Paralympians, I strive to be there one day. Something I strive for is to continue to try and improve. It is important to keep fighting, no matter how hard something is. In the end, it will be worth it or it will change you for the better. It’s okay to mess up over and over again, some things take more time than others.”   

Alma thank you for letting us highlight you.  You have a wonderful attitude that I whole-heartedly hope will lead you to your dreams in the future.

Alma's Photography

Photos of Alma Playing Wheelchair Basketball

About the Author, Chris Rathje

Rathje started his adaptive athletics career in the third grade as a member of the Windy City Warriors in suburban Chicago. In 1993 Rathje was one of the original members of the prep team the Junior Wheelchair Bulls.

When it was time to play varsity competition Rathje went on to play for the RIC Spalding Bulldogs which was the precursor to the Chicago Skyhawks. Rathje played four years in the College Division at the University of Illinois.

In 2012, Rathje returned to the wheelchair basketball community to coach the Windy City Warriors alongside his college roommate, and current Auburn head coach, Robb Taylor.  

From 2013-2019 Rathje volunteered for the Junior Division as educational liaison, vice president and president of the Junior Division.  He looks forward to sharing stories that will hopefully open doors for student athletes with physical disabilities. 

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