These athletes look beyond their conditions to keep their eyes on the competition

“It opens people’s minds to what is out there."
Portable Commonwealth Cup 2021
Posted at 11:23 AM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 20:39:58-04

CHESTERFIELD, Va. — When trying to escape the winter’s chill, Matthew Shapiro knows exactly where to heat things up.

“We’ve got a full crew. I love it,” said Matthew. “It’s good to see everyone out here for sure.”

Each week, the Henrico man rolls right into his element. Matthew does not miss his date with Boccia ball.

Sportable organizes these weekly tournaments at Manchester Middle School in Chesterfield.

“I actually do it more for the fun than the competition,” said Crystal Jordan.

In this gym, everyone plays with challenges, but each athlete brings lots of heart and soul.

Sportable invites athletes with physical challenges to play on several courts and fields.

“I love it. You can see all the people here having a good time enjoying sports.”

Sportable invites athletes like Matthew to look beyond their conditions.

“A lot of times, people with disabilities and visual impairments don’t have those kind of outlets. So to have those kind of outlets is key,” said Matthew.

The 31-year-old living with cerebral palsy joined the nonprofit when he was a teen.

Matthew’s mom, Eve, said her son thrives on this court while temporarily forgetting his physical limitations.

“It is very much needed in the disability community,” said Eve. “Here is on an equal playing field with everyone else. So that goes away for a little while.”

Boccia ball is just one of the many leagues Matthew plays in.

“It opens people’s minds to what is out there. We have swimming. We have archery. We have road racing. We have all kinds of sports that everyone can try,” said Matthew.

Yes. The games are friendly, with the occasional verbal jabs…“The trash talking is the best part,” said Crystal.

Sportable invites athletes with physical challenges to play on several courts and fields.

When he is not competing on multiple courts, Matthew is vying for the attention of lawmakers. The lobbyist and founder of Six Wheels Consulting advocates for the disabled at the State Capitol.

“So much about life is about attitude, and Matthew’s attitude has always been amazing,” Sportable’s Executive Director Hunter Leeman. Hunter said Matthew’s leadership shines on and off the field.

“He is a great example and a great role model for what you can be and what you can aspire to be,” said Hunter.

One of the many people who look up to Matthew is teammate, and sometimes opponent, Jack Ridolphi.

Matthew Shapiro and Jack Ridolphi.

The senior at Douglas Freeman High School said his confidence builds with each passing game paired up with Matthew.

“He has done some many things in his adult life,” said Jack. “He has a career. He is successful. It brings me hope that I can do the same thing as well.”

They may be best buds, but don’t expect these fiery competitors to give an inch on the courts.

None of the Sportable athletes are looking for pity. Sure, they might not throw as far, run fast or jump high. No matter. Each competitor just wants their chance to play. All four seasons.

Matthew will be returning to the court again this weekend. He will join hundreds of other athletes at the RVA Adaptable Sports Festival at J.R. Tucker High School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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