New Mexico Challenger Division
Imagine an afternoon baseball game. A player hits the ball and heads for first base. Imagine teammates cheering. Now imagine the player is in a wheelchair. Imagine all the players are children with disabilities. was formed for all mentally and physically challenged children in 1986 so that they may have an opportunity to play and experience baseball in its purest form. Both boys and girls can enjoy the full benefits of Little League participation in an athletic environment, structured to their abilities. This league will accommodate participant’s ages 5-18, or the completion of high school. More than the skills of baseball learned through the experience, the value of the Challenger Division is found in the proven therapeutic and socialization benefits of participating in sports, the strengthening of the participant’s self-esteem, the opportunity to mainstream into other Divisions of play, and the disciplines of teamwork, citizenship and fair play that are hallmarks of this league’s program. Today, more than 22,000 players participate in the Challenger division nationwide.
Little League Challenger Division
Today, New Mexico Little League Challenger Division offers disabled children the opportunity to play youth baseball on a real team, to learn the game and to create lasting friendships. No score is kept. Every player is a winner. Everyone has a turn at bat, advances through the bases, and takes a turn in the outfield. The wide range of abilities of Challenger participants will necessitate variations not only in the rules, but also in the philosophy of conventional baseball. One of the unique benefits of the Challenger Divisions is the use of the “buddy” system, whereby handicapped players will be assisted by non-handicapped players, e.g., helping handicapped players in rounding bases. This buddy system has been a proven benefit in programs across the country in establishing good relationships between disabled and non-disabled players. Through the “buddies” program, Challenger League players are often paired with local little league ball players and volunteers from the community. In this way, the community is learning about inclusiveness, increasing their knowledge about children with disabilities and fostering community partnerships. A key to a successful Challenger Division is the careful selection of managers and coaches as well as sponsors. Qualified adult leadership must reflect positive and constructive direction, tempered with patience and understanding. The teams can be made up of player’s equal in ability, rather than emphasis on age.