Angel City Sports has been working to provide community to people of different abilities with sports since 2013. Since then, it had garnered support of athletes, celebrities and Paralympians to create a growing, diverse community.
“I think we had three or four Paralympians at the first Angel City Games in 2015. In this past year, we had 32,” said Angel City Sports founder Clayton Frech. “What that shows is once athletes in our community reach that elite level, one of the things that’s important to them is to give back to the athletes behind them.”
To celebrate the athletes, Angel City Sports hosted Holiday fundraiser and held a screening of “Empty Net,” the documentary about the 2018 Paralympic USA sled hockey team.
The event brought out long -time supporters as well as people who are new to the Angel City community. Paralympian rower, Laura Goodkind, recalled her experience volunteering at the first Angel City Games, the organization’s main event.
“I helped out here and there throughout as well as competed in sports that I wasn’t interested in,” Goodkind said. “I loved to be around the community and that’s what it provided for me this brand-new family when I didn’t have any.”
The film “Empty Net” followed Team USA team sled hockey team as they committed a “three-peat” by winning gold in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics.
Among those who were in attendance was Taylor Lipsett who helped Team USA win a gold medal for both the 2010 and 2014 Paralympics in sled hockey. For the PyeongChang Winter Games, he was a color commentator for the sled hockey events with NBC.
“It was amazing … to be able to see it from a different lense …, from behind the scenes and really just see how much went into producing the coverage of the games,” Lipsett said. “NBC put so many people on resources behind bringing the Paralympic games to the public in the United States.”
Seeing the comradery of the team and how they fought through adversity resonated well with former NFL running back, Isaiah Pead who committed to qualifying for track in the Paralympics. Pead became an amputee two years ago.
“I’m doing the track thing … but also trying to find another sport, a team sport,” Pead said. “That team grind, I think I miss that most in any sport.”
Paralympic javelin thrower, Cody Jones, noted how the struggles the sled hockey team experienced reminded him of his own struggles as an athlete.
“I want to go work out now because of all of the work they put in,” Jones said. “I want that gold medal just like they earned their gold medal.”
Angel City Sports emphasizes how adaptive sports can build confidence and community among those who participate. This year, they raised funds to purchase over 60 chairs for basketball, tennis, and track. The organization has seen tremendous growth, but Frech knows more work needs to be done. The organization continues to work to raise awareness and to enhance the experience of the Angel City Games.
The organization will help participants in need get to the games and they will also implement a mentoring program that pairs new participants with experienced athletes.
“We’ll do 50 clinics next year in different sports across the region,” Frech said. “For us, it’s growth, growing the programming, growing the participation and bringing new athletes into the fold.”