Although she is 11 years old, Arelle Middleton can keep up with competitors beyond her years. Her shooting ability made her an asset to the Rancho Halos. Middleton has Congenital Femoral Deficiency and is a multisport athlete in able-bodied and adaptive sports.
Middleton enjoys playing able-bodied volleyball and wheelchair basketball. In volleyball she plays on a City League team with girls her age, but with the Rancho Halos, a wheelchair basketball team in Cerritos, she competes alongside high school players.
“They’re all older, they done it longer than me,” Middleton said. “I still try to keep up with them.”
With the Halos, Middleton was able to travel to Chicago to battle in a national tournament. The opportunity to travel makes her more passionate about playing basketball. The team sponsors pay for travel and hotel stays, making Middleton happy that her mother, Sandra Van Embricqs, does not have to pay travel expenses. The Halos came in 11th place at the nationals, the competition gave Middleton valuable skills.
“I learned how to defend better, like what positions you go to and how to stop people faster,” she said.
Playing alongside teenagers did not come without challenges. Middleton had less experience than her teammates, but they continued to work with her so she can become a better player.
“They just helped me and I get frustrated that I couldn’t do it, but then my mom made me watch videos,” Middleton said. “Sometimes, I wouldn’t pay attention … Once I listened to what they were talking about, I understood what I had to do.”
When the team noticed her improvement during practice, they further encouraged Middleton.
“We do shadow drills and they have to set me and I get past them quicker than before,” she said. “They would say that I got faster, which gave me more confidence.”
Sports festivals like Camp No Limits and the Angel City Games helped Middleton build a community among other athletes with disabilities. Through the Angel City Games, Middleton learned about wheelchair tennis. Wheel tennis reminds her of the skills she learned for volleyball.
“It made me feel more comfortable,” she said. “With the racket when you serve, it’s almost like a volleyball serve, you do an overhanded serve in volleyball.”
Over the Summer, Middleton participated in an all-girl wheelchair basketball camp at the University of Texas at Arlington. This was a change of pace for Middleton as the Rancho Halos is mostly made up of boys.
“The girls cheer you on, they’re more social,” she said.
Middleton attends Deer Canyon Elementary school, her advice to student athletes is to have good grades in order to join a travel ball team.
“I like science the best,” Middleton said when asked about her favorite subject. “I love doing different science experiments.”
A main source of inspiration for Middleton is her mother, who played basketball for UCLA and the L.A. Sparks.
“I want to be a professional wheelchair basketball player,” Middleton said. “I also want to play better than my mom and get more trophies.”