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Wheelchair Basketball Through Alicia’s Point Of View

Written By: Kyla Aquino Irving, CFILC Communications & Marketing Manager


Wheelchair basketball isn’t just about the sport for Alicia Szutowicz, Co-Founder and VP of Operations for the Sacramento Royals. Playing wheelchair basketball is definitely great exercise and lots of fun, and for Alicia, it’s truly about uplifting people.Two women are playing wheelchair basketball. The one on the left has the ball, Alicia is on the right trying to block her.

“Before I found this sport, most of my time was filled in self-pity,” she said. “I didn’t understand why all these things happened to me.” Alicia had undergone a hemipelvectomy as a result of cancer, as she explains, “I’m missing a hip and pelvis on one side.”

Once Alicia saw the energy and community of wheelchair basketball, something shifted in her mindset and sparked her interest on a deep level.

“It made me want to be more. I went from running to pushing a chair in less then a year, so the adjustment wasn’t the easiest,” said Alicia. “Wheelchair basketball freed me from my own mind and allowed me to grasp at more in life.”

Alicia’s newfound passion for the game and natural talent led to many accolades, including being a part of the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s 2015 Championship Team.

In 2012, the only wheelchair basketball organization in the greater Sacramento area was a recreational team, so Christian Rodriguez (Sacramento Royals Co-Founder/President) and Alicia saw a need for an organized and competitive league.

“I grew up here and came back to raise a family,” said Alicia, “and bring my knowledge of wheelchair basketball back to my hometown.”

With enough people that wanted to learn, Alicia and Chris were able to develop a program that could build self-confidence and self-worth, as well as increase physical, mental, and emotional strength.

The Sacramento Royals started with a Division 3 team and have competed in every division in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA), but the “shining light of the organization” is the new Junior Varsity (JV) Program.  The JV program gives disabled youth athletes the chance to compete against other teams their own age.

Two youth are playing wheelchair basketball outside. One is trying to make a shot. “We’ve had teens on our team before, but we’ve never given them their own team. Every single one of them has a superpower and this program is about unlocking their potential. And sometimes it’s about finding the right equipment or assistive technology for the athlete,” said Alicia.

The Sacramento Royals programs have served hundreds of people in all communities around the Greater Sacramento Area, with members traveling as far as Reno, Fresno, and the San Francisco Bay Area to participate.

With Alicia enthusiastically at the helm, the Sacramento Royals programs continue to grow and bring new athletes to the sport.

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