You can forgive the yellow-shirted volunteer roaming Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre wearing the Secret Service earpiece if he doesn’t immediately respond when you address him. Numerous people may be talking into his ear at any given moment.
“I’m a sports supervisor, specifically for wheelchair rugby, and there are numerous people talking to me at any one time,” says Invictus Games sports supervisor volunteer Mike Hughes. “One’s for field of play, access control, my supervisor and the venue.”
Mike’s focus is exclusively on wheelchair rugby. He makes sure that “the field of play is operational for the players to jump on and play,” he explains.
He also helps with the transfer of players from everyday chairs to their rugby chariots and handles equipment problems like tire changes. “The castor can get hit pretty hard — to the point where it starts bending out and pointing. In defensive chairs, you have a bumper and you are able to hit guys a little bit harder than in an offensive chair. It’s going to hurt a little more.”
That Mike can handle all of this speaks to his experience with the sport. “In 2014, I was going to [London, Ontario’s] Fanshawe College for fitness and health promotion,” he recalls. “In my second year, I had a course called special populations. Three gentlemen came in to talk about wheelchair rugby and their rehabilitation process.
“I needed a placement for that semester so I contacted Dave Willsie for Team Ontario and he said come to a practice and let’s see what happens. So I ended up getting my full placement done with them. I stuck around a little longer.”
That year was an eventful one for Mike, as he also got involved with the Canadian National wheelchair rugby tournament. “I played as part of Team Ontario. I was presented a gold medal for that, which was amazing especially being my first year with the team.”
The following year saw Mike stationed at Mississauga’s Parapan Am Games venue, volunteering with the wheelchair rugby competition. Having earned his Fanshawe College certificate, he moved on to Oshawa’s University of Ontario’s Institute of Technology to study kinesiology.
“I’m riding this wave [in parasport] as long as I can,” he said “But I’d like to keep in touch with Team Ontario and support themYou get so much out of this kind of atmosphere and everyone is so welcoming. It’s very humbling and inspiring.”