Learning to Cope with my Disability from my Teammates

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Nafi was paralyzed playing rugby 8 years ago, and now he’s a member of the New Zealand Wheel Blacks playing wheelchair rugby for 6 years. “It took me about 2 years to adjust to living in a chair,” he shares. His accident didn’t stop him from loving rugby or sports. “Prior to my accident, I was a very sporty and active person,” he explains. “Wheelchair rugby was a good outlet for me to just express myself physically.”

“Coming from a sporty background and also playing rugby, the transition to playing wheelchair rugby was natural,” he shares. “Also, the team atmosphere…I definitely like the comraderie… Just chilling and playing sports with the mates is…what I enjoy and the competition of course.”

His teammates are what he loves most about being on a team. “They’re a good bunch of guys and girl,” he smiles. Getting to know them better and to see different sides of them has really helped the bond between Nafi and the team grow stronger over time.

Nafi has learned a lot about coping with disability from his teammates.

“They taught a lot of things in rehab…but it’s not until you meet other people with disabilities [that] you…realize what you can or can’t do.”

Nafi has been able to compete at an elite level in several countries and travel on tours with the team. Of course, with a lot of competitions come with a hectic training schedule, which can be a challenge to manage. In addition to his day job as a physiotherapist, he’s a part-time researcher. Thankfully, his family understands when he has to be away and supports him from wherever they are. “They enjoy it, they support me fully. They come and watch as well, so they quite like it,” he says.

“Make connections,” Nafi advises. Connecting with people is important to him. A friend introduced him to wheelchair rugby when he was in rehab, so don’t be afraid to speak and connect to people. “Get out there to the community, be visible…Experience what it’s like to live in a chair, get out there and just try things.”

Watch Nafi share his experiences with wheelchair rugby:

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