In today’s episode of This Hits Different, Shelby Cassesse tells the story of Monessen grad and Waynesburg University student Darrion Allensworth, who has found an outlet for his love of sports via sled hockey and esports.
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Monessen native Darrion Allensworth has been in a wheelchair since he was about four years old.
"A lot of credit to my mom,” Allensworth says. “She really tried to find other ways for me to be active."
But Darrion wanted to find his fit on a team. That search essentially ended when someone mentioned sled hockey.
Not long after, he was playing for the Mighty Penguins.
"It's like a home away from home.”
That was about 13 years ago. Now a junior at Waynesburg University, Darrion still plays with the ever growing Mighty Penguins.
As he travels internationally and hopes for the chance to play for the national team . he can't help but think about how far the sport has come.
"It's been kind of crazy how many younger kids are getting involved in it and starting off at a younger age,” he says. “I didn't start until I was seven. But they're like four or five years old. Starting early, kids are getting a lot better at the sport, younger."
And how meaningful it is to so many.
"All the stories for sled hockey players is about what disability got them into it or how they found sled hockey,” Allensworth adds. “It can be similar, or different, but each one is kind of unique in its own way. It's really cool to hear their stories. That's kind of brought us all together."
While Darrion has been a member of the growing sled hockey community for almost his entire life, he has more recently become one of the first members of a movement: e-sports.
Competitive gaming isn't necessarily something new, but it's making its way into schools for the first time, including Waynesburg. It's opening doors to new relationships and opportunities in ways other sports often can't.
"It's not just people with disabilities playing it, it's also regular people,” Allensworth says. “I’ve been able to bring friends, who I have been friends with for a long time, into it with me. As well as make even more friends."
The Waynesburg esports team won a title in its first season, and more people are seemingly showing up to the university's arena each week.
Talk about making your mark as an inaugural member of a new collegiate team.
"Seeing it grow, knowing we'll have even more will be interested in it coming into next year, it looks like it's just going to keep growing,” Allensworth says. “Seeing it from the point it was when we started, and seeing it grow, it's just a really cool opportunity."
And showing how a new program has removed some barriers to school sports for people with disabilities, something that can still be too hard to find.
"There's definitely room to grow, but it's nice to see how much it's grown since I started sled hockey all those years ago."