The first time Emily Seelenfreund played Wheelchair Basketball as an 11 year old, she was hooked. Born with Osteogenesis imperfecta, or Brittle Bone Disease, which is characterized by fragile bones that break easily, she never thought she’d be able to play sports at a high level competitively. “I fell in love immediately with the team aspect and competitiveness of basketball,” recalls Emily. That moment marked the beginning of a prestigious Wheelchair Basketball career for her, culminating with her participation at the 2013 World Maccabiah Games.
Emily played as much basketball as she possibly could, competing throughout middle school and high school, eventually earning a scholarship to play at the University of Alabama. During her time at college where she studied Political Science and History, Emily won three National Championships with Alabama’s Wheelchair Basketball program, was a member of the USA under-25 team that won gold at the 2011 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships, and was selected as an alternate for the 2012 London Paralympics. After graduating from college, Emily moved to New Mexico to take part in the “Teach for America” program, figuring her successful Wheelchair Basketball career had ended.
(Emily pictured center, wearing jersey #21)
While living and teaching on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Emily was approached by Stu Greenberg, USA Organizing Committee Paralympic Sports Chairman for the 19th World Maccabiah Games in 2013. He asked her to consider representing Team USA on a team that also included a few Canadian and Dutch players. “I was hesitant to go, it was going to be a crazy hard year of teaching for me,” remembers Emily. “Knowing it was the first time Paralympic Basketball was offered at the Maccabiah Games, I had to be there to represent the USA in Israel, a country that’s very important to me, as it is the birthplace of my grandfather and home to my aunt and cousins, at an event that is so much bigger than sports.”
Emily’s most memorable moment as a Wheelchair Basketball athlete occurred prior to the gold medal match at the 2013 World Maccabiah Games. “Before the championship game, we hadn’t had huge crowds. But the Maccabiah organizers posted ads and ran buses to that game, and the stadium was completely full,” said Emily. “Even though we eventually lost the game, what a special moment it was to come into this packed gym and see all that support.”
(Team USA from the 2013 World Maccabiah Games)
These days, Emily is in her second year at Harvard Law School, with the ultimate goal of working in Disability Rights advocacy after graduation. For now, she plans on applying for Team USA for the 2017 World Maccabiah Games, which will mark the first time that the United States has a solely American squad. “Being one of the first Paralympic Basketball players at the Maccabiah Games was very special,” remarks Emily. “I want to continue to build this wonderful program and be a part of its tremendous growth.”
Maccabi USA is currently seeking qualified Jewish Paralympic Basketball players to represent Team USA at the 20th World Maccabiah Games on a Mixed Gender team for those ages 18-35. To apply, click HERE! For more information, please contact Stan Corn, Paralympic Basketball Chairman, at 804.221.3900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.