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A team sport similar to rugby but on wheels

Gangball is an all inclusive sport in Bellingham

Members of the gangball team are done setting up and ready to start the game as more members get into their chairs on Feb. 29, 2024 in Bellingham, Wash. Let the games begin as the two teams are about to face off against each other. // Photo by Cameron Gruen

Most team sports involve running or some sort of leg movement, but gangball doesn’t. This sport is played on wheelchairs and your arms have to do all the work.

Also known as wheelchair rugby or murderball, gangball is a paralympic sport played all over the country, that requires two teams and is played on a basketball court. The goal is to pass a specialized volleyball to your teammates and ride through two cones, which your wheelchair must entirely pass. 

Jeff Bergman, the group leader of gangball in Bellingham, has played gangball for over five years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Bergman has been trying to recoup the group to get more people to play.

"This sport isn't only for disabled people," Bergman said. "We want all ages and people to come out and play together. Some of our members are disabled, but we accept everyone."

Gangball in Bellingham is played in the community building at Bloedel Donovan Park. They play once a week on Mondays at 4 p.m. if they have enough members, and wheelchairs are free for anyone looking to play. 

Luke Laviolet has been playing gangball for six months. He brings along his wife and two kids to each game to play as well. 

"I was going on a run through my neighborhood, and Bergman chased me down and gave me his business card to play Gangball," Laviolet said. "I was like, I'm not in a wheelchair, but then Bergman told me anyone could play, so I tried it out and started bringing my kids."

Laviolet enjoyed it so much that he comes out most weeks with his family to stay active and have fun. 

"I love getting to see other people. I work from home, so this is a bit of a social thing for me, and it gets the kids out," he said. 

Playing gangball allows an even playing field since everyone, regardless of physical ability, is in a wheelchair. Additionally, there is a team aspect, where five players work together to pass the ball and score while covering their opponent. 

Jeremy Hannaford is the wheelchair rugby coach in West Seattle, Washington, who has coached and played wheelchair rugby for 11 years. Hannaford was in a car accident many years ago, which left him with a physical disability and looking for a place where he could fit in.

"Wheelchair rugby, the same as gangball, has been a great outlet for me and other people with disabilities," Hannaford said. "It gets them around people in the same situation, and getting into the sport gives them and me a purpose."

Gangball in Bellingham is more recreational than Hannaford's team, which plays competitively and goes all across the country playing in tournaments and games while in season.

Anyone looking to get involved in gangball in Bellingham can reach out to Jeff Bergman for more information. More information about the Seattle competitive team can be found here.

Cameron Gruen

Cameron Gruen (he/him) is a city life reporter for The Front. He is a senior majoring in Public Relations, so his work often reflects his interest in sports or community activities. Outside of the newsroom, you can find him watching sports, playing video games, hanging out with friends or family, and snowboarding. You can reach him at

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