Men's club lacrosse coach helps build wheelchair team at Mary Free Bed

coach standing in center of wheelchair lacrosse athletes
Tim Murray, center, gives direction to a Mary Free Bed wheelchair lacrosse team before a scrimmage. Murray is the head coach for the men's club lacrosse team.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

After coaching men's lacrosse for nearly two decades and playing it for much longer, Tim Murray, coach for Grand Valley's men's club lacrosse team, thought he knew every aspect of the sport.

But in June Murray was introduced to wheelchair lacrosse athletes through the adaptive sports program at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Murray has coached Grand Valley's team for 10 years, and added this new role when a friend asked him if he knew anyone who could coach the wheelchair team.

"I thought, 'I would like to do this.' It was a challenge I wanted to take on," said Murray, who also works as a caseload manager for at-risk youth at the Gerald R. Ford Job Corps Center.

He met with Kyle Ringwald, coordinator of wheelchair and adaptive sports at Mary Free Bed, and said they shared a similar vision for the program.

"It had been going for two years and we talked about raising awareness of the program and giving the athletes a quality experience," Murray said. 

Murray himself got a quick indoctrination to the sport during a tournament in Milwaukee, Wis., in mid-June. There were not enough Mary Free Bed players to yield a team so Murray played.

"My arms were so sore on the drive home, it hurt to keep them on the steering wheel," he said and laughed.

He has introduced many able-bodied lacrosse players to the sport, including several Lakers. The Mary Free Bed team held scrimmages in July and August against teams composed of lacrosse players from Hope College, and Michigan State and Calvin universities. Mary Free Bed provides extra wheelchairs; the teams play at Eagles Ice Center in Grand Rapids.

Ringwald said Murray's enthusiasm and connections has built the team to 10 players, only two of whom had played wheelchair lacrosse before.

The wheelchair lacrosse season runs through mid-August, ending in time for Murray to focus on the Lakers, as the team begins its exhibition season in mid-September.