'An athlete is an athlete'
BRUNSWICK, Maine – When it comes to sports and what it means to be an athlete, Rob Mueller is challenging the status quo with his adaptive sports media company, MPower Sports and Recreation.
“An athlete is an athlete,” said Mueller, who co-founded the company with Eli Wolff, a former member of the U.S. Men’s Paralympic soccer team. “We’re trying to shift people’s focus away from the disability to the adaptation.”
Launched in 2013, MPower Sports aggregates and curates media coverage of adaptive sports; however, it intends to shift to original content, starting with the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro this month.
“What we’re trying to do is show that there are proof points,” said Mueller. “That there are people consuming this media and brands really need to get on board with support.”
Coca-Cola, General Electric and Visa are all sponsors of the Paralympic Games, but it’s a matter of maintaining that support after the closing ceremonies, says Mueller.
To drum up awareness, the company launched a hashtag campaign (#weareallsportsfans) on August 1 to rally existing fans and reach new ones around the world.
“We want to engage sports fans, because it’s really hard to be a fan of adaptive sports,” said Mueller. “You have to know where to look.”
When it comes to the athletes themselves, Mueller says the two biggest barriers to excelling in sports are access to equipment and access to quality instruction. Still, adaptive sports have come a long way from its DIY beginnings.
“Twenty years ago, the industry was just duct tape and foam,” he said. “It was, ‘We’ll get you out on the slopes or into a kayak,’ and you figured it out. Now there’s professionally made adaptive equipment printed on 3D printers. It’s just amazing to see.” HME