When she was five years old, Tisch senior Josie Aslakson’s life changed forever. A brutal car accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Now, years later, Aslakson has been selected to the United States’ Women’s World Championships Wheelchair Basketball team for the second time. She will compete in the 2018 International Wheelchair Basketball Federation Championships in Hamburg, Germany this August.
“It’s offered me a whole new perspective on life,” she said. “I don’t think I would see things the way I do now if I wasn’t forced into this position.”
Aslakson started playing basketball at age 13. Her father Ted Aslakson explained how she got her start.
“There is a facility in Minnesota called the Courage Center, where Josie was actually learning archery,” Mr. Aslakson said. “The basketball team happened to be practicing during one of her archery lessons, and the basketball coach pushed her to try basketball. And one day, she actually decided to give it a go.”
She played basketball at Jordan High School before attending the University of Texas at Arlington.
“The options for college wheelchair basketball are pretty limited, so I wasn’t sure if any of the schools that offered it were a match for me,” Aslakson said. “But once I visited UTA and realized that I liked it as a school, I was willing to commit.”
Aslakson transferred to Tisch School of the Arts in 2017, where she is currently majoring in Dramatic Writing.
“It’s different,” Aslakson said when asked how she continues playing basketball in New York City. “I don’t have a team anymore. But I made sure that I got an apartment close to the YMCA, so that’s really nice.”
Every athlete needs a strong support system, and Aslakson is grateful for the support from parents and coaches over the years.
“My parents have always been so supportive and have done everything for me, whether it’s taking me to tournaments or practices, or getting me whatever equipment I need,” she said. “And in basketball, each coach I’ve had has been so great, from high school to the national team level.”
U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Coach Trooper Johnson believes Aslakson has all the qualities of an amazing teammate.
“Josie does all the dirty work for the team,” Trooper said. “She is always setting picks or steals for her teammates and working to get other people open. Defensively, she anticipates well and does not back away from guarding bigger, faster players.”
Aslakson has high hopes for her team’s success in Germany this summer, though the journey will be a challenging one.
“It’s going to be a tough competition because we have such a young team, and a lot of those European teams who are successful right now will have so much experience,” she said. “But I really like the chemistry that I’ve seen already in our team during training. I feel like everyone is ready to do whatever it takes to win.”
Aslakson continues to inspire many people through her hard work and dedication to the sport of basketball.
“Her level of commitment is amazing,” her father said. “The more exposure her story gets, the more likely it is that it sparks something in another child. For Josie, basketball is about more than just putting a ball in a hoop. It’s about being around kids she could relate to, and becoming more self-confident on and off the court.”
A version of this article was published in the Monday, Feb. 20 print edition. Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected]