Fast Facts

Name Eric Ingram 

 

Nickname: Flea

 

Hometown: Norfolk, VA

 

Current Home: Washington, DC

 

Occupation: Engineer, Athlete

Classification:   2.0


Current Team: MedStar NRH Punishers (2016-    )

         

Past Teams:

        TIRR Texans (2013-2016)

        East Coast Cripplers (2005-2011, 2012-2013)

        Raleigh Sidewinders (2011-2012)

        Team Force (2009-2011,2013-2015)


Began Playing:  2005

Beginnings

From Norfolk, Virginia, Eric Ingram is an athlete in the sport of wheelchair rugby. Born with a rare disorder called Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome that left him wheelchair-bound, Eric lets nothing get in the way of living a fulfilled life. He has always been active, participating in disabled sports since his childhood. As he grew up he went from one sport to another to find one that fit him. He began with track, racing in the 200m, 400m, and 800m. Although track helped build his speed it seemed to lack something. Eric then went to tennis where he decided there just wasn't enough action. It was around that time he began playing wheelchair basketball, which led to his ultimate discovery of the sport he was truly passionate about.

And So It Began

It was at a wheelchair basketball training camp in 2005 in Atlanta, GA with teammate Kevin where he discovered wheelchair rugby. There was an ongoing clinic for the sport throughout the week, and the organizers invited Eric and Kevin to join.  Neither had heard of wheelchair rugby, a full contact sport for quadriplegics (for more information, click here).  With further explanation from the organizers that anyone with a disability in all four limbs is a quadriplegic, and that they both fit this description, the boys decided to attend.  Before the first clinic session was over, Eric had fallen in love with the sport.


Eric after receiving his first rugby chair in 2006

Upon returning to Virginia, Eric and Kevin decided to end their basketball training and focus on starting their own wheelchair rugby team. Even though they were still in high school, Eric and Kevin (along with a few others) were able to put in the hard work to get this fledgling team off the ground. Following the release of the movie Murderball, the support for the forming team grew and within six months the East Coast Cripplers was formed.

Eric (far left), Kevin (far right) and the rest of the founding members of ECC in 2006.

Eric led the team, which struggled to develop. They traveled to clinics to learn the sport and tournaments to and achieve that elusive first win. It was at a clinic where Eric got his nickname, "Flea," from Paralympic Gold Medalist and World Champion Bryan Kirkland, a nickname which would stick with him and become his identity in the sport.  With much training, and over a season and a half of more than 30 games, that first victory would finally be realized. What started as a trickle became a flood as Eric and the Cripplers went on to win game after game. This led the team all the way to their first United States Quad Rugby Association National Championship tournament in Louisville, KY in 2009.

Eric with the East Coast Cripplers at one of the first practices (left) and at one of their first tournaments (right) in 2007


Making It To The National Stage


The East Coast Cripplers' showing at Nationals was less than impressive, where they lost all five games. What was notable was the fact that a small start-up team that had only been around for three seasons managed to make it to the national stage. Eric's performance at the tournament was hailed as the Cripplers' main reason for their presence, and the name Flea began to float around the wheelchair rugby community.

Within weeks of his presentation at Nationals, Eric clinched an invite to try out for the United States Quad Rugby Developmental Team, or Team Force. A month later he was at the tryouts, and it was a pivotal point in his career. It was more difficult than he could have imagined, but after three full days of intense competition, he was a member of Team Force.

Eric with the rest of the 2009-2011 Team Force at their first training camp in 2009.

Eric showing off his Silver medal from the 2009 Maximus Quad Rugby Open, in Brazil, along with some of the members of the Bronze medal winning team from Argentina.


Being a member of Team Force required a two year commitment and attendance at a training camp in Birmingham, AL every other month. The financial burden was staggering, but the experience gained and personal exposure far outweighed any detriments. With this team he competed in several international level tournaments in the United States, Brazil and Mexico. All the while, Eric was in the process of pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Physics at Old Dominion University and was also an active member of its campus community. The school/life/rugby balance was a difficult challenge, but he persevered and managed to stay competitive both athletically and academically.

Eric doing research for his physics senior thesis in 2012

Team Force brought Eric notoriety and recognition across the country and world. He has been invited to several Team USA tryouts and has inched closer and closer to a spot on the team each year. He also found a passion to give back to the wheelchair rugby community that helped him reach the level of success he had seen. He began instructing, coaching and passing on knowledge to new wheelchair rugby players both on his own team and for newly developing teams.


Eric during instruction at a rugby clinic in Richmond, Va in 2012 (via Sportable)


Present and Future

Eric's commitment to Team Force ended in mid-2011, but his career is just beginning. The Cripplers made it to three consecutive Nationals, but then took some time off to rebuild and restructure. So for the 2011-2012 season he played with formal rivals, the Raleigh Sidewinders. The following season, he once again played for the Cripplers, but upon graduation from Old Dominion University, decided it would be his last season with the team.


Eric with the East Coast Cripplers after winning the 2011 Atlantic Sectionals tournament and being named all tournament MVP

In mid-2013, Eric moved to Houston, Texas to pursue opportunities for education, his career, and especially rugby. Eric now plays for the TIRR Texans and believes his new team has a chance to win a national championship.

Eric at his graduation from ODU in May 2013

He is constantly working to become the best in his classification (2.0) in the world. He is working towards being invited back Team USA tryouts, with the goal of making the team and winning gold medals in both the Paralympic Games and the World Wheelchair Rugby Championships.

Your support and sponsorship could help get him there.

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