Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Support Mizzou Students

Gifts to the Mizzou Student Experience Fund enhance out-of-classroom learning for all students. Make a gift today.


Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball Coach Headed to Rio

Ron Lykins leads USA men's wheelchair basketball team to the 2016 Paralympics

Published Aug. 8, 2016
Story by Sarah Sabatke

Ron Lykins and the Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball Team

Ron Lykins coaches Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball players during a timeout. MizzouRec hosted the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament March 5, 2015. Photo by David Freyermuth/MizzouRec

Ron Lykins, head coach of MU’s wheelchair basketball team, got involved with the sport because of a community service project at the University of Kentucky in Louisville. This September, Lykins will travel to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympics as the head coach  of Team USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball.

Lykins grew up playing sports and stuck with them in college, where he majored in community recreation as an undergraduate at UK. He returned to the school for his master’s in therapeutic recreation. But it was during undergrad that he was first exposed to wheelchair basketball.

“When I was an undergraduate student we had to do a 90-hour fieldwork [project],” Lykins says. “They had a wheelchair basketball team on campus, I didn’t have a car so I needed something close and I liked sports. I got involved with [the wheelchair basketball team], did my 90 hours in about two weeks, really enjoyed it and just stayed with it.”

Lykins’ mentor and professor at UK was commissioner of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association at the time, and Lykins was able to coach the university’s team during his last year of graduate school — from there, he was hooked on the sport.

Coach Ron Lykins and two basketball players

Lykins talks to players at the National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament hosted by MizzouRec March 7, 2015. Photo by Micheala Sosby/MizzouRec

Coaching Success

Lykins joined MU in February 2009 as head coach of the wheelchair basketball team, but his first experience coaching on a national level was in the ’90s. Lykins coached the U.S. women’s national team in 1990, and they won the Women’s World Championship in Saint Étienne, France, soon after. He was then selected as the head coach of the women’s team for the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics, where the team won silver.

Lykins worked as a venue manager during the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, and returned to Team USA in 2000 as the women’s assistant coach for the Sydney Paralympics.

From 2001 to 2008, he was the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team during the Athens and Beijing quads – the four-year periods leading up to each of the Olympic games – both of which ended with a gold medal.

Lykins found out he’d been selected to coach the U.S. 2016 Paralympic men’s wheelchair basketball team through a phone call.

“It’s a thrill,” he says. “Anytime you get selected to be a head coach of a U.S. national team is a tremendous honor, so I was very happy to get the call. After I hung up, I called my wife and talked with her. I was like, ‘Oh, what did I just get myself into? OK, the work starts now.’ ”

Coach Ron Lykins and wheelchair basketball players in Rothwell Gymnasium

During the Mizzou Wheelchair Basketball camp July 21, 2015, Lykins works with campers. Photo by Jordan Liekweg/MizzouRec

Journey to Rio

The journey to the 2016 Paralympics has been a long one. It began with the America Zone Qualification Tournament in Colombia in 2013, which qualified the men’s national team for the 2014 World Championships in South Korea. From there, the team competed in the 2015 ParaPan Am Games in Toronto, where they qualified for the Paralympics.

Lykins says the team will have various tournaments throughout the summer in between training camps to prepare for the Paralympics. He says those games will be an opportunity to compete against other teams going to Rio.

“I learn from my players as much as they learn from me. I learn from them, so if I can find a different way or different technique to help get a point across…that’s really helpful.”

The 2016 Paralympics will take place Sept. 7–18 in Rio de Janeiro, and many of the events will be broadcast on NBC.

“Tune in and watch [the games],” says Lykins. “I think people who’ve never seen wheelchair basketball are going to be surprised.”

Published by the Division of Student Affairs, 211 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6776 | Fax: 573-882-0158 | E-mail:

Copyright © — Curators of the University of Missouri. All rights reserved. DMCA and other copyright information.
An equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.

Last updated: Aug. 7, 2017