By Sarah Sabatke
Ron Lykins, head coach of Mizzou’s men’s wheelchair basketball team, a program of MizzouRec, first experienced the sport as part of a community service assignment while attending the University of Kentucky. On April 14, Lykins was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Hall of Fame.
Lykins grew up playing sports and stuck with that interest in college, earning a bachelor’s in community recreation and a master’s in therapeutic recreation, both from Kentucky.
He first encountered wheelchair basketball while fulfilling a community service requirement for an undergraduate class. The course required a 90-hour fieldwork project and the wheelchair basketball team, being right on campus, fit the bill.
“I didn’t have a car, so I needed something close, and I liked sports,” Lykins says. “I got involved [and] did my 90 hours in about two weeks. [I] really enjoyed it and just stayed with it.”
His mentor and professor at Kentucky was commissioner of the NWBA at the time and Lykins was able to coach the University of Kentucky’s team during his last year of graduate school. He never looked back.
Lykins was an established coach on the international stage before coming to Mizzou in 2009. He coached the U.S. women’s team in 1990 when they won the inaugural International Wheelchair Basketball Federation Women’s World Championship. He also coached the women’s team during the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, where they won silver.
From 2001 to 2008, Lykins was the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. During his tenure, the team won gold in both the Athens and Beijing Paralympics. He also coached the men’s team to gold in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
According to the NWBA, Lykins is the winningest international coach in its history.
As he closes in on 30 years of coaching and 10 years at MU, Lykins remains motivated.
“It’s not that hard getting up for practice, coming in here and putting in all this time, because enjoy what I’m doing,” he says. “I am proud of what our players have done not only while they were here but [also] when they’ve graduated, what they’ve gone on to do.”
Lykins was one of five members inducted into the NWBA Hall of Fame on April 14. Although his name was the one announced at the ceremony, Lykins says the award was not earned single-handedly.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of good players, good assistant coaches and administrators that allowed me to do my job and [to achieve] the success we have had as a team,” he says. “It’s a team award.”