Alumni Profiles

Alum: Sebastian Broussard ’18

Since graduating, alumni Sebastian Broussard ’18 has become a vital part of the Seattle wheelchair ruby scene and making a name for himself nationally.
    • Seb Series 4

Sebastian Broussard’s ’18 relationship with wheelchair rugby wasn’t what you would call love at first sight. “I did have fun the first time I went to a practice, but I didn't feel like it was for me,” he said.  While the initial connection wasn’t there, Sebastian didn’t completely shut the door on the idea.  

That was back in 2016. It’s now 2022, and Sebastian (Seb for short) daily life is centered around the sport of wheelchair rugby. As of press time, he’s currently preparing to represent the United States as a member of the Low-Point Wheelchair Rugby National team. He found out in late May he was  one of eight individuals to make the final roster and will compete in the World Games July 14-17 in Birmingham, Alabama. “It’s just so nice to have goals to work for and to compete again,” he said. “I’ve always been super competitive, so I love that aspect of things, but the whole idea of working for something, trying to get better, having independence, and pushing yourself—I really take pride in that.” 

A self-described “sports guy,” being active has been a focal point for Seb. After moving back to the United States from Europe, Seb started at The Bush School in Eighth Grade in 2013, playing on the boys soccer team. During the 2015-2016 academic year Sebastian, an avid snowboarder, attended the Sun Valley Ski Academy through the Community School in Sun Valley, Idaho, to pursue his passion at the highest level.

It was in February 2016 when he suffered a serious snowboarding accident, as he caught the front edge of his snowboard near the bridge at the base of Warm Springs, falling forward and breaking his neck. He was sent to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, where he underwent surgery. After being transitioned back to Washington, he explained it was during his time in the hospital in Seattle when he was first introduced to the idea of rugby. 

“I was having a lot of people visit me who were in wheelchairs, and one of the people who came was a rugby player,” Sebastian said. His initial reaction was that the game was too rough for him. It wasn’t his style. He said when he was released from the hospital in May, he spent that entire summer not partaking in any activities—something he wasn’t used to. So, with some persuasion from friends, he decided to give wheelchair rugby another go. 

“After being indoors basically all summer, I knew I had to do something. I wanted to compete and have a team,” he said. In the fall of 2016, Seb officially joined the Seattle Slam, Washington’s only wheelchair rugby club that is a designated team for athletes with disabilities limiting the function of upper and lower extremities. Seb said he didn’t compete in any tournaments, as that first season he spent familiarizing himself with the sport and his wheelchair. 

“It’s a very cerebral sport for sure,” Seb said. “It’s kind of like a game of chess.” Played indoors on a hardwood gymnasium floor, the game is a combination of rugby, basketball, and handball and is made up of two opposing teams (four players from each on the court at a time) vying to score a point (a try) by carrying a volleyball across the opposing team’s goal line. “You have offensive and defensive players, and defensive players are blockers or pickers. I’m a picker,” Seb said. “Growing up, I was always an offensive player in soccer, and to be more of a defensive player, it took a while to learn.”

Beside learning the rules of the game and becoming more comfortable in his role on the team, the physical side of the sport has been just as demanding, if not more so. Seb said he’s spent many long hours alone in his driveway pushing himself in his wheelchair, up and down, honing his speed and strength.  “His personality was just the biggest thing that struck us. He’s just very outgoing, and he was all about getting better and wanting to play,” Seattle Slam Head Coach Jeremy Hannaford said. “He fell in love with it, you could tell, and he had all that ambition to get good—and to get good, like, right now. He’s always just striving to get better and be the best he can.”

While facing the real possibility of injuring himself in a physical sport, Seb said it’s been the unwavering and supportive environment of the Seattle Slam that has literally pushed him along his journey. “I get courage from my teammates,” he said. “I think without them, I would not be playing rugby. It’s definitely a physical sport and I felt kind of fragile, but I wanted to get back into sports and start playing again. There were moments I didn’t know if I was going to be good at rugby or enjoy it, but with my teammates supporting me I was able to work toward those goals and get better. And the courage kind of paid off.”

The newfound sense of community and belonging for Seb has paid off in myriad ways as he’s developed into one of the Seattle Slam’s best pickers and emerged as a leader for the team, helping them advance to the national championship tournament this past spring. “It’s pretty awesome to see him come from being a new player who doesn’t have much knowledge of the game to what he has studied and practiced on his own and learned from other veteran players,” Jeremy said. “Now he’s teaching other players what he’s learned, which is amazing to see—not a lot of people can do that.” 
In September 2021, Sebastian was invited to attend the U.S. National Wheelchair Rugby Development Camp, a first step in being considered for the United States roster to compete at the World Games. From there he was extended an invite for the Low-Point tryouts (picker position) in February in Houston, Texas. Low-Point is geared toward players with less mobility with their arms, hands, and core, while the wheelchairs used are custom designed with slanted wheels that allow the player to make quicker turns and provide extra stability. 

“I got in contact with the Team USA coach and expressed the skills that I thought Seb had, the work ethic, and the potential he has for Team USA,” said Jeremy, who also was part of the tryouts. “To go there myself and see the work that I’ve put in to teach him to be a Low-Pointer and watch him—he killed it in tryouts. It was a super proud moment for me to see how well he did.” Sebastian was one of seventeen individuals selected for the U.S. Low-Point practice squad. In early April he attended a national training camp in Rockford, Illinois, a step in making the final roster for the World Games. 

“When I broke my neck, I couldn’t even breathe on my own, or eat, or push a chair,” Seb said. “And day by day, trying to get better in my independence, trying to get stronger, trying to get faster at rugby, I think the biggest thing about this is how all the hard work paid off. It’s so rewarding to see my journey and where I came from.”

While the Seattle Slam has served as a competitive sport and brought back the athletic nature to Sebastian’s life, joining the team has provided him so much more. “It’s been hugely beneficial,” he said. “Obviously there’s the physical aspect of things—my stamina and strength—but I think even bigger than that is the social aspect and having a group of guys in wheelchairs. You’re not the odd man out; they all know what you’ve been through, and also they’ve all been injured so they know a lot of tips and tricks. They helped me get a car and do things so I didn’t have to learn through trial and error.”

Jeremy said that while Sebastian, whom he described as a goofball, is the youngest on the team at twenty-three, his talent and light-hearted persona have been a welcome addition. “He’s very vocal and very smart for his age,” Jeremy said. “He’s kind of a smartass, but it’s fun; everyone enjoys it. He brings a lightness to a lot of the game where it can get stressful.”
A typical week for Seb includes work, practices with the Slam, going to the gym almost daily, and continuing preparations for the World Games this summer and beyond. Sebastian is currently taking a leave of absence from the University of Washington where he is studying creative writing, a medium through which he hopes to express his personal journey and the message of perseverance and passion. 

“It takes courage to try new things,” he said. “I tried rugby, and I still knocked it and then eventually came back to it. Find what you love. I think even when I first broke my neck, I knew that I wanted to use this opportunity and platform to help others in that station. I do want to write a book about my situation; that is something I started and stopped and want to pick back up again. I know I’m in a unique spot in that I can help a lot of people.”
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