A Week of Sport Discovery: Wheelchair Basketball

Sport Calgary is doing a blog series on the different Sport Calgary member organizations. This blog introduces Calgarians to sports offered in the city they can try. Ryley is an intern at Sport Calgary for the four months between the third and fourth years of her degree. She is pursuing a bachelor of communication, majoring in PR and minoring in marketing and has a passion for sport. Ryley loves trying new activities and finding different ways to get moving and staying active for life. Her main activities are hiking, skiing, yoga, running and surfing, all of which either her mom, boyfriend or dog loves to join her in doing!

The only time I have ever sat in a wheelchair was in a hospital getting wheeled to my car after I fainted during a blood test. Because I had never actually moved my myself around in a chair, I was nervous to be out of my element for wheelchair basketball. To start things off, I am terrible at basketball. Absolutely terrible. Can’t shoot, can’t dribble, and contact sports have never really been for me. All that, in addition to never pushing myself in a wheelchair, meant I was mentally preparing for the worst.

When I first strapped myself into the chair, I was surprised with how intuitive it was to steer and control where you are going. Speed, however, was another battle on its own. I was quickly frustrated by not being able to get around and maneuver as quickly as I do on my feet. For example, you get the ball. Now what? You are holding the ball so you can’t move forward by pushing your wheels.

Lorna from Calgary Wheelchair Basketball was the instructor and was really encouraging. She gave me tips whenever she noticed I didn't know what to do. Passing and dribbling are important in standing basketball, but maybe even more so in wheelchair basketball. After some help from Lorna, I would get some forward momentum , get passed the ball, and then as soon as someone else on my team got some momentum I would pass it back to them. Or, you can bounce the ball in front of you, push yourself forward to catch it, and bounce it again, moving down the court.

As soon as I got the hang of moving around (and by that I mean I was very, very slowly improving) I was having a ton of fun. The people that were out playing were a mix of able-bodied and disabled participants, a range of ages and everyone was really talented. They helped by giving me the occasional push down the court or by handing me the rebound which made me feel included and like I was contributing. 

We played three-on-three in the Mount Royal University gym, which is one of the only gyms the club practices in. This year, it did not get its regular gym time at the University of Calgary and other gym times are hard to find. Using schools seems like it would solve the problem, but Lorna says that even though all schools in the city are labelled as “accessible”, many do not have wheelchair accessible washrooms, which makes it an unfit place to practice.

This sport is perfect for anyone, especially people who have a disability and want to stay active, as well as any able-bodied player who has sustained knee or ankle injuries that don’t allow them to play standing basketball. “A lot of people come to us when they are done with other sports,” says Lorna, who was recruited to play on the women’s wheelchair basketball team after she had sustained many lower body injuries in standing varsity basketball.

Calgary Wheelchair Basketball has programs for kids and for adults, as well as a league that runs through MRU during the school year called Calgary Rollers and a competitive team called the Calgary Grizzlies. These programs are only $35 for 12 weeks and include equipment as well as travel for all tournaments for their men’s or women’s teams. All ages and all abilities are welcome.

I feel so lucky to have had this experience because it really opened my eyes to how challenging and fun wheelchair sports are! If you play basketball and want to challenge yourself, I would highly recommend wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair basketball can also be a good form of rehab for standing athletes that have sustained lower body injuries, allowing them to stay on the court. It was also a wicked arm workout – I am going to be sore for days! If you want to learn more about the program and register at MRU, visit https://ca.apm.activecommunities.com/mrurecreation/ after August 22, 2017. To learn more about the organization, visit http://www.calgaryrollers.ca


Becoming a Sport Calgary Member:
Sport Calgary members have access to our resources at Sport Calgary such as marketing on social media, blog entries, features and placement on our calendar. Many other benefits will be available with the re-launch of our website in 2018. Becoming a member is easy and FREE! Go to www.sportcalgary.ca, and under the “Join Us” tab click on the link that corresponds with you or you group. Fill out the form and you will be added to our membership. Sport organizations and individuals can join.

Evans Hunt