Last week I was over in the Sports Centre doing some filming for the end-of-year Campus Sport video. It was a wheelchair basketball session, and after I’d shot the testimonials and some action footage I went over to say thanks to the players, James, James and Alex.
With a glint in his eye James #1 said ‘thanks for coming – it just so happens we have a couple of spare chairs ready, do you fancy giving it a try?’. I mean there’s not really much you can say to that other than ‘er, ok, go on then’ is there?
If you’ve read my gym blog from a while back then you’ll know that my sport is cycling; I’ve been doing a bit of core work in the gym over the winter, but now the weather is getting a bit better most of my training has been out on the bike. So whilst my fitness isn’t too bad at the moment, most of my strength is in my legs and whilst my arms aren’t quite noodles hanging off my shoulders they’re not used to propelling me around a sports hall court either. Also, in my defence, my chair had a flat tyre.
We started off just getting used to the chairs and wheeling around, then playing a game of bulldog across the sports hall. After about five minutes I was already thoroughly cream crackered despite being slow and rubbish. I’d like to put this down to the flat tyre, but really I think it’s due to a combination of my lack of fitness and not inconsiderable weight.
After getting a feel for the chairs we progressed on to a bit of shooting practice. I used to play a bit of basketball (about 20 years ago admittedly, but it’s like riding a bike right?) so I thought I might be ok at this bit. Turns out nah, it’s completely different. In running basketball you tend to use a lot of your motion to help propel the ball, but you also throw with your whole body, not just your arms. That doesn’t really work in a chair; you need to be rolling forward and then launch the ball pretty much straight up, using the forward motion of the chair to move the ball towards the hoop. It’s really tricky, and although I managed to score a couple I think it would take a LOT more practice to get any kind of consistency. And by that I mean getting anywhere near the hoop, let alone scoring.
Then we split into two teams of two to play a quick game. Trying to put together all the things I’d just learnt – plus passing, dribbling and blocking – was not easy, and I’m sure it must have been intensely frustrating for my far more experienced team mate. I’ve no idea who actually won, and I suspect that no one was counting (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking and everyone was nice enough to not let me know how much I lost by) but despite the aching shoulders and blistered thumbs I had a whale of a time, and I’d be seriously tempted to go back for another shot.
Wheelchair basketball takes place every Thursday from 12 – 2 in the Sports Hall, it’s £1.80 and everyone is welcome to come along and have a go. You couldn’t ask for a friendlier, more welcoming bunch, and I can guarantee you’ll feel you’ve had a decent workout by the end!