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Wheelchair basketball clinics seek participants in St. John's

Liam Hickey, a wheelchair basketball athlete from St. John’s, has helped create interest in the sport. It is hoped his reputation will help fill slots in the clinic slated for Easter Seals House in St. John’s on Friday.
Liam Hickey, a wheelchair basketball athlete from St. John’s, has helped create interest in the sport. It is hoped his reputation will help fill slots in the clinic slated for Easter Seals House in St. John’s on Friday. - Submitted

Easter Seals NL hosting two introductory sessions Friday

Everyone who follows athletics in this province is familiar with the name Liam Hickey.

His success representing Canada on the world stage has added interest to the sport of wheelchair basketball.

It is with this in mind, and a desire to expand the sport in general, that Easter Seals NL is hosting a clinic on Friday for those wishing to try the sport. The first session is slated for 10 a.m. to 12 noon and the second session is set for 2-4 p.m.

“This Friday, we are going to put people in chairs, give them an overview of what the sport is like and, hopefully, try and build it up,” said Eileen Bartlett, Easter Seals NL program director.

“We have 15 chairs that people can use to get a feel for it. If we get enough people, we can rotate participants in and out if necessary.”

She said the chairs are designed specifically for wheelchair sports like basketball.

The clinic will teach participants how to push the chairs and how to stop, in addition to learning basketball skills such as dribbling, passing and shooting, all the fundamental skills required to participate in the sport.

Once this portion of instruction is completed, the participants will get to take part in a scrimmage.

“This will give participants an insight as to what it’s like to play the sport,” Bartlett said.

A pair of Newfoundland and Labrador athletes have put wheelchair basketball in the minds of residents of this province in recent years. One of those is Hickey of St. John’s, a member of Team Canada in both basketball and, most recently, the sledge hockey team.

In addition, Danielle Arbour of Goulds has played with Team Canada, taking part in the world championships held in Beijing.

“We would love to see it grow here. There is a place for everyone, from newcomers to players like Liam and Danielle,” Bartlett said.

Arbour will participate in the clinic on Friday and will be joined by Abby Smith of Nova Scotia.

Bartlett said volunteers are necessary to make the program operate, so anyone who would like to donate some time to wheelchair basketball is urged to contact her.

“We can’t run the program without volunteers.”

Wheelchair basketball is played at Easter Seals House on Mt. Scio Road in St. John’s on Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m.

Wheelchair basketball is an integrated sport where players can be disabled or able bodied, and any and all participants of either designation are encouraged to sign up for one of the clinics.

For more information, contact Eileen Bartlett at 709-754-1399 or via email at eileen@eastersealsnl.ca.

How it all started

Like its able-bodied predecessor, wheelchair basketball is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, competitive sport played by two teams that are each comprised of five players and seven substitutes.

The basic rules of wheelchair basketball are similar to stand-up or able-bodied basketball. The court dimensions, basket height and distance to the foul and three-point lines, etc., are the same as in the game of stand-up basketball.

The sport of wheelchair basketball emerged out of the Second World War (1939-45). As a result of this global conflict, society was confronted with an unusual number of people with physical disabilities.

Following the war, many veterans with disabilities were placed in hospitals for rehabilitation and many still possessed a desire to participate in sports. Basketball was selected as the perfect sport to help in that rehabilitation.

Organized wheelchair basketball has been played in Canada since the 1940s. In the early years, the Montreal Wheelchair Wonders and the Vancouver Dueck Power Glides were the nation’s only teams. Limited in opportunities for games, the teams often participated in community demonstrations, inviting able-bodied people to participate using the extra wheelchairs the teams brought along.
To compete against other established wheelchair basketball teams, the two teams had to travel to the United States to participate in the National Wheelchair Basketball League or to England to participate in the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games (ISMWG). The Montreal team represented Canada in the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953, marking its start in world competition, and also represented Canada at the 6th National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in 1954 in New York, N.Y.

The Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association (CWBA) was founded in 1994, becoming an independent organization solely responsible for the sport of wheelchair basketball.

samuel.mcneish@thetelegram.com

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