How basketball became a resilience tool for people in wheelchairs | Bombay News

The wheelchair basketball league was created about seven months ago

A familiar smell of sweat permeates the air of a cavernous indoor basketball court in Bombay Universityit is Campus Kalina every weekend. The thud of the basketball bouncing on the floor and the full-throated shouts of the players dominate the arena. It’s a typical basketball practice session with the occasional whistle telling them when it’s time to turn things around. There is a sound that is different though. The sound of wheels spinning, darting and twirling around the hardwood court as wheelchair basketball players jostle for control of the ball.
It’s sport at its best and tells the story of a group of boys and girls who take a second chance at life and overthrow the stereotype of people with disabilities as weak and helpless.
At first glance, wheelchairs and basketball may seem like an odd combination. Given the usual emphasis on size and the image of tall players dominating hoops, no one sitting in a wheelchair can really brag about it. It’s also hard to imagine how paraplegics can simultaneously control the trajectories of their wheelchairs while dribbling, passing and muscle the ball to the basket to score points.
However, Abraham Poulose, head coach and president of this wheelchair basketball team called Mumbai Wheelers insists: “Basketball is basketball. It’s the same with one difference.
And that difference – using arms instead of legs to roll the wheels and upper body contortions to pass, bounce and toss the ball through the hoop – produces a sweaty workout of the muscles in the chest, arms , neck, shoulders and core that lend them the strength and precise skills needed to succeed in the game.
This wheelchair basketball the league – made up of national and international level wheelchair basketball players as well as absolute rookies between the ages of eight and 48 – was created about seven months ago by a non-profit organization Mumbai Project with a mission to make Mumbai more accessible to parasports.
“It started with 15 players in one city and has now expanded to over 60 players in two cities – Mumbai and Pune. There is a coach in each city. The players range from bankers, teachers and alumni shippies to those from less privileged backgrounds. We bought 30 bespoke lightweight wheelchairs from the UK with cambered wheels that help a player make tight turns and maintain stability,” explained Shishir JoshiCEO and Founder of Project Mumbai, which hosted seven wheelchair basketball games across the city, including a premier league with competitive prizes.
“With just a few adjustments to the rules, basketball can be used as both mental and physical rehabilitation for people in wheelchairs,” adds Poulose. “The intensity of these para-athletes can rival any able-bodied athlete.”
In between showing off his chair-tipping skills in the field, Surendra Kasare, 33, recounts that monsoon morning ten years ago when his bike skidded and left him with a permanent spinal injury. “I had never seen anything like wheelchair basketball before seeing kids at Don Bosco Matunga,” Kasare says.
Like Kasare, most players are nursing spinal injuries from an abnormal accident or were born with a deformity.
Pushed into a wheelchair at 21, Agnel Naidu worked as a delivery boy and moonlit as a dance teacher until last year when a tragic train accident crushed his legs. “I never thought I would go from dancer to sportsman,” smiles the boy from Mankhurd.
Anita Nirmal, mother of 13-year-old Janvi – one of the youngest members of the team born with birth defects of the spine – admits she worries a little less these days for her daughter since she took up basketball. “Before, I wondered who was going to take care of her when I wasn’t around. Now I see in her a need to be independent. And she has also found friends who she identifies with,” says -she.
For Dinkle Shah, 27, who lost function in both legs when a rock fell on her spine in the fateful Bhuj earthquake, the sport she accepts has made her more resilient and independent in everyday life. “I work as an assistant manager in an audit firm, but everywhere I go they see me as a basketball player. It feels good to have an identity as a sportsman that I might not have had otherwise,” says Shah.
Project Mumbai has partnered with a wheelchair-accessible auto rickshaw startup to transport players on days they have a show game. “We hope that by the end of the year, at least 50 institutions in Mumbai would volunteer to make their institution accessible to parasports,” says Joshi.


FacebookTwitterinstagramKOO APPYOUTUBE

Comments are closed.