Wheelchair basketball: an exciting new addition to university sport

Football, cricket and hockey have long been part of university sporting calendars but this year has seen the introduction of an exciting new sport; wheelchair basketball. If you’d said to me when Durham’s first ever wheelchair basketball team was established that less than six months later, we’d be competing in the National University Championships, I’d have said there was more chance of England winning the World Cup this Summer! Fast forward two term terms, however, and that was exactly what we were doing.  Before I talk about the tournament, I should probably tell you a little bit about how we got there…

In June last year, it was announced that Durham had been chosen by the governing body of wheelchair basketball as a centre of development for the sport in universities. In other words, this gave Durham access to specialist sports wheelchairs and coaching courses for people already involved in running basketball, all with the aim of getting a wheelchair basketball team up and running at Durham University.

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A key premise of the scheme was that it was open to any student in Durham, not just wheelchair users, in fact, I was the only wheelchair user in a team of nine. By October, we had a regular group of players training at Hild Bede gym every week, guided by our coach Mark who has experience of playing for Durham Wildcats in the British Basketball League.  I was the only player with previous experience of wheelchair basketball but everyone was clearly enjoying the challenge of getting to grips with a sports wheelchair for the first time! Back to the tournament…

In the days leading up to the tournament, all of us were asked the same question; how did you think you’re going to do? The honest answer was that we had absolutely no idea as this was such a new initiative and we’d never played any of the teams before! It’s safe to say though that after getting up at 5.30am followed by a four and a half hour coach journey to the venue in Worcester, we were all desperate to get going!

We were one of five teams in the tournament, along with Nottingham Trent, Northampton, Sheffield Hallam and Worcester and our first few games followed an eerily similar pattern. We started the game well, only to have one nightmare quarter which we couldn’t recover from.  We found ourselves in what was effectively a quarter final, as the winners would progress to the semis. Undaunted by our earlier defeat to the same opposition, we stormed to a one point victory.

Sadly for us, we were outplayed in the semi-finals by a Worcester team featuring three GB players and narrowly lost the third place play-off to Sheffield Hallam. The results weren’t the most important thing, being part of the inaugural university wheelchair basketball tournament and representing Durham only a few months after the club was started is something of which we can all be hugely proud.

Plans are already in place to develop the club even further next season and we are always keen for new players. We train every Thursday from 5-6pm at Hild Bede West Gym. If anyone is keen to try this amazing sport or would like more information, feel free to contact Richard Warburton on richard.warburton@durham.ac.uk

Jamie is a second year student at Hatfield College studying German and Italian. 

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