Roadmap for promotion of Wheelchair Basketball sport

Moderator:

Ms. Maureen Orchard, Secretary General, International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF)

Panel Members:

From IWBF:

1. Mr. Norbert Kucera, Chairman of Technical Commission, IWBF

2. Mr. Toufic Allouche, Classification Officer, IWBF Asia Oceania Zone, IWBF

3. Mr. Maurice Hammerton, Development Officer, IWBF Europe

From ICRC:

4. Ms. Angel Singha, Social Inclusion Officer, International Committee of the Red Cross

From Sports Sciences Experts:

5. Dr. Tarun Sachdeva, Sports Medicine Specialist & Scientific Advisor for Sports Authority of

India and Delhi Dynamos Football Club

6. Mr. Prasanna Chaudhary, Managing Director, Nutra Supplements

7. Mr. Ananda Jyothi, Sports Physiotherapist & Technical Director, Wheelchair Basketball

Federation of India (WBFI)

From WBFI:

8. Ms. P. Madhavi Latha, President, WBFI

9. Ms. Kalyani Rajaraman, Secretary General, WBFI

10. Ms. R. Shanthy, Joint Secretary, WBFI

Discussion:

Ms. Maureen began with challenging the members of the panel to find ways to develop the wheelchair basketball (WCBB) sports discipline in India. Before the discussion began, she focused light on the areas that members represented which consisted of four different schools of thought i.e., (1) WCBB developers, promoters on sharing their expertise and future course; (2) Sports Medicine on what needs to be developed in the area of scientific sport, nutrition, etc.; (3) Technical side of WCBB and (4) Government on how they can promote the sport discipline. The floor was opened for discussion.

Ms. Madhavi emphasized that sports for the disabled is not just for rehabilitation but is also for growth of an individual. It boosts the confidence levels immensely. It is extremely crucial to create awareness on disability sports which can also be taken up professionally. It is a big concern that in general sports is looked upon as an alternative, extra-curricular activity when in fact, it must be made a part of education curriculum. The challenge lies in creating awareness at all levels, be it government, education institutions, society or home. When one talks of promoting wheelchair basketball, many factors come into play. An athlete with disability must have the support of his/her family which is the foundation to build a continuous engagement to playing the sport. When an athlete is in a position to play, procuring a sports wheelchair is a costly affair. The biggest hurdle the community faces is importing sports wheelchairs. She stressed on the importance of sports

wheelchairs being able to be manufactured locally which is currently not taking place. So we have to ask for financial support for purchasing those wheelchairs in order to play the sport. For playing wheelchair basketball, it is vital to have courts that are wooden for the longevity of wheelchairs. Then the stadia must be accessible where the athlete with disability using wheelchairs be able to move freely without any assistance by having ramps, wide entrance doors, accessible toilets among other modifications. This all can happen when there is awareness at the government level. When government understands that sports is an important aspect in the lives of athletes with disabilities (making the athlete community more visible) then the changes will take place automatically. These gaps were highlighted so that it may be addressed at national and state levels.

Ms. Kalyani Rajaraman reiterated the importance of team work. Technical officials and players cannot function without the support of each other. She urged the technical officials to apply what they have learnt in their courses to promote and develop wheelchair basketball when they return to their respective states. There is visibly a huge potential in India and only if we work as a team shall we be able to have a world class India wheelchair basketball team.

Ms. Singha recognised sports as a catalyst for change where one can witness the transformation that takes place individually and a positive shift in societal perception. She emphasized on the need to have more champions who talk of sports and gaps that athletes with disabilities face. Capacity building of the same champions is also crucial. One organization cannot be present in all the states but the teams representing their states can be the champions who lead the movement, the awareness on developing wheelchair basketball. With this comprehensive effort in all states, India would be able to witness the growth of wheelchair basketball as one.

Dr. Sachdeva was delighted to witness the massive amount of talent and passion possessed by the participants. He highlighted the gap in understanding of the needs of athletes with and without disabilities. This was why he felt the need to mentor the education of relevance Sports Medicine and Sports Sciences first to the athletes and Coaches.When one views sports especially wheelchair basketball, it must always be looked at as a competitive sport not an empathic/sympathetic sport. He shared that injury healing is a small fraction of Sports Medicine. Majority of it is on performance enhancement, healing with the right technique of training clubbed with balanced nutrition. He urged IWBF to create a special refresher attachment for training of wheelchair basketball athletes. He also urged IWBF to create opportunities for the technical and scientific staff from India to go and learn the ways from the nations which are already very advanced in Wheelchair basketball. He pledged his support in developing a strong Sports Medicine Core Unit for Wheelchair Basketball in India.

Adding to above, Mr. Chaudhary shared that scientific sports is not merely about rehabilitation but it is also about optimum performance. Sports health looks at three areas i.e., genetics, coaching and nutrition. Nutrition has been, the most neglected area. One must understand what nutritional needs mean. For Wheelchair basketball players,, there is a need to have nutrition plan with respect to classification of players . Mr Chaudhary mentioned that their team began their work with athletes with disability when they became involved with the athletes from Pune – analyzing their performance, tracking their diet pattern, etc. It was evident that one cannot leave nutrition out as it plays a critical role in high output i.e., performance.

Mr. Ananda Jothi added that there must be sports specific short term courses in the educational institutions to bring awareness among the public. Scientific sports team support on and off the court. The injury aspect of high impact sport cannot be ignored and must be taken care of with the support of adaptive sports specialists.

Mr. Norbert shared that the rules of running basketball and wheelchair basketball are the same. Referees, Coaches, Classifiers and athletes must know the rules of wheelchair basketball. The biggest

mistake one can make is to assume that all the four roles work separately. They co-exist and function with each other which is all the more reason why they must work together in promoting and developing the sport.

Mr. Allouche was very pleased to be in the country again and meet with the potential classifiers and hoped that they would go on to spread the word on wheelchair basketball in their respective states and contribute in developing wheelchair basketball in India.

Mr. Hammerton reiterated the need of adding the component of sport in the education framework with scientific sports. While elite level of education is good but education among youth with disabilities is very important. One of the biggest problem in disability sport is that often sports is introduced late in the lives of athletes with disabilities. To tackle this problem, one needs to introduce disability sports in existing special schools while creating awareness in inclusive schools. It is the duty of the coaches to concentrate their efforts on developing WCBB in nascent stages of the lives of athletes with disabilities. For the issue of doping, one must recognize the fine line between rightful medication and misuse. WCBB is an expensive sport to play because of the cost of sports wheelchairs, let alone the cost of customized sports wheelchairs. Finding a local alternative is important.

Ms. Maureen took the floor and emphasized that IWBF is committed to clean sports. WCBB must be developed at the top and bottom to build champions and to make sure that the sport isn’t introduced late in the lives of athletes with disabilities. WCBB is a revolutionary game. Being in wheelchairs isn’t a disadvantage when people watch the game because all they see is massive ability. WCBB allows to put different extent of physical disability together on court. All athletes must be individually prepared and committed to make sure that the sport grows.

Dr. Sachdeva added that the community must have a player-first approach.

Mr. Chaudhary shared that they are planning to develop a scientific sport team at national level which will be trickle down to state levels to educate all involved in the sport i.e., athletes and technical officials.

Ms. Madhavi urged the participants to put sincere efforts in promoting WCBB in India with scientific sports and technical education in mind and find more organizations to support the cause like IWBF, ICRC, Cognizant, private organisations and the government.

When the floor was opened for questions, Mr. Varun Ahlawat (Coach) asked if the athletes without disabilities could play wheelchair basketball too. Ms. Maureen responded that as an international competing sport, it doesn’t allow for athletes without disabilities to participate as they take away the spots for 4.5 classification since athletes without disabilities cannot be classified. But WCBB is an inclusive sport and informal participation is always encouraged.

Conclusion:

Ms. Maureen summarized the discussion stating that India has a long way to go. Considering that Under 23 Men Championship in 2017 and another international WCBB event in 2018 is taking place soon, India might be ready to compete on an international level. She advised WBFI that it would be smart of the WCBB Indian community to take support of other people of different sectors who complement the growth while identifying the needs and gaps and simultaneously addressing it. Passion and love for WCBB is always important for its growth. She thanked the panel members and the audience and wished WCBB team the best for its future endeavors.