Wheelchair basketball in Nanaimo could use a new wave of players.
The Nanaimo Tsunami partnered with B.C. Wheelchair Basketball, including Comox Valley and Victoria programs, to present the Harbour City Slam earlier this month.
The play day at Oliver Woods Community Centre on May 11 included instructions and games as the Tsunami look to build their numbers.
Jocelyn Maffin, a Tsunami player and one of the organizers of the Harbour City Slam, said it can be rare for smaller communities to be able to have wheelchair basketball programs, so it’s important to keep participation numbers healthy.
“Without those opportunities, there’s not a lot of adapted sport for people with disabilities like myself to play,” Maffin said. “So getting more people involved is a really crucial part of being able to offer wheelchair basketball.”
People with disabilites and able-bodied people play alongside one another. Maffin said about half the participants at this month’s event hadn’t played the sport, and some were using a wheelchair for the first time.
“You don’t need any experience – able bodies, disabled can all play. We have the wheelchairs, so we’ll show you how to use them. We’re a community team so we focus on everyone having fun and getting good exercise,” she said. “When we play in the league or go in tournaments, sure, we play to win, but there’s room for all levels.”
Michelle Stilwell, Parksville-Qualicum MLA and a former Paralympic gold medallist in wheelchair basketball and racing, was playing and helping out at the Harbour City Slam event and said it puts a smile on her face. She met her husband through wheelchair basketball – he was participating as an able-bodied player – and she said some people don’t know that it’s an integrated sport.
“So many of these people are brothers and sisters or friends, that are able-bodied that have a friend that live with a disability,” Stilwell said.
She said the sport can also appeal to people who are aging and may not be able to run, or run as fast, and wheelchair basketball can keep them in the game.
“It’s a great way to stay healthy and active no matter what your level of ability,” Stilwell said.
For more information about the Nanaimo Tsunami, visit www.facebook.com/nanaimotsunami.