Last night I went up to Santa Cruz again with the guys who are learning basketball. What is the proper, politically correct name for this? Paraplegic basketball? Each of them get about ok without a wheelchair in their everyday life.
Last night was a bit of a surprise, first of all the traffic was much heavier, so it took longer to get there, then there were loads more people milling around the entrance (school holidays I thought), then there were lots of people whizzing around the court when we arrived, and it was then that I remembered that there had been one of the big football matches on last Wednesday, so it had been an unusual night.
My guys quickly sorted themselves out wheelchairs, and began their exercises, and then some practice, shooting hoops and passing. After last week, I assumed that this was all they would do – wrong! They actually spent an hour playing, and what an eyeopener it was for me!
In general, it was fascinating to observe the variety of people, from a very glamorous young woman to a really friendly grandfather (I know that cos his grandson was with him). It’s wrong to make assumptions, needless to say, but I couldn’t help thinking how each must have their own story, and wondering what the story was that had brought them to this time and place.
The game was amasingly fast, and the old hands spun those chairs around like a coin on a shiny surface, with seemingly little effort. Of course, there was plenty of effort – that was just lots of practice. They were all very helpful to “my guys” advising them, or explaining a better way to do something when the occasion arose, except for one guy, who got very impatient when Amara was considering a shot, and shouted at him. He was a very aggressive player though, he had a collison with someone else and fell out of his chair. The overall atmosphere was friendly but competitive. I was absolutely spellbound. I’d taken a book because I figured it this is going to be a regular thing then I won’t always just want to watch the training, but I didn’t even open my bag. It was a exciting as any sport I’ve ever watched, and after a while the fact they were in wheelchairs faded and I was simply enjoying a game.
“My guys” did well, too. Two of them scored a couple of baskets – Lamine from a good distance, he got applause from the others. It would have been a great shot even for an experienced player – I suspect that there was a fair bit of luck – but I have never in my life seen a broader smile or a face light up in such a way as when he realized it had gone in!! Marebo made a really good defensive move and got high fives from other players too. So it really was a terrific night. I so hope they get to play in a league match. I don’t know yet just how that works.
This is a whole, new world for me, so it is quite absorbing. I have known them all long enough not to think too much about their disabilities, so I hopefully don’t treat anyone else any differently. I assume this is the right thing to do. We live and learn.