The Story of the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships……..in Photos

I have been meaning to write this for some time now but life gets in the way.  Earlier this year I was in Worcester for the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships.  Some people might of thought what another tournament Rebecca?

Well this wasn’t just any tournament, it was my chance to combine the two things I love, crafting and basketball.  Also it was the qualifying tournament for European nations to go to Rio in 2016.  So what do I go and do, suggest another creative project to do alongside my officiating duties.

Well, I am so glad I did.  I contacted some other photographers and wanted to work alongside other people who produce some fantastic photography.  Things didn’t go to plan but you can’t foresee this happening.

I wanted to capture the story of the championships and the following people were kind enough to be part of my story.

The championships had a fan zone, giving people the opportunity to try wheelchair basketball, watch the games, learn to graffiti, get more information about sporting wheelchairs and learn more the University of Worcester.

Graffitiartist.com was in the fan zone throughout the championships not just in person but he sprayed a mural and a number of logos on the walls and some of these were captured in time-lapse videos and you can watch one here.

Malcolm is the chairman of British Wheelchair Basketball, he is extremely approachable and a good bass player.  He is so passionate about wheelchair basketball it radiates from him.

Matt is a friend and fellow table official, he is a team player and is always looking out for people.

Lee was the local engagement officer for the championships.  Leading up to and during the championships I kept bothering Lee with my creative ideas.  Thanks for listening.

Maurice was one of the first people I spoke to at championships.  He had a smile that said ‘let me ask if I could take his photo’, he said yes.

Alex and Steve like all the staff and volunteers put in some serious hours, but they were always smiling.

 

Carolyn has such a commitment to Wheelchair Basketball, she covers some serious miles to get to tournaments and games.  Planes, trains and automobiles comes to mind when I think about the travelling she does and I really admire this commitment.

Joe has a level of knowledge about the game of Wheelchair Basketball that made him an ideal commentator.  His commentary was great to listen to on the online feeds.

Mick is the Head of Institute of Sport & Exercise Science at the University of Worcester.  I have come across Mick many times and he has always been approachable and enthused about Wheelchair Basketball.

Andy is part of Sportserve who provide flooring, scoring equipment and everything in between to make a basketball game happen.  Yet again I took an opportunity to ask Andy to be part of my story and he said yes.  Andy, Will and their team were fantastic in everything they did to make the courts ready and you can see this on another time lapse video here.

Vicky is another kind and caring table official that I have the pleasure of working with.  Thank you for the pen and I am using at my games this season.

Miles is the GB Women’s Head Coach.  He was very accommodating by letting me take his photo at a tournamnet that was so meaningful for him and his team.  They won Bronze again and qualified for the Rio Paralympics, congratulations to you all.

Sam volunteered in the fan zone for the majority of the time.  He was another volunteer who put in some serious hours over championships.  He was friendly, confident and got people engaged whilst in the fan zone.

Ian, Saskia and Gabe are great officials to work with.  It was my pleasure to take this photo, see you at a game sometime.

Leive, is one of most amazing volunteers I have ever met.  She always wants to do her best when she volunteers.  I hope you make it to Rio.

This lady is a Community Support officer for the University of Worcester, I met her on the first day of the championships.  She had friendly vibe and said yes to having her photo taken but I can’t remember her name.

Javier, Linas (Leen-as) and Sasa were officials I have never worked with before.  The thing I love so much about wheelchair basketball is you get to meet so many nice people from around the world.  All photos have wording and I couldn’t fit on everything Sasa and the guys said to me, sorry.

Rob and Dan are from Worcester and have developed into good table officials.  They are always pleasant to be around, take on feedback enjoy being involved with wheelchair basketball in Worcester.  Keep thriving and being who you are.

Allan was a commissioner at the championships, he always put me at ease working on the games.  I look forward to seeing at another tournament.  Thank you.

The morning I took this photo of Ian and Calvin, they were busy in the Fan zone.  Calvin was coaching some fans how to play wheelchair basketball.  Ian was drawing pictures with a young child who didn’t want to get into a chair.  Being able to involve all members a family was great to see in the fan zone as this meant the family could stay longer and learn more about wheelchair basketball.

Toine is the team manager for the Dutch women’s team.  Another friendly face in the sport of wheelchair basketball.  The team managers for all teams worked so hard looking after players and coaches, I really commend you.

When I finally got Jay to stay still long enough to take this picture, he was tired and really busy.  He was also losing his voice.  He and all the staff kept so upbeat even after the mega days they had put in.

Wow!!! Jeff loves Wheelchair Basketball so much he flew from Chicago to volunteer.  It blows my mind to see how far people will travel in order to volunteer for something they love.

Ade, Ian & Abdi were grabbing a drink when I asked them to take this picture.  The timing couldn’t of been more perfect, they had just won and made it into the finals.  They won the finals and qualified for Rio.
This series of photos was first shown at the closing banquet of the championships.  There was a pianist playing whilst the photos were on big screens.  Hence the choice of music, this was added afterwards and fitted perfectly.  When people saw their friends and colleagues they cheered.  I can’t say how proud I felt to see how well my story in photos was received.

The following quote resonated with me whilst making gifts for the athletes “By doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others.”  So I included it in my story, I love making things and if I can inspire others to get get involved in crafts or sport I will be happy.  I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart every person who gave some of their free time to make gifts, shared my blog posts and tweets.

 

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Due to bad weather in the UK at the beginning of the year lots of games have had to be re-arranged.  Fast forward to March 2013, when checking my emails when I saw an email from Alison Flower asking me to officiate at Stoke Spitfires.  I’ve never officiated at Stoke before and was available to help out.  Alison & Andy picked me up from the railway station with a full car of chairs, basketballs & people.

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We arrived at their new venue a new academy school.

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For me it’s been a long time since I was at school so the buildings used to educate the future generations have changed.

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For a stranger to a new club everyone was very welcoming and friendly from the Outset.  As for the new venue the hall was nice but very cold, my hot water bottle will have to come with me next time.

I was officiating with a parent who wants to get more involved at the club.  She has a good knowledge of the game and picks things up really quickly.  She also had me in fits of laughter, when the game wasn’t going on.

With regards to the actual game, it was a great example of grass roots Basketball, with Stoke dominating in the first half.  Sheffield Steelers brought it back in the second half and played hard but just couldn’t get close enough with a final score of 49-37 to Stoke Spitfires.

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My day out in Stoke was lovely and makes remember all the good things I love about Wheelchair Basketball.  See you guys in Coventry next week.

People you meet along the way – chat with Joni Pollock

Every time I go and officiate a wheelchair basketball game now I am brought back to my memories of London 2012.  Through the build up to London I got the chance to meet lots of international players at tournaments and friendly games.  One of them was Joni Pollock who has retired from playing internationally and will start coaching in his home town of Wigan,UK.  I wanted to share with all our blog readers some questions I asked Joni.

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What was it like to compete at a home Paralympic Games?

It was great to compete in a home games.  I imagine any athlete from any sport would love that chance and I got it.  For most of my career the excitement of a tournament or games started at travel day, but this being our home games we didn’t have that.  We hoped to go to the opening ceremony to get that buzz but we didn’t and it back fired on us as a team.  The venues, the officials and the games makers were amazing but most of all the British public, they were second-to-none and the best I have ever come across in my career anywhere in the world. 

What effect do you think the Paralympic Games has had on the nation of Great Britain?

I believe post London games the bridge that has been between the Olympics and Paralympics is now more like a step than a bridge. Our great nation proved that were all athletes fighting for the spirit of GB.  It’s been noticeable in so many areas around the nation and how more people are now sports lovers and that is great. 

Who are you going to miss the most from your international basketball career?

I can’t really name an individual as there are so many I have become great friends with.  Most of all I think Simon Munn we’ve been in the GB setup together longer than the rest and we have shared blood, sweat and tears over 2 decades in the sport.   Others would be Dan Highcock Terry Bywater and most of all Abdi Jama.  He is a friend for life and a super player.  People from overseas stay in touch through the  social media world right now but I am hoping to see them all again from the coach’s role in time.  

What would you like to ask a referee or table official?

Table officials I would not ask anything, they do a great job.  I  would ask referees that changing a decision is allowed.  I would love to see how many referees have DVD footage of games at home and study the game.  We train hard and some of us study even harder to make the game easier but if the referees don’t all they then do is weaken the game.

Would you ever become a table official?

NO never!  I get angry too easily and get involved watching sport on television.  So to sit courtside and not get involved would be impossible.  Plus I tried officiating once at Stoke Mandeville but forgot to write as I ended up watching the game, haha.

What was the best piece of basketball advice you were given in your playing career?

I spoke to all the greats from the game over my time for advice.  One once told me to always take the challenge, never be the passenger.  Which worded his way was “If it’s going to be, then its up to me”  I always wanted the ball at crunch time thats how you make the name.  Plus its not good putting the ball into the hands of fear and you see that in team mates at crunch time.  The other thing was if I could train alone I would, so I could work on things without distraction.  As I was also told whatever time you spend  training that I promise you someone else in the world is doing the same to beat me!  That drove me on.

What piece of basketball advice would you would give to a young player?

Study the game, live for the game.  If you commit to it then it can take you anywhere on the planet I’ve done it for 20 years, but it is a commitment.  Why just take part to me is boring.

Now you have retired from international Wheelchair Basketball what can your fans and supporters do to help the sport of Wheelchair Basketball, especially in Great Britain?

Find a local team and become a fan its so hard in this country playing in a league were there are few fans.  Get down and follow your local team. its always free to watch and I am sure if we get more people watching and supporting then we will improve the atmosphere which will drive the players to be better.

Will Liverpool (Joni supports Liverpool) finish higher than Arsenal (I support Arsenal) in the Premier League?

Maybe and maybe not.  But if they stopped spending money on all the cleaners in the trophy room and started buying more players I’m sure they will.  On the other hand, we don’t have a manager that doesn’t buy players as though he is spending his own money, hahahahaha!

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I’m sure everyone reading this will join me in wishing Joni all the best with his coaching career and his future.  It can be hard to walk away from something you hold dear to your heart and has given you both joy and pain such as playing Basketball.  So knowing the likes of Joni are willing to give back to their sport is inspiring a generation. Joni has an event taking place on Saturday 9th February in Wigan, UK. Click here for more details.

22nd December 2011

On this day last year was when many of the NTO’s received a letter saying their would be going to the Olympics and Paralympics. I was on my lunch break and saw someone’s status on Facebook and I ran home to check my post with a sick feeling in my stomach. Once I got home my letter was there, so I opened it and had to read it a few times to believe I was going to be part of the Paralympics.

Fast forward 365 days and I still can’t believe I was part of the biggest Paralympic event in the world. As it is nearly Christmas I am spending time with my family and I thought I would try and catch some Basketball and see friends. One of the topics of conversation is still my time at the Paralympics, which I really don’t mind talking about.

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I just don’t know where 2012 has gone but I have got some great memories and made some new friends through Wheelchair Basketball. Not forgetting officiating at Euro-league at the Wolverhampton Rhinos, the Paralympic World Cup and the European U22 Championships. I do feel very blessed to be involved with all of these events along with each and every game at Blackcats and Crusaders throughout the domestic season.

I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a great new year.

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Spot the trilby

Questions, questions.

A while ago I saw IWBF had posted on Facebook “What do you miss about the Paralympics?” My answer to this question was everything & everybody.

Then I started thinking about why do people get involved in Basketball, what keeps them involved in Basketball and what happens when you can’t play anymore?

On Sunday I was officiating at my local club in Birmingham, UK and there were a number of faces missing on court.  I don’t know why some people were not around but I know some people’s bodies won’t allow them to play anymore.

Birmingham Blackcats home court
Birmingham Blackcats home court

When I got to the venue on Sunday with my hot water bottle and cushion in hand, I asked myself why haven’t I got in a chair played wheelchair basketball?  The venue is very cold hence the hot water bottle but this Sunday there was a warmth of supporters.  This time it wasn’t just friends and family, people had got the club’s details from the internet and wanted to watch a wheelchair Basketball game.

I also got asked if one of the home club coaches relative could sit with the table and learn about the 24 second clock.  “Of course”, a young lad turned up called Ryan.  I asked why did he want to learn about the 24?  He said he wanted to get get involved with the club and help out.  He seemed to grasp when the shot clock would start and change possession.  I set him some homework to read up about the duties of the 24 second operator and hopefully we get Ryan qualified as a table official.

Next Sunday I will be at another local club in the West Midlands officiating and the question I will ask are have their numbers stayed high after the Paralympics?

One last question, do you have any new year’s resolutions, Basketball or otherwise?

Back to life

Back to reality.  These are not just words from a Soul II Soul song but what has happened to us all now London 2012 is over.  Oh my, I still miss being at the Paralympics.

Today I officiated my first Wheelchair Basketball game of the season.  The final score was 30-13 to Crusaders verses Mansfield Maulers.  For the first time in a long time the coach had far too many players to choose from.  It was lovely to see some of the players from last season and lots of new faces.

Two new players made their debut in the league today.  One of these players has only been with the club for three weeks.  I asked the coach where did you find him?  The answer I got was “He found us”.  The player in question had been watching Wheelchair Basketball at the Paralympics and wanted to give it a try.  This is a true story I only heard today that brought a smile to my face and a warm glow in my heart.  You could tell this player was raw with his skills but his confidence and self esteem were there in abundance, welcome to the Basketball Family.

What now?

Nearly two weeks has passed after eleven days of amazing sporting performances ended.

Whilst being at the Paralympics I was asked to celebrate with one of the Wheelchair Basketball clubs I officiate for in Great Britain.  It turned out that another NTO was a statistician at both games, I table officiated, a referee lives locally & two of the children (Not pictured) carried the Olympic torch.

It was lovely to share this evening with the children and parents of the club and I got a chance to wear my uniform again, this included my Trilby.  The Paralympics has had a positive effect on people’s awareness of disability sports and the Wheelchair Basketball club in Coventry has had increased numbers for training.

I am so proud and honoured to have had the opportunity to experience the Paralympics but what happens now?   Well, the next two weekends will see the start of all domestic leagues in Great Britain who haven’t already started.  The other thing that has started in Great Britain is the change of weather and this means the Basketball season is truly here.

I intend to continue blogging throughout the season and sharing my love of Basketball with whoever reads my blog and asks me about the Paralympics.

When looking through images that have captured the Paralympics I came across this one on Pinterest which has great composition.  The reason for adding it to this blog is when I showed it to a colleague at my day job he didn’t notice the coach has no lower legs, he just thought it was a well taken photo.  All the people I have spoken to have seen past the disability and see the skill involved in Wheelchair Basketball.  Thanks for the photo Ben Smith.