I’m buckled firmly into the seat, almost like an aggressive stewardess is prepping me for a plane’s departure. The seatbelt is fastened sharply around my waist and my legs adjusted into the right position.
I’m in Gannochy; Stirling University’s sports hall is hosting a wheelchair basketball session. On an otherwise regular afternoon, I’m trying to convince my wheelchair-using friend that playing basketball cannot be that difficult. It becomes very clear, very quickly, however, that I am absolutely wrong.
After I get strapped into one of the spare wheelchairs, the coach hands me the basketball. “Dribble!” She exudes a level of confidence I can’t reflect. Trying to bounce the ball with one hand and move the wheelchair – myself – with the other is not going great.
My friend, who’s had this movement disadvantage her entire life, laughs and takes videos to embarrass me on social media. Great. I’m the Kim Kardashian of wheelchair basketball.
The baskets at each end of the court, to my surprise and dismay, are the same height as in any basketball game. Even under normal circumstances, and with my natural height advantage (being 5’8), I couldn’t make a shot. Now that I’m sitting and completely unable to use my legs, the best I can do is stare at the hoops from below. No chance.
It doesn’t seem to be a problem for the regular members of wheelchair basketball though. They’re flying up and down the court, hitting basket after basket like the sky’s the limit. All that’s left for me to do is unbuckle myself, stretch my legs, and offer cheers from the bench.
This isn’t an option for so many university students, however. Something that seems so simple, like participating in sport, presents so many difficulties. Many people can’t just stand up and walk away: it’s an everyday circumstance that can’t be avoided.
Stirling embraced the Just Play Sport programme at the start of this academic year, which encompasses a myriad of sports: football, badminton, basketball, zumba, amd wheelchair tennis and basketball.
Amy Beattie, students sports experience officer, explains the beauty of participating in Just Play Sport. There’s no daunting commitment, “you can just turn up” says Beattie. It’s free for any students with a gym membership, free for all first years, and just a £2 drop-in rate for any other student.
She explains that Stirling University are “working with Scottish Disability Sport to provide more opportunities to disabled students.” The wheelchair basketball sessions have also been supported by Basketball Scotland.
Beattie emphasises the idea that wheelchair basketball is open to anyone that attends Stirling. “All students can come along even if they’re not a wheelchair user.”
There’s no stress to it; you just have to show up, and anyone can. Wheelchair basketball is a sport for everyone.