Earlier this semester, I had the opportunity to participate in a wheelchair basketball session alongside my peers, as part of our Inclusive PE module in the Physical Education degree programme. Delivered by British wheelchair athlete Gordon Perry, this practical session took place in the run up to one of our assignments, and initially we wondered how it would connect with theory relating to equality, diversity and inclusion in physical education we had been learning about in lectures.
As a group of students who had no experience in using a wheelchair, it was great to participate in an activity which allowed us to develop our knowledge and skills in a practical setting and progress throughout the session. Everyone got stuck in, from helping to set up and move the wheelchairs into the hall, before learning how to use them in a sports environment.
Starting with the basics, we learnt how to sit correctly in the chair, use the wheels for rotation, increase speed, and stop. This then progressed into mini competitive races. Over the course of three hours, Gordon taught us how to control a wheelchair and how to play a full-sized game. At this point, the challenge was playing in a game situation and using all the skills we had just been taught. We finished our session with a new-found understanding of how exhausting and challenging wheelchair basketball is, and the level of skill required.
Nobody wanted the session to end because it was so much fun, and I would welcome the opportunity to do it again. At the end, we had gained new skills and all hesitancies around navigating the wheels had been eliminated as it’s like riding a bicycle.
The skills we learnt from the session are so transferable and my initial preconceptions were proved wrong, and I felt guilty for misjudging the session. Playing wheelchair basketball was more beneficial for my learning and my assignment than being sat in the classroom. I was able to understand why coaches teach content in the order they do, how they keep everyone involved and engaged, but most importantly, I gained valuable insight into what I could do as a coach if ever I need to adapt a session.
The social aspects of the session were also incredibly beneficial. After remote learning and teaching last year, it was fantastic to be able to do something practical with everyone from the course, and get to know each other face-to-face. Gordon was very personable and got everyone involved, so this only made us more engaged.
By the end of the session, which was organised by the Module Coordinator Lisa Gannon, we were all talking and laughing, shouting each other's names across the court during match play, and I enjoyed speaking to students I had never spoken to before. Overall, wheelchair basketball pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it has been so beneficial to my confidence and broadening my perspective.
Leanne Yeomans is a Final Year Physical Education student at Leeds Trinity University. Find out more about our programmes in Sport, Health and Physical Education.
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