Wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball and hand cycling gained a few extra enthusiasts at a come and try event today.
Wheelchair-using and able-bodied players tried out the three sports at the free Wheelchair Sports NSW (WSNSW) open day at Tamworth Sports Dome.
WSNSW regional sports development officer Joe Shoebridge said the day was about letting people try the sports and gauging their interest in ongoing social games or even competition.
“We wanted to give an opportunity for people who are not involved in sport to get involved in wheelchair sport specifically,” he said.
“We’re just seeing how many people are coming through the door and are interested in playing.”
Mr Shoebridge said many sports could be modified for someone in a wheelchair, and the organisation had about a dozen sports available, including bocce, wheelchair racing, archery and power lifting.
“We have the means to get people involved in a lot of different sports,” he said.
“Any way our members want to get involved in sport, we can generally help them.”
And he said the sports were open to anyone socially.
“Inclusion goes both ways, and while our target audience is people who use wheelchairs in daily life, it’s also open to non-users,” he said.
“It’s very challenging – if you’ve ever tried wheelchair tennis, I think it’s just about the hardest sport on Earth.”
‘Give it a go’
Tamworth resident Kate Swain, who has used a wheelchair since she was six years old, has played wheelchair basketball and tennis socially while living in Canberra, and has done sit-skiing, too.
“I’d encourage able-bodied people to give it a go, too – that’s the good thing about wheelchair sports: it’s very inclusive,” she said.
She said she’d gained fitness “and it’s a lot of fun; I’ve met some great people”.
Alex Wilkes is not a wheelchair user but said she’d found wheelchair basketball “really good”.
“I’ve played it before, but I think I prefer this; it’s really a lot more challenging,” she said.
Competitive wheelchair tennis player Fiona Sing said she used to play the sport as an able-bodied junior, but that hadn’t helped much.
“It’s totally different,” she said.
“You have to learn how to move your chair with the racquet in your hand; you have to move a lot quicker and you play on the same-sized court – you just get two bounces of the ball.”
Mr Shoebridge said the organisation had recently acquired 10 new wheelchair basketball chairs – the sport is played five-on-five – which will be kept at the University of New England in Armidale.
“That program is still in the developmental stages, but games will probably be weekly, and we’ll have the freedom to being the chairs to Tamworth as well … and if someone chooses to play more competitively, there are options through out the state,” he said.