RCP starts a junior wheelchair basketball team

An exciting opportunity for children with a physical disability has made its way to the Upstate. A junior wheelchair basketball program has been started to provide an adaptive sport and recreation opportunity that has previously been absent from the greater Greenville area. The junior wheelchair basketball program is part of the Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital and the Upstate Community Abilities Network (UCAN). The program offers wheelchair basketball to kids from ages 5-18 years old. Our team will compete within the junior division of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA).

Wheelchair basketball is a Paralympic sport for those with physical mobility impairments. The wheelchair is used to level the field of play. Those that play the sport may not always use a chair in everyday life, but to help them compete in basketball. The program does not require that a child be a full-time wheelchair user or even own a wheelchair. All that is necessary is that the child has a long-term physical limitation that prevents him or her from participating in a typical basketball program and is able to operate a manual wheelchair.  The physical impairments can range from spinal cord injuries, amputations, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, strokes and other conditions impacting mobility.

I’m the head coach of the junior wheelchair basketball program. I have more than 20 years of experience as a player and coach. The  sport has given me an opportunity to travel across the United States and around the world.

Many of the same rules and scoring of able-bodied basketball apply. The sport maintains a 10-foot basketball hoop for players 13 and up and a standard basketball court. The exceptions to these rules have been adapted and modified with the consideration of the wheelchair. Players younger than 13 play on a court with a lower rim and smaller basketball.

The goal of the program is to offer a wheelchair basketball team for children with physical disabilities otherwise not offered in our local community based programs. Hudson, one of our junior players, traveled to Charlotte, N.C., for more than a year to play with a juniors team. Thanks to his mom, Brandi, who helped start the team in Greenville, now he has the opportunity to play locally and be a leader on the newly developed team. The benefit of children participating in our wheelchair sports program is quite evident as they develop skills that will help them not only in basketball but in life as well. The benefits to the children include social interaction with their peers, physical fitness and increased self-confidence.

The team currently practices once a week on Thursdays from 5-6 pm at Saint Matthews United Methodist Church in Greenville. If you are interested in participating please contact Kristen Caldwell at (864) 455-3262 or email kcaldwell5@ghs.org

Jeff Townsend has had the opportunity to travel all over the United States and the world while playing and coaching wheelchair basketball during the past 22 years. His travels have taken him to Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Spain, Mexico, Australia, Sri Lanka, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. He has been named a three-time NBA/NWBA All Star, been named to multiple all-tournament teams at the national championships for wheelchair basketball and played professionally in both Australia and Spain.

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