Never tell a child they can’t do something, always, always let them try. Anything they want to try, any goal they reach for, stand at their side and reach for that goal with them. Let them know they have you, all of you for as long as they need you and they will give back to your heart in spades! – Mum. Me.
That’s what the boy did. He gave it all back to my heart in spades. He found a new direction, not even from the ashes of the old one. That was gone, never to be resurrected. The boy was now wheelchair bound and heading towards those awkward years neither a child nor a teenager, he was 11.
His baby face had gone and a young man was appearing before my eyes. But I would always think of him as my boy. Even though he was now taller than me. I stand at 5ft exactly in my bare feet. He was and still is, proud of his height and physique. He worked hard to get himself as fit as he is.
Just before he started High School in the September of 2001 a leaflet was posted through my Mum’s door. It was advertising a Disability Sport Fun Day and it was to be held the weekend before the new term began and it was to be held at his new high school. My mum said, why not go? Check it out, at least he can see the school while he’s there if nothing else.
I handed him the leaflet fully expecting him to throw it to one side but he didn’t. He read it, and then put it down. I didn’t ask him what he thought, I figured he would tell me in his own time. He did.
‘Mum, that leaflet you gave me, the Disability sport thing?’ He said.
What about it? I asked
Can we go? He said
Yes we can go, when is it? I was cautiously optimistic.
It’s tomorrow. He said.
So tomorrow came and we went. We arrived in good time for the start of the event. It was set out in different categories of sports, track and field events were outside, wheelchair racing was outside, wheelchair basketball and boccia were inside along with archery and table tennis. He tried out the track and field events first, he was quite excited to meet members of the different GB squad members. He had questions for all of them and I watched him soak up the information they gave him. He collected information, leaflets and had a go at each sport too. Coaches approached from all sides, he was good. He could throw a javelin a fair distance, he also threw clubs, a shot putt and had a go in a racing chair. In short he had a blast and appeared to be emerging as a natural raw talent.
Coaches came and chatted with him, tried to encourage him to join them, but he wasn’t convinced. He had just come out of a really rough time and I think he was just looking to have a bit of fun for once.
He said he would think about what they were offering and then he disappeared inside the sports hall. I followed him in and then sat on the side lines and watched as he began chatting with a GB women’s basketball player who was there demonstrating and hopefully recruiting fresh young blood into the game.
She took him away to where the different basketball chairs were banked and she found one that fit him. He transferred with ease and strapped himself in. She put the basketball in his hands and showed him how to push the chair and bounce the ball at the same time. He was hooked. Sucked in, completely absorbed by the sheer freedom that basketball chair gave him. It turns out, he can clear a rubber floored full length basketball court in just under 8 seconds, on wood he would be classed as a speed demon. She signed him up for her club and we were now embarking on his newest adventure. He was going to be a wheelchair basketball player.
I had a little chuckle to myself as I thought back to that fateful day with Ms J the snotty physio, that had started the dancing rollercoaster ride off. How she had declared emphatically that his future was in wheelchair sport. Well, it turns out she was right but it wasn’t on her terms, it was the boy who had chosen and in his own time. His life his rules, no one else’s.
That first year was all about the training, learning, making mistakes, sitting on the side lines and watching the team play their matches week in and week out, learning the correct posture for shooting, how to position the chair to avoid contact with other players. How to be in the right place at the right time, how to pass, how to catch all while on the move at roughly 20 mile an hour! where to aim on the backboard for a 2 point or 3 point basket. How to be a team player. He learnt it all. So did I.
The Boy was 12 now and it was his first match for his team and he was sat in his colours, prouder than I have ever seen him look. He was desperate to get on that court and play in the match but it was highly unlikely to happen just yet. He was content though because he had made the team even if it was only as far as the bench. It would just be a matter of time.
Well, that time came sooner than either of us expected, one of our players was fouled out of the game and we were short a big forward. The boy was no longer short in body, he was reaching a good 5 and a half foot in height. Sat in a forwards chair this made him extremely valuable on court. He was on! Coach called his number and he took his position. I could see his nerves and then I saw him control them and go into his ‘zone’. Damn! It was the finest moment of my life! I saw my boy reach for his dreams again with both hands.
I wish I could give you the blow by blow details of that first match, I can see every second of it in my mind’s eye, but I would be writing forever and if you don’t know basketball then you would probably fall asleep reading! I wish I could show you just what this beautiful game gave my boy. All I can say is, it gave him his life back and on his own terms and in full glorious colour!
He took two shots at the basket and scored one. That first basket is still the best one as far as this proud mama is concerned. He had taken every single thing he had learned over the previous 12 months and applied it in that 8 seconds of shooting time. He shoots! He SCORES! THAT’S MY BOY!
Don’t ask where his father was, you already know the answer. But remember this, we now preferred it this way.
My perfectly imperfect boy was on his way once again.
All images courtesy of the internet.