National Wheelchair Basketball Athletes Bring Sports Passion
By Anne Philips and Carlton Coleman
For only the second time in recent memory, the parking lot in front
of Bldg. 1 was cleared to make way for street ball. The Maryland
Ravens, a team of nationally ranked wheelchair athletes, played a
vigorous game of basketball against a squad of enthusiastic NIH
Police. Earnest but new to the game, the police soon showed
themselves to be unprepared for the physical and cognitive demands
of wheelchair propulsion and play. The exhibition game inaugurated
NIH's annual observance of National Disability Awareness Month.
Carlton Coleman (l) of OEO and NIH Police Cpl. Roman "Chad"
Henkins vie for control of jump ball, as tossed by R&W's Randy
On behalf of NIH, Stephen A. Ficca, director of the Office of
Research Services, greeted the Ravens and opened the exhibition to
a spirited crowd. The Ravens easily trounced the NIH squad 51 to
49, despite the police starting out with an unearned 40-point lead.
While wheelchair basketball is similar to the running game, it is also
characterized by its own unique style. The high-intensity sport
reveals its own system of attack, possessing a unique dribbling rule
to accommodate the movement of athletes in wheelchairs. Everyone
thoroughly enjoyed the game. A second game (see sidebar below),
pitting the Ravens against another NIH squad, Double Helix, was
held later in the Clinical Center.
For more than 25 years, the Ravens have made working with
children with disabilities their primary off-the-court objective.
Throughout the year, players are available for personal appearances:
hospital visits, speaking engagements, school visits and other
community service. The goal of these appearances is to use the
players' role-model status as prominent members of the Maryland
sports and disability communities. Through Combined Federal
Campaign #3067, contributions to the Maryland Ravens, Inc., help
promote personal development, citizenship and leadership among
youth with disabilities.
On NIH's impromptu court, Maryland Ravens event coordinator
Eddie Diggs (l) and Ravens Forward Sam Winston (c) accept a
token of appreciation from John Miers of the disability awareness
program planning committee. |
The planning committee for the disability awareness program
presented plaques of appreciation to the NIH Police, the Maryland
Ravens and the Double Helix for helping make this a successful
experience for the NIH community.
Experiencing Wheelchair Basketball
By Dr. Derrick C. Tabor
The evening portion of the recent disability awareness program
featured a wheelchair basketball game between the Maryland
Ravens and the Double Helix, a coed, multiethnic, multi-generational
group of employees from the National Institute of General Medical
Sciences. Double Helix was formed in 1998 in response to a
challenge to play the Ravens as part of that year's disability
The game this year was played on the half-court gym on the 14th
floor of Bldg. 10. In contrast to the outcome of the 1998 game,
where Double Helix failed to score a single point, this year the
NIH'ers lost by only 3 points. The closeness of the game was due to
an innovative scoring approach in which Helix was awarded 3 points
for every basket scored and the Ravens were awarded only a single
point for each basket. All players used wheelchairs in the game.
Despite Helix's advantage, the game was exciting for both the
audience and participants. As is their forte, the Maryland Ravens
displayed superb ball- handling abilities, deft passing, accurate
shooting, and an impressive defensive game that literally kept
Double Helix off balance. As captain of the home squad, I noted
that in spite of the scoring advantage and the far superior play of the
Ravens, we kept the game close through luck and the teamwork of
Helix players Judit Camacho, John Matala and Liz Mullican, all of
whom scored at least two or more baskets, which was amazing
given that none of them had played wheelchair basketball before.
The Ravens beat both NIH squads indoors and out.|
Although the game was enjoyable, the highlight of the evening was
wheeling back to Bldg 1. Once the game ended, Helix traveled in
wheelchairs from the gym to the front of Bldg. 1 in order to return
borrowed wheelchairs to the van. This unscheduled event provided
another opportunity for our team to appreciate the challenge of using
a wheelchair. The experience of traveling a different
path the difficulty of finding a wheelchair-friendly path that
includes only downhill terrain was in itself illuminating. In that short
trip, I learned how to rely on others in meeting the physical demands
of continuously pushing and in accommodating my newly expanded
personal space. I also experienced firsthand how to fit three
wheelchairs and two adults in one of the small elevators in Bldg. 10.
Most importantly, no one was left behind or had to exit the elevator.
What creativity! What commitment! What community! Lastly, our
team members had the revealing experience of how difficult it is to
be in a wheelchair caravan, observed by strangers, and not wonder:
Why are they staring? What are they thinking?
Through my experiences with the Maryland Ravens since 1998, I
have been sensitized in unexpected ways to the some of the
continual challenges faced by those who use wheelchairs. I have
experienced, if for only a short time, being in a new community, a
wheelchair community. In doing so, I have found a new respect and
appreciation for the special abilities they must count on day in and
Membership in Double Helix, a wheelchair basketball team, is open
to all NIH employees. I encourage anyone with an interest to come
out next year and participate in the experience of a lifetime. Who
knows, you might get lucky and make a basket.
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