How the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India is working to help differently-abled athletes in COVID times

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The organisation has organised a host of online activities and training sessions for their members

This year has not been kind to sportspeople. With COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown, teams had to bid sports facilities and group training, an abrupt adieu. Differently-abled athletes have got the short end of the stick, as physiotherapy sessions, water therapy and a host of other facilities were unavailable to them until Unlock 5. But, P Madhavi Latha, founder-president of the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) is made of sterner stuff. Through the lockdown, she has organised a host of online activities and training sessions to lift both the spirits of the members, and their game.

Madhavi explains, “We conducted webinars on game rules by both Indian and foreign coaches, and a series on success stories by Paralympic gold medal winners, from across the globe. We arranged online sessions with physiotherapists, fitness and conditioning experts with simple tips on how to exercise with items found at home like bottles of water. Those recordings are available on our social media platforms and the players can watch them any time.”

Madhavi is also a national paralympic swim athlete, and has been longing to get some laps in. “In the absence of regular swimming, I started spending at least two hours practising yoga, including laughter yoga, pranayama, some other exercises, and meditation. But still it’s not equivalent to the effect of swimming.” Seeing the plight of wheelchair basketball players across the country, WBFI has helped soften the blow by reaching out to 300 of its members, with groceries and medical aid. “More than the equipment and essentials, we need financial support to engage the services of coaches and physiotherapists who are currently supporting the players on an honorary basis. We are also looking for support to arrange skill development sessions as many players are facing fiscal challenges due to loss of income during the pandemic,” Madhavi entreats.

To bring some sense of normalcy to an otherwise event-free year, WBFI has decided to conduct a competition as it does every year. This time it will be online, at the national and zonal level. ‘Virtually Unstoppable’ comprises four categories: quiz, art, skills and fitness challenges. Each State can send 20 participants. So far, there have been entries on Facebook, with movement, music, jewellery making, art. Likes and comments on social media will impact overall judgment in the category, to invite more public participation.

How the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India is working to help differently-abled athletes in COVID times

Fitness and skill challenges have more stringent criteria. International basketball referee, Anupam Sharma explains, “For the skills challenges, three or four judges will scrutinise the one-minute videos of the athletes dribbling, shooting, or displaying defence using the wheelchair. There is flexibility in whether the athletes use a sports wheelchair, a regular one or even a chair.” The fitness challenge entails doing wheelchair push ups, upper body workouts using TheraBands, 2 kilogram dumbbells or filled water bottles, and pranayama or surya namaskar in a wheelchair.

Hima Kalyani, who is currently working from her hometown in West Godavari, and practising her dribbling skills, says, “During the lockdown it was tough for us, as there was no court, but we have been in touch with each other via conference calls and that really lifts our morale and makes us feel like a team.”



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