The inaugural wheelchair basketball tournament for the Sportable Spokes (Ronnie's team) was held at the University of Richmond this weekend. Teams from North Carolina, Washington, D.C. and Long Island, New York joined the Spokes for as many games as could be packed into the two days.
This was the first tournament hosted here, and only the second tournament in which the Spokes have competed. Last January's first tournament was in Smithfield, NC. During both tournaments, I was struck by the level of compassionate sportsmanship shown by all the teams involved.
What do I mean by that? Well, wheelchair basketball teams are composed of young people with many different levels of abilities. On Ronnie's team there are boys like him with Spinda Bifida, boys who experienced life changing accidents, boys with different kinds of birth injuries, and even one boy with a trach. There are very small boys, very large boys, and a whole lot inbetween. Some play very competitively, and some are just happy to be able to wheel back and forth on the court. It's what happens when teams like that come together that makes magic.
There is, of course, a lot of competition - a lot of rough play, wheelchairs crashing into each other, a lot of yelling out positions and a lot of stealing the ball. But there is also a lot of rolling aside so the smallest boy on the team can try for a basket. If the score is heavy on one team and light on the other, there is a lot of 'letting' some scores happen. And, I have never seen the anger that erupts sometimes when teenagers get together for competitive sports.
When I first witnessed this during the North Carolina tournament, I thought perhaps it was a fluke - maybe just some really good kids on a team ensuring that everyone had a good time. But I saw it again this weekend - among all the teams that played.
The kids on the team, with no orders from their coaches, made sure everyone had a chance to play as well as a chance to shine. After the games, there were true smiles, true 'thanks', and true joy. It's this kind of behavior, behavior initiated by the kids themselves, that reaffirms my faith in the future.
I am so proud of the Spokes and all the other teams that played this weekend, and we are all looking forward to the next tournament. Chip was the official photographer for the tournament, and Ashley is shown below modeling the official t-shirt! Here are a few pictures - more to come soon!
The young man below is from the Long Island team and after the last game, showed us all one of his 'special' wheelchair moves!