Filling UP My Soul with Basketball

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I am so looking forward to once again recreating myself or maybe just filling up my soul.  My impending move to Tucson, Arizona where I will be an Assistant Women’s Wheelchair Basketball coach at the University of Arizona, under my dear friend Pete Hughes has me so very excited.  I will also hopefully again be working with farmers’ markets, which next to basketball is one of my major life passions.  My life seems to have taken a major happiness turn.

Today for the very first time I coached three Nepalis who are blind and one with sight impairment in basketball.  This came about through one of my Nepali daughters Sristi KC who is currently visiting her homeland.   She has started an organization, Blind Rocks and has been studying for her MA in Norway.  She will finish up her second year by studying for three months in Hungary and then onto London to finish her MA program.  In May 2017, a feature movie  about Sristi’s life, which will be shot in India and Nepal, will be premiered in London.    Sristi has traveled to so many countries and through her intrepidness has inspired me and so many others. 

For many years Sristi has been asking me to teach her basketball.  Coaching wheelchair athletes is one thing but helping someone who is blind to play basketball, I just wasn’t really sure.  There definitely is blind basketball being played.  But it requires a bell in a basketball and some kind of sound mechanism on the backboard.  This doesn’t exist in Nepal.

We all went to the Godavari Alumni Association in Thamel, the site where I’ve injured myself on both of my feet and ankles playing basketball.  The courts aren’t great but the rims are now fairly straight and there aren’t any cracks remaining from last year’s earthquake.  However one must still watch out for puddles caused by the monsoon and the leaky, metal, kind of roof. 

What better way to start then with the triple threat position, pass, shoot or dribble.  I thought that all of my students would be able to dribble, because I frequently get a massage at Seeing Hands in Thamel, after I play basketball.  One day I walked in and gave my basketball to one of the massage therapists and he just went right to it.  I was also positive that I could teach everyone to shoot even without some kind of sound device on the backboard, however I wasn’t so sure about passing given that I didn’t have a ball with a bell in it.

I put everyone into the basic triple threat position and then had them individually dribble. Once they understood that all that they had to do was move their right arm up and then straight down, they all got it.  Even I tried this with my eyes closed. I can just imagine that most people playing basketball for a long time should be able to close their eyes and dribble.

The next step was to teach shooting.  Now imagine that you’ve never shot a basketball and you’re asked to make a hoop without the sense of sight.   Individually I put each person’s hand on the basketball in the appropriate shooting position and asked them to bring their arms straight up over their head.  I positioned each player about four feet from the hoop and initially stood behind them in order to guide their shot.  I then let them go to out and sure enough Sristi made a couple of hoops by herself.  I had to help two of the other players as they were more throwing the ball as opposed to shooting, but with my assistance they did score.  I left passing for another time.

There were mainstream players on the court watching.  Part of coaching disability sports in Nepal is about creating awareness and opportunity.  Many of you know about the Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League (this is the first video about the League).  What these mainstream players saw on the same court in which they played were blind people shooting hoops, hopefully an “aha” moment, oh these guys can play too!  But it is one thing to coach athletes in wheelchairs who can move up and down the court very rapidly and it’s another to coach people who are blind and have never played or maybe never even have seen basketball being played.

I’ve tried blind cricket and although I didn’t play growing up I was able to be blindfolded and with a ball with a bell in it, somewhat properly bowl.  But for playing basketball one has to move up and down the court.  If someone is blind even with a ball with a bell in it this would seem to be very challenging.  

Although I’m undersized, depending on the season I’ve played all kinds of sports my entire life. For basketball this is more than 50 years.    I feel inspired that I can continue to play for a long time if I avoid cracks on the court, as I’ve seen my Uncle Jerry continue to be an active tennis player into his 80’s.  As I move to Tucson I will learn how to play in a wheelchair which might come in handy as I continue to age but will mean that I can play into my 90’s.

The athletes living with a disability that I’ve come into contact with in the US, India and Nepal have so inspired me to the point where I feel that I want to be more of an integral part.  This path started in India when I coached basketball at the Delhi YMCA every Saturday night and worked at the National Trust during the day.  This led me to Wheelchair Athletes Worldwide and wheelchair basketball projects in India and Nepal.   This is now leading me towards my country of birth and the ability to take what I learn and one day bring it back to countries such as India and Nepal. 



Position: Lover of Life-Change Agent

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