PRIDE (Perseverance, Resilience, Integrity, Determination, Empowerment)

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Alongside colleagues, I’ve been coaching the Bridge II Sports (BIIS) PRIDE (Perseverance, Resilience, Integrity, Determination) Youth (5-15 years of age) Wheelchair Basketball Team.  The name PRIDE and the acronym for our team originated with (Coach) Akeem Hassell who has played wheelchair basketball for almost 20 years.  Akeem is an amazing athlete, motivational speaker and BIIS employee.  The name PRIDE reflects his life journey.

Coaching wheelchair basketball is similar to coaching able-bodied ball which I play on a regular basis.  Team members need to follow the rules, play offense and defense and score more points than the other team.  The major difference is playing in a wheelchair making this a very fast game.

In coaching it is vitally important that one is able to understand the game from an experiential perspective.  I’ve had the opportunity to play wheelchair basketball on numerous occasions.  During practices I always sit in a wheelchair in order to be at the same eye level as team members but also to let them know that I do somewhat understand their experience.  The difference is that for most of the team members they are in a wheelchair for a large portion of their day, whereas I can stand up and get out of the chair. 

The BIIS PRIDE has been very fortunate in developing and furthering partnerships and relationships.  The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) in Raleigh is currently hosting an exhibit titled, “Above the Rim”, exploring basketball through the lens of art and celebrating the energy, poetry, community, and excitement of the game. The exhibition brings together sixteen internationally renowned artists using various media.  This exhibit includes a half court.

The CAM Director, Gab Smith, invited Bridge II Sports to “partner” with the Museum.  On October 5th at the Above the Rim public opening, the PRIDE team members practiced on the half court and also taught about 150 people how to push, pass and shoot in a wheelchair.  Since approximately 1500 people visited CAM that evening, this created a great deal of awareness regarding the sport but also the abilities of team members.  We will go back to CAM prior to the Exhibit closing. 

The PRIDE team is a member of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) youth division.  Since we are rebuilding we aren’t competing this season in conference games.  However, in order to “show our stuff” we will be playing at halftime of local college basketball games. Although this will only be 5-7 minutes this is an excellent opportunity for team members to build their confidence in playing before large  audiences and also creating greater awareness about adapted sports.  We don’t want the audience to come away with how “cute” the team members are but rather that these youth are athletes!

Another partnership/relationship that we are developing are with cub/boy/girl scout troops.  On January 26, 2019 Bridge II Sports is hosting “Hog Wild”   which is a day for youth with and without disability to participate in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball games.  Recently a cub scout troop participated in a PRIDE practice and were so excited that they wanted to help us promote Hog Wild among other troops.  (Just imagine if the Nepal Scouts were able to become involved with a similar effort in Nepal).

The definition of the word “pride” is “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired or a group of lions forming a social unit.”

As I observe how each team member is improving their skills at each practice and just as importantly having a great deal of joy and fun as they gather each week, I feel a great sense of PRIDE.  I also feel a great deal of PRIDE in all of our coaches and how we are working with our youth. There is just as much PRIDE in the parents/grandparents of our team members, many driving their athletes’ great distances to attend practices. 

We are also a lion PRIDE, coming together each week to show how much we love to play and wanting to stay healthy through exercise and good nutritional habits our entire lives. 


Position: Director-EveryBODYPlaysNC

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