After a weekend off for the Fourth of July, Namine was excited to return to basketball camp. The last time, it was just her and my aunt, since Jessica and I were helping one of Jessica’s sisters move. We’d heard from my aunt that the gym was hot, but we certainly weren’t prepared for it. Fortunately, a couple huge fans were brought in. It didn’t exactly cool the gym, but it at least made it bearable. (Well, for the spectators, maybe. Jordan encouraged all the participants to drink as much water as they liked.)
After all the kids had had some time to wheel around the gym and warm up, the first exercise was a familiar one: passing. Namine is still working on one-handed throw passes, but she’s improved leaps and bounds at two-handed passes. Everyone was paired up, and Namine’s partner was a child whom she’d only just met that morning.
After a few misfires, Namine and her new friend established a rhythm. They passed the ball quite flawlessly back and forth.
The next exercise was a big race. Well, not a competition, so much as wheeling back and forth across the gym, as fast as everyone could go at their own speed. Namine is considerably faster in her purple basketball chair (though it’s not hers, it’s the one set aside for her use during basketball camp), there are some things which hinder her speed.
Problem one is that Namine can’t bring her arms back far enough to allow for a larger push on the wheels. Even though the back of the this wheelchair is lower than the one on her everyday ‘chair, it’s still high enough that the back of her arms collide with it when she draws her arms back.
She’ll grow out of it eventually — or even better, it would be solved by a ‘chair made especially for her — but for now, it’s just something she has to deal with.
Problem two is the seatbelt, which so far has prevented Namine from leaning forward. In order to really get a good, large push on her wheels, she needs to bring her arms as far back as is comfortable (even with the limited rotation in her right shoulder, she is still confounded by the chair back), and during the push, to lean forward, extending her arms on the wheels as far as they will reach.
The belt needs to be at least two inches wide — which it is — to prevent creating a pinch point. But that’s not a problem; the problem lies in the way it’s fastened. The belt Namine has been using has a D-ring buckle, and it jabs her in the stomach if she leans too far forward.
This, unlike the seat back, is at least something we can address. So we have a new project for next week: to create a new seat belt for Namine, fastened with Velcro instead of a buckle, which will permit Namine to lean forward much more than she currently is able.
The next exercise was new to Namine: wheeling backwards. She got the hang of it — even if she did tend to forget to look behind her for potential collisions — and most importantly, she had fun with it.
Namine had learned to pass, and she was getting faster in her wheelchair — but now it was time to learn to block. She started on one side of the gym, and the kid she was supposed to block started parallel to her. The idea was to get ahead of them, keep them from progressing, make them backtrack.
It was interesting to watch. After so many years of learning to be careful not to run into people in her wheelchair, now Namine was being told to be aggressive. Get in the way. Don’t be afraid to collide with your opponent.
By the end of the day’s practice, Namine was still not comfortable with the idea of actually hitting someone else’s wheelchair with her own. But as best she could, she still got in the way. When it came time to play a scrimmage — a first for Namine — she stuck with her opposite like glue, forcing her to get rid of the ball.
After practice was over, Namine was not quite willing to call it quits. I called over to Namine to bring it in and get a drink of water, but she wanted to practice throwing baskets a bit longer. Jordan was fine with that.
Namine doesn’t yet have the arm strength to get the ball in the net, but that never stopped her from trying. Her persistence is what has helped her improve and grow stronger, and it will continue to serve her well.