We started the Blue Badge Style Sports Blog to help advise less able people on how to get into sports. Each week we feature a different Paralympic athlete writing about their own sport.
This week we’re featuring GB Wheelchair Basketball star Louise Sugden. Louise has been playing for the Great Britain team for over a decade. She featured at the Paralympics in Beijing and again last year in London where she co-captained the GB team. Here’s her story:
Having grown up with a disability that confined me to a wheelchair I developed an attitude towards life that you have to make the most of what you have. I don’t like to look at obstacles, whether physical or otherwise, but more at the ways to overcome anything in my way. I guess this is a good attribute for an elite athlete but I honestly don’t think I would have been half as successful if I’d not been involved in car crash at the age of 9 months, leaving me wheelchair bound.
If you’ve read Sarah Grady’s blog, she mentions trying basketball at the National Junior Games in 1997. I also had my first taste of Wheelchair Basketball at that session and just like Sarah, I was awful. It took me over a year to join a club and, if I’m honest, the reason I did was because my friends played and it was a ‘cool’ sport, which is very important at the age of 14! I joined Force (now known as London Titans) where I played in the national league for over 10 years and still play for in the Women’s League.
Proudly sporting our Force tops back in 2004
I still consider Basketball to be a ‘cool’ sport but my love for the game has completely changed. I love the pace of the game and the physicality, even though it is a minimal contact sport. I also love that you never stop learning with Basketball but most importantly I love that it keeps me fit and healthy.
Louise’s basketball wheelchair
For those of you that have played or watched running basketball, there are many similarities in the rules. The baskets are at the same height (10 foot) and the court markings are the same as USA college basketball. Rules such as the 3 second rule and backcourt rule still apply but there are differences in the travelling rule and what constitutes a foul.
There is obviously a huge time commitment needed to play at an elite level but I’m definitely the kind of person that likes to keep busy so I love it. That said, not everyone who plays wheelchair basketball does it because they want to reach an elite standard. A huge number of people play to maintain fitness, as a way to socialise and some just because they enjoy playing in the league. Wheelchair Basketball is played by a great range of people, from able-bodied people to paraplegic, so basically as long as you get in and push a wheelchair you can play.
As a member of the GB squad I’ve competed at 5 Europeans, 1 World Championships and 2 Paralympic Games at Beijing and London. The highlight of my playing career was London 2012, without a doubt, despite there being a feeling of regret when I think about the team’s performance at London 2012.
Louise after a tumble at London 2012
Having a goal of reaching the semi-finals seemed optimistic to most people but was something we strongly believed as a team we were capable of. Therefore when we lost our quarter final against the eventual gold medalists Germany, it felt like the end of the world. But not to the Great British public, they were incredible every single game, no matter what the result and that made it worth every second of hard work to get there. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so honoured to say I competed at the Paralympics that made disability sport accessible to the public and inspired so many.
Before the closing ceremony at London 2012
If you were inspired, more information about trying Wheelchair Basketball can be found at www.gbwba.org.uk
Thanks Louise for an inspiring and engaging blog. Always knew that Basketball is a ‘cool’ sport but you don’t always think about the dedication that goes into it too!
A huge thank you to Blue Badge Style for asking me to blog for them. Check out their website for more information on accessibility for the less able at www.bluebadgestyle.com