Wheelchair Basketball: The Beginnings
Wheelchair Basketball at Douglas
The wheelchair basketball program part of Douglas Athletics today was first started by SPSC faculty member Tim Frick (retired). Hailing from a background in wheelchair sports, Tim established an extra-curricular wheelchair basketball club program during his first year at the College.
The program started with Tim successfully persuading a single wheelchair user on campus to try the sport, and eventually gained traction as people from the wider community began joining and taking interest. It also offered opportunities for people from G. F. Strong who have been injured, as well as high school students who used chairs, to come learn about the sport and using wheelchairs for fitness.
National Training Camps at Douglas
Tim became the national team coach for the Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team in 1990. When tournaments were held in Vancouver, Douglas College became the site for the national team’s training camps.
When the gym was not booked and had slots available, the team would have their practices in those free blocks. In other blocks, students – such as an elementary class from the district – would be brought in to observe the team’s practice, interact with the athletes, and learn about wheelchair basketball and disability. Wherever applicable, the national training camps were also integrated into relevant SPSC courses.
“I think [the presence of the national team] really helped enrich a lot of our courses…our students had great experiences meeting these elite disabled athletes…but also learning about awareness and some things about spinal cord injuries, or whatever the disability was – so I think that was pretty neat.”Tim, on integrating the national team’s training camps into SPSC courses
To run the wheelchair basketball program, faculty members Alan and Tim put forth a grant application to the John Hardie Mitchell Family Foundation, which donated wheelchairs in support of the initiative.
The chairs were used for both the after-curricular program and for enriching classroom learning. In his course PE 300 (The Analysis of Performance in Team Sports), Tim would include adaptive sports, such as wheelchair basketball and goalball, as part of the learning curriculum. Wheelchairs were practically incorporated into these adaptive classes, and were brought into classrooms to prompt awareness for accessibility and inclusion. Activities such as mini-Olympics designed around wheelchair relays and games were also developed to promote inclusivity.
The presence of the national team, by large, was an opportunity for many instructors to circulate knowledge on disability, awareness, and wheelchair sports. Other figures, such as Athletics Director Lou Rene Legge and athlete Rick Hansen, were also involved in promoting inclusion related to wheelchair sports at Douglas College. These operations continued throughout Tim’s time as the national team coach; as a result, Douglas College became more or less identified as a national training centre for wheelchair basketball.