March Club of the Month!

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If you’re looking for an inspirational disability sports club, Birmingham Wheelchair Basketball Club are a slam dunk.

Formed four years ago by Andy Craddock, the club have grown from green shoots to become a fantastic grassroots hub for people to get active and build a brighter future together. 

Not only does the club provide an accessible service in the West Midlands, they have also gone global in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing issues of isolation and mental health, the club have conducted over 60 motivational video interviews with the likes of Sally Gunnell OBE and wheelchair adventurer Shaun Gash – providing hope and inspiration during a tough time to not only their own club community, but to huge numbers of people all over the world.

“We’ve done these interviews to support everyone in our community and people nationally and globally,” Andy said.

“Back in March when we went into the first lockdown it was a time when people were struggling, and I’m not the type of guy to do nothing.

“I went and emailed a few contacts and we started doing some interviews, we kept asking Olympians, Paralympians and inspirational people and it took off.

A Birmingham Wheelchair Basketball Club training session
Club members enjoy a training session pre-Covid

“People seemed to like the interviews. I’ve had the privilege of talking to so many different people and listening to their stories. Hopefully they inspired our audience to take something out of it.

“We’ve spoken about the things that really impact participation and diversity, inspiring people to give them a voice.”

The club’s response to COVID-19 is a testament to its welcoming atmosphere as, alongside Zoom socials and quizzes, members have also been sent hampers over Christmas and basketballs to keep players active and engaged with the sport from home.

In addition, participants have been encouraged to become volunteers for the club, with webcams sent out to them so they could create and share online workout resources and lead live classes in future.

“We’re inclusive, we’re a club that believes everybody is welcome to come and join us and be part of what we do and we’re a family,” Andy said.

“We support each other, we play sport together, we look out for each other and the idea is that it’s all part of promoting inclusion and diversity.

“You want people to feel part of your club and have a belonging to it, showing that belonging means there’s self-worth and self-awareness and that builds confidence and self-esteem and that surely impacts on their mental health and well-being.

“To see my players and volunteers become the next coaches or inspire other people is the greatest honour, it gives me such pleasure to see that. It’s not about me, it’s about the club and I want people to show their worth.”

Birmingham Wheelchair Basketball Club
The club provides a welcoming community for all

Thanks to Andy and his team, the club have never stood still and their recent link-up with Warwickshire Bears Basketball Club to offer a performance pathway for those wanting competitive options demonstrates their united approach to supporting local inclusive opportunities.

Andy added: “There’s so much potential around this country and the world, and starting in your small community shows that.

“Our volunteers now are actually giving something back to their community and it inspires them to become our next coaches, our next assistants.”

The future looks bright too, with the club currently working with Para Dance UK and Wheelchair Boxing to develop an online platform which will house live sessions of all three sports alongside panel discussions on the importance of inclusive sport in a bid to increase participation further.

It is for all these reasons and more that Birmingham Wheelchair Basketball Club have been deservedly named Parasport Club of the Month for March, something which Andy believes is a real affirmation of his work.

All that’s left now is to get back on court.

“Being named Parasport Club of the Month is a great honour and I’m deeply honoured to be a part of it," said coach Craddock.

"It’s hugely significant to us because it shows that we’re on the right track and doing a good job.

“We do what we do because we enjoy doing it but to be named and appreciated, all I can say is thank you very much.

“We can’t wait to get back face-to-face in our facilities playing wheelchair basketball.”

If you want to give wheelchair basketball a go, get in contact with Birmingham Wheelchair Basketball Club or search your postcode to find your local wheelchair basketball club.