How does coaching wheelchair basketball differ from coaching standup basketball?
This is a very good question. As a 20 year stand up basketball coach with really no previous exposure to the wheelchair game, the first thing that surprised me is how similar the two games were and how you really could transfer a lot of your knowledge from one game to the other. Having said that, there were three differences that most captured my attention and ultimately drew me to the sport.
The first one is a very specific change in that you cannot move laterally (sideways) in a chair. This would seem like an obvious point, but it is interesting to look at how much you rely on this factor in stand up sports. How important is it to have the ability to face the play and react to either side? How much do we count on beating a defender by cutting without having to first turn your body and give away your direction?
The second difference comes more from teaching the sport. Where in stand up sports you rely on all athletes to come in with a consistent basic package of motor skills to perform fundamentals in a similar fashion, in the wheelchair game, you have to allow for the wide range of differences in balance, ability to rotate your body and many other unique characteristics. It forces us as coaches to really look at the individual and come up with solutions that are unique to them.
The final difference, and the one that drew me most to the game, is the fact that it is very difficult to beat your defender individually with the ball. When you watch the NBA you see numerous clearouts for the stars to go one on one with their opponent. Because in wheelchair basketball you are asked to move your chair with your hands and control the ball with those same hands, the on ball defender has a distinct mobility advantage. As a result, the only way to be effective is to work at creating scoring opportunities without the ball, then inserting the ball into the situation. This requires a much higher level of teamwork.
In the end, wheelchair basketball is just like any other physically demanding sport. It requires you to bring all your physical and mental resources to the gym and learn to use them for the betterment of the team. People have come to the sport from a wide variety of backgrounds and each has brought a unique flavour that has made it the great sport that it is today.