Thriving disabled wheelchair basketball team set on expansion

Wheelchair basketball player Harry Blyth.

Wheelchair basketball player Harry Blyth. - Credit: Archant

When someone is born disabled, or becomes so later in life, many everyday activities can become extraordinary challenges and often sports are out of the question.

Wheelchair basketball at Frenford Clubs

Wheelchair basketball at Frenford Clubs - Credit: Archant

However, in Ilford, thanks to a thriving disabled wheelchair basketball team, this is not necessarily so.

In their second year, the Frenford Falcons, who offer training and competitive matches, are set on expanding at their base at The Jack Carter Centre in The Drive, Ilford.

Coach Andy Dear, who played professionally for Italy’s number one club, was born with spina bifida. He explained how some of the club’s members have started to find success.

One young hopeful is Harry Blyth, 18, of Harold Wood.

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Despite the fact that he has only been playing for six months, Harry has been asked to train with Great Britain under 23s. He has been scouted as someone with real potential.

He has spina bifida too, which has mainly affected the nerves in his legs. He was sporty as a child, using callipers to walk, but as he has grown he cannot support his own weight so easily.

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He said: “I used to walk when I was younger and I used to play cricket and football but in the last few years I’ve had to be in the chair much more.

“Wheelchair basketball has changed my life. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster recently as it’s taken off rapidly. Last week I was at the junior camp for the under-23s Great Britain team.

“It’s all accelerated so quickly, I’ve got a part-time job now to fund training and travel.”

It has even changed his career prospects. He is now including sport on his health and social course at Havering College.

“I never thought that I could do it but now I know I can,” he said.

Harry plans to keep training and see where wheelchair basketball may take him. Like many young disabled athletes in the wake of London 2012, he may set his eyes on the Paralympics.

Wheelchair basketball is open to athletes with a permanent physical impairment to at least one of their lower limbs – this may be from paraplegia, amputations, cerebral palsy or polio.

Frenford Falcons also have some able-bodied athletes playing with them.

The squad are lucky to have such a “fantastic” player coaching them, Harry said.

“I’m just lucky to be able to pass my knowledge on,” said Andy.

“It’s everything. It’s been unbelievable to me.

“I’ve seen the world and met loads of different people.

“It’s helped me socially and with my confidence levels.”

Considering Harry’s rapid achievements, if you join Frenford now you might just be able to help Britain get that gold medal in Brazil in 2016.

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