Wheelchair basketball can be played by everyone, says Northants Phoenix squad members

L-R: Darren pictured with his son, Lewis, 10, who also suffers from the same condition as his dad.
L-R: Darren pictured with his son, Lewis, 10, who also suffers from the same condition as his dad.

Wheelchair basketballers from Northamptonshire are inspiring the next generation of players to join their team, whether they have a disability or not.

Yasmin Reeve, of Long Bucky, suffers from a neurological condition called Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), which means she cannot communicate properly and is effectively paralysed from the belly button down.

The team are looking to recruit more players in their team and reach out to people who might not know the sport exists.

The team are looking to recruit more players in their team and reach out to people who might not know the sport exists.

The 23-year-old also battles with Hypermobility Syndrome, a seizure disorder, as well as an unknown vascular condition, which has led to the amputation of nine toes and one of her fingers.

Five years ago she started playing wheelchair basketball for Northants Phoenix after becoming ill at 18 years old. The sportswoman now takes two buses to get to training every Saturday at The Elizabeth Woodville School in Roade.

As well as playing wheelchair basketball Yasmin is also a Level 1 coach for the division four league team, which is overseen by British Wheelchair Basketball (BWB).

She said: "It's important to me to play wheelchair basketball as it's such a community and it empowers you, which I didn't feel like I was getting when I didn't play a sport.

"I used to be involved with going to the gym and working out up until I got poorly five years ago and then suddenly I couldn't work out like I used to. Finding wheelchair basketball kept me going.

"I feel energised and strong playing wheelchair basketball - it proves that you can still do what you used to maybe just a little differently. It's the thing that I look forward to all week and I love being able to talk to friends and family about it. It is always a good talking point with people."

The wheelchair version of basketball is a non-contact sport with five players on court at one time. Players are allowed two pushes on their wheels before either bouncing or passing the ball. The team has eight seconds to get the ball across the half way line and then a further 16 seconds to try and get a basket. Players only have three seconds in the key - the area where most shots are taken - before they have to exit.

The team are trying to raise the profile of wheelchair basketball to attract the next generation of players to join their squad and want people with, or without a disability, to find a sport they really enjoy.

IT worker and Northants Phoenix coach Darren Parris, 44, of Kingsthorpe, is a double leg amputee and has a condition called hereditary motor sensory neuropathy (HMSN), also known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Darren joined the club three years ago and has never looked back. He said: "Due to my hereditary condition, I have never, even as a child, been able to play sports.

"Following my amputations, I was stopped in the street by Stuart, one of the founding members, and invited along. On my first taster session, I was hooked.

“I had finally found a sport, which I could play on an equal basis with others. I never realised how competitive I was until that first session.”

Darren enjoys the game so much he has now become a level 2 coach so he can take the lead and help to host the training sessions.

He added: "The sport of wheelchair basketball can be played by anyone, regardless of if they have a disability or not.

"It is an all inclusive sport for any age, no previous experience is required.

"Knowing what a positive effect playing the sport has had on me - and the same goes for the rest of the team - we want to raise awareness of the club and the sport as a whole."

Free training sessions are held every Saturday at The Elizabeth Woodville School in Roade between 12-2pm. No experience or equipment, including wheelchairs, is needed, only a drink.