The Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) hosted a four-day Wheelchair Basketball Challenge for the National Institute Network (NIN) at the Hangar in Melbourne.
Representatives from the Australian Gliders and Rollers were among the group of wheelchair basketball players from around Australia that gathered in Melbourne for 11 full games and 31 3X3 matches.
This was the first time this initiative has taken place as wheelchair basketballers from the VIS, Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) and Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) participated in the event. Australian Gliders representatives from NSW and SA also took part in the action packed four-day camp, which began on Thursday and concluded on Sunday night.
The training camp also included athlete educational sessions led by the VIS and Basketball Australia, which covered the topics of nutrition, sport psychology and athlete wellbeing.
VIS Wheelchair Basketball Program Head Coach, Craig Campbell was one of the brains behind the initiative, and the idea stemmed from identifying an important need for the wheelchair basketball players across Australia.
“From a throwaway comment from the head coach at WAIS about needing to play more games came the idea of the NIN Challenge,” Campbell said.
“Five on five game play to implement team concepts has been one of the major things missing from our daily training environment, so being able to collaborate with WAIS & QAS for the NIN Challenge gave our VIS athletes the opportunity to further evolve their game in readiness to compete at the next level”.
The IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships will be taking place in Dubai this June and both the Gliders and Rollers are ramping up their preparations with tours planned for the US and Thailand, respectively, in May.
The VIS Wheelchair Basketball Program consists of players who are in contention to make those teams, but the program also provides a pathway for the next generation of Gliders and Rollers.
“We took the lead as the VIS to work out how we could set it up, working with Paralympics Australia to host the camp at the Hanger so that we could host the series of games with everybody getting to play each other twice, “Campbell said.
Campbell was well-supported by VIS General Manager High Performance Rebekah Webster and Performance Coordinator Matt Thompson, who was part of the team that made the event come to fruition.
“I'm proud of how quickly both the team of athletes and the team-behind-the-team bought in to the project and to say that we're not just going to go through the status quo, but we're going to work out how can we do things differently,” Campbell said.
VIS Wheelchair Basketball player Laura Davoli was thrilled to participate in the event and learned a lot from the games and educational sessions.
“Being part of the first ever NIN challenge was an amazing experience. Being able to get together with all the athletes from other states to play some competitive matches was great fun,” Davoli said.
“Since we don’t get together often, to be able to have games like these is a great experience to be able to learn from other athletes especially those more experienced.
It is always inspiring to see everyone together, playing the sport we love, and it encourages us to get better and train harder. The best part of this competition was getting to see all the athletes from the other institutes and being a part of an environment where we can play some friendly but always competitive games.”