PETER Cusack started his wheelchair basketball career at the Coventry wheelchair basketball academy and is an example of what players from the club can go on to achieve.
Former Coventry player Cusack who plays for Amivel Reyes Gutierrez in Spain’s top division in wheelchair basketball, talked about the positives and negative of playing abroad.
He said” in Spain there is a higher calibre of players you’re coming up against week in week out making for a higher level of competition”.
In researching this feature I’ve discovered that this is one of many barriers for the BWB league with teams abroad having the finances available to pay salaries.
” At Amivel we train every day, which means I can build relationships with my new teammates and grow stronger as a team on and off the court.
Moving to Europe has meant I’ve had to meet different people from different places which has been an enjoyable experience for me however learning to speak a new language has been challenging.
The main disadvantage to playing over here I’m a long way from home which means family can’t come over and watch games as much as they could do in England.”
In Europe basketball teams can pay players to train and play unlike clubs in the UK where clubs are ran by volunteers.
Peter still comes down to the Coventry wheelchair basketball academy training sessions when back in England I asked Cusack about why he does this.
“ I like to get back to training whenever I possible can, Coventry is a club that played a major role in me having this opportunity to play abroad.
So if I can play a part in developing the next generation of talent coming through the basketball club that’s fantastic”
How can basketball in this country make the transition into a professional league?
“Firstly I think there needs to be more awareness, for example our games in Spain are shown live via s streaming platform,
Sponsorship is another area where the game could improve, to be able to get the better training facilities and equipment.
However its difficult in the UK because there is a lack of funding the sport gets in the UK, in comparison to the Spanish league which has got strong financial support and sponsorship to support the league.”
I headed down to Peter’s former club to find out more about the Coventry Crusaders
Based in Coventry, England the Coventry Crusaders train at Woodlands Academy sports complex known as the Coventry Wheelchair Basketball Academy the club is ran voluntary.
Cwba has four teams which compete in the British Wheelchair Basketball leagues, these are Cwba 1 who compete in the premier league, Cwba 2 who compete in the first division south and Cwba 3 & 4 who both compete in the third division central.
The club must pay out for hall hire for basketball games and training sessions where the first and second team train on Tuesday and third and fourth team train on Thursday evenings.
the club must pay referees and table official fees per game for example on a match day three teams will play at home with tip off times at 12:00 PM 14:00 PM and 16:00 PM on Sundays.
With the club ran by volunteers who have day jobs, its challenging to find incoming finances and realise on funding from charities.
In contrast to teams’ clubs in Europe can get pay athletes for playing in the Spanish, German and Italian leagues and teams also train daily before having games on a weekend.
Jignesh Vaidya one of the coaches at the club talked about his experiences in coaching and the challenges the club faces.
Coaching at CWBA has been a great journey all of the other coaches are so supportive, and helpful I enjoy working with experienced coaches alongside side me that have many years of experience in the game.
MY experience as a coach has been great. I’ve been coaching for the past eight or nine years now, I enjoy sharing my own experiences as player with young upcoming talent
As a coach its great to see players reach their own potential whether that be playing at third division level and playing the sport for the first time or watching players develop and go on to play for the national team or going and playing internationally abroad.
We always face challenges, when it comes to funding, as an voluntary ran organisation we don’t get much help and support on this front, funding has always been issue for clubs like us who are ran voluntary
In your view how can this be changed?
People like to talk about helping community clubs but when it comes to disability, it’s just talk not substantial support from local or national business, government and media too, we get so much attention, when the Paralympics are taking place, other than that the sport does get not much attention.
I think the sport needs to be shown on more platforms such as the BBC sport website, if we can get more people watching the sport that’s a starting point.
We as a club could go into more schools in the local area go help increase awareness and increase inclusion in physical education lessons.”
Wheelchair basketball is supported by Sport England and gets grants from the organisation towards campaigns such as inspire a generation were given 1.5 million to help grow the sport among young athletes.
Wheelchair Basketballs governing body in this country, British wheelchair basketball has recently set up the inspire a generation scheme.
This scheme aims to increase the number of youngsters playing the sport, by making it more accessible in Town centres, summer activation camps and local basketball club taster sessions,
I asked Peter Cusack about this scheme, he said” I think schemes like inspire are great for the growth of the sport in this country, the scheme will give young people a platform to get involved in wheelchair basketball.”
If people reading this think that wheelchair basketball is the sport for them, you can find your local club on the British wheelchair website club finder section. Or search for Coventry Wheelchair basketball academy into your search engine to find the clubs website.