Wheelchair Basketball is not just a game but, a way of life through player classification

Monday, 24 July 2017

For a sport that was initially formed as a rehabilitation program for USA war veterans, wheelchair basketball has made great strides over the years in immersing itself amongst sports lovers around the world. And one of those places is right here at home in South Africa.

Sixty (60) years later, wheelchair basketball is now celebrated worldwide and is identified as a fully-fledged Paralympics sport.

With that said, there is a long history of 40 odd years that spans Wheelchair Basketball in South Africa. Established as an Association in 1970 by members of Wheelchair Basketball Mandeville, RAU and Pumas Defense Force Clubs, it evolved into a Sporting code represented under the SA Sports Association for the Physically Disabled.

Formally recognised as the South African Buccaneers, the wheelchair warriors are now known as the Sasol “Amawheelaboys”, a name the team has embraced in their lead up to international championships.

“Sasol has been our sponsor since 2007. We have become a world contender and are recognised by the international community as not only a team to compete against but, one that has come of age on the international circuit and this has opened doors for international invitation,” said Charles Saunders, CEO Wheelchair Basketball South Africa. 

As a company with a proudly South African heritage, Sasol has over the years continued to make great strides in supporting the development of national sport. Nowhere is this more evident than through Sasol’s partnership with Wheelchair Basketball South Africa (WBSA), where people with disability have been afforded opportunities to compete at local and international level.

The long-standing sponsorship of both the senior Men’s team “Amawheelaboys” as well as “AmaWheelies” has showcased and re-affirmed commitment to inclusion and diversity in South Africa and played a significant role in raising the profile of disabled sport and the development of wheelchair basketball in South Africa.

While wheelchair Basketball is about people with disability, classification is key in understanding the game. Here is an explanation:

The classification system for wheelchair basketball is a method by which everyone has an equal opportunity to compete. There are no reasonable arguments to exclude any individual from competition based on the nature, cause or degree of disability. Classification is based on medical and functionbility.

Wheelchair basketball is played by athletes with lower limb disability. The classes are assigned as points: 1, 2, 3 & 4 with 0.5 classes between for the exceptional cases, which do not fit exactly into one class. The 4.5 category for the player with the least or minimal disability. In lay-man’s terms, basic classification can be categorised as:

  • 1-to 2.5 point class: paraplegics
  • 3-to-4 point class: polio affected athletes
  • 4-to-4.5 point class: amputees/minimal disability

To make the game inclusive of all types of physical disabilities, the total points of all five players playing on court at a given time must not exceed 14 points of classification. More than 14.0 points results in the coach being sanctioned with a technical foul. Example of a 14-point classification, five (5) man combination on court, will be:

  • One x 1 pointer
  • Two x 2.5 pointers
  • One x 3.5 pointer
  • One 4.5 pointer

How to categorise classification of classes

Class One (1)

  • Significant loss of stability in the trunk as the shooting arm is extended over the head during follow through, often requiring arm support following the shot.
  • During a two-handed shot, the trunk makes contact with the back of the wheelchair.
  • Loses trunk stability during minimal contact.
  • A forceful one – hand pass requires grasping with the off-hand to maintain stability.
  • The two-handed chess pass can only be executed with support of the back of the wheelchair or leg to turn trunk.
  • Almost always reaches with one hand while holding the wheelchair to stabilise trunk with opposite hand.
  • If a player uses two hands over the head, he will be in contact with the back of the and easily lose stability during minimal contact.
  • In an upright position, the player leans into the back of the wheelchair with hand movement forward and back with each push.
  • Some players rest the flexed trunk on elevated knees for support while pushing, away from the back of the wheelchair.

Class Two (2)

  • Mild to moderate loss of stability in the lower trunk during arm elevation and follow through, resulting in movement of the lower trunk away from the back of the wheelchair.
  • Able to rotate the trunk toward the basket while shooting with both hands.
  • Little to moderate loss of trunk stability during one and two- handed passing, requiring holding the wheelchair or leg with the off-hand.
  • Fair stability when catching passes in an upright position.
  • can rotate the trunk to receive an over the – shoulder pass with two hands using some support of the back of the wheelchair.
  • Usually rebounds with one hand, with minimal to moderate loss of stability.
  • Two- handed over the head rebounds can be executed but are often accompanied by moderate loss of stability, especially during contact.
  • Able to push the wheelchair without total support of the back of the wheelchair.
  • Some loss of stability noted primarily at waist level with forward movement of the upper trunk accompanying each pushing motion, without movement of the lower trunk.

Class Four (3)

  • Excellent stability of the trunk while sitting upright, particularly in follow-through of the shot.
  • The trunk moves toward the basket with shooting movement, without loss of stability.
  • One- handed and two- handed passes can passes can be executed without using arm or back support to maintain stability.
  • Can exert force in passing by trunk extension before initiating trunk flexion movement.
  • Able to achieve near maximal rotation to catch over- the-shoulder passes with both hands without support of the back of the wheelchair.
  • Can rebound forcefully with two hands from overhead by moving the trunk forward while reaching for the ball.
  • Limited stability during reaching laterally for rebounding; often executed by holding the side of the wheelchair with the off-hand.
  • Able to push the wheelchair forcefully with no loss of anterior or posterior stability. Upper and lower trunk move as a unit in exerting force during pushing movement. Movement of the upper trunk accompanying each pushing motion, without movement of the lower trunk.

Class Four (4)

  • Able to move the trunk forcefully in the direction of the follow – through after shooting.
  • Can lean laterally or rotate with a lateral lean to at least one side (away from the defender), while keeping both hands elevated and in contact with the ball. Able to flex, extend and rotate the trunk maximally while performing both one – handed and two – handed passes.
  • Able to lean laterally to at least one side while executing a two – handed passes in the same lateral direction.
  • Can lean forward and to at least one side to grasp an over –the-head rebound with both hands. Able to push and stop the wheelchair with rapid acceleration and maximal forward movement of the trunk. Pushing movement is usually with the legs apart

Class 4.5

  • Able to move the trunk forcefully in all directions during shooting, including lateral lean and lateral lean with rotation to both sides while keeping both hands in contact with the ball.
  • Able to move the trunk in all directions with good stability while passing.
  • Able to lean to either side while executing a two-handed pass in the same lateral direction.
  • Can lean forward or to either side with arms overhead to grasp the ball. Pushing movement is usually with legs apart.

© COPYRIGHT 2013 Sasol in Sport - Wheelchair Basketball