Chris Fitzgerald, from left, Chris Cleveland and Joe Wood work on their wheeling skills during a game of shark and fish at a wheelchair basketball session. The Colchester Basketball Association has been offering the sport to try for free.

BIBLE HILL – Joe Wood kept bouncing the basketball, and kept hitting that one spot on the front of his wheelchair.

The ball would take off in a different direction, leaving the 16-year-old from Debert to roll after it.

But picking up the ball, he started dribbling again.

Again, he’d get to one spot on the wheelchair – where the frame started to curve in on the left – and again the ball would take off on a different trajectory.

Turning to Joel Goswell, he asked the athlete to watch what he was doing and give him any pointers.

“But you’ve got it,” said Goswell, who is introducing wheelchair basketball to Colchester County.

The instructor watched as Wood continuously dribbled the basketball from one had to the other, around the front of the wheelchair, then back again, this time keeping control of the ball.

When Wood stopped, Goswell gave him some additional pointers and showed him the next level.

“I noticed when you’re dribbling, your other hand is on your leg for stability. That’s good, but here’s the next step up,” he explained. “Instead of keeping your hand on your leg, keep it on the wheel. Because then, you can start…”

And Goswell dribbled the ball, while using his free hand to turn his wheelchair one way, then the other.

After a few additional tips, Wood nodded his head. He started dribbling, but kept his free hand on his wheel to his side. After a few dribbles, the teenager started adding in a slight turn.

It’s all part of a four-week program through the Colchester Basketball Association. The association, along with Sport Nova Scotia’s Fundy Region, the Municipality of Colchester County, and Bible Hill Parks and Recreation, did some fundraising and were able to purchase 12 wheelchairs for the area.

“We wanted to build the capacity to offer the opportunity in the area,” said Paul MacIsaac, president of the association.

Two open days were held for people to try out the sport, then the four-week program was launched.

Participants in the program gather twice a week to learn the fundamentals of the wheelchair, then add in the basics of basketball.

“It’s been pretty fun,” said Wood, following that day’s two-hour gathering. “It’s a good physical activity. The most difficult thing to get used to is turning – it’s a lot easier than in a regular wheelchair.”

When bringing the sport to the area, families in the area with youth with disabilities were contacted and invited to participate.

“Who are they going to play with?” Goswell responded, when asked why it was important to introduce the sport to others. “Parasport is just as important as other sports, and they’re currently being left on the wayside with the way the current programs are going.”

For Amy Cleveland and her family, the program was something else her eight-year-old son, Austin, could participate in.

“Austin has cerebral palsy and lives in a wheelchair,” she said, while looking out at Austin and his father, Chris, in their chairs.

“It’s been great to have it offered. He plays sledge hockey in the winter, so this is something else for him to do. He goes horseback riding too. He woke up at 5 (o’clock) today because he couldn’t wait to get here.”

She said anything to include her son like everyone else is a great opportunity.

“He loves gym in school, but sometimes he’s left behind because there’s a lot of running involved.”

Throughout the session, Austin couldn’t concentrate on what he was doing, he was laughing so hard. One of those instances came during a game of shark and fish, similar to a game of tag. Austin would bump into his father’s chair, leading him to a fit of laughter. With Goswell helping Austin ‘trap’ his father, Austin’s laughter grew.

Watching them in the gym, Cleveland said Goswell has been a great instructor.

“He helps them, but he doesn’t favour them,” she said. “And if their ability doesn’t allow them to do something, he makes it work.”

For more information on the program, email cba.trurobball@gmail.com.