My names is James Davis, I am a 34 years old man who was born with Cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a physical disability that affects the brain and ability to move my muscles in a smooth way, making it difficult to walk and stand. I have always felt the need to volunteer and be active in my community. I have been volunteering at the Niagara Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) for 12 years I currently sit as chairperson and I sit on the Niagara Accessible Sport Committee( NASC) as the committee chairperson as well. However, what I am truly passionate about is playing wheelchair basketball.
I started playing wheelchair basketball with the Brock Niagara Penguins when I was 28. I had just finished college and had been married for 3 years. When I was younger I was very active and it was easy to keep myself at a healthy weight. When I began attending college I very quickly gained 80 pounds as I did not live with my parents who had kept me active. Without their assistance and support I found it very hard to remain active on regular basis.
In 2006, my wife and I found out about wheelchair basketball and fell in love with the sport instantly. We were introduced to the Brock Niagara Penguins, a club that has offered various sports for athletes with disabilities in Niagara for the past 8 years. The club owns specialized basketball wheelchairs and offers practice times, as well as house league games at Brock University and travel games around Southern Ontario.
The team started out as a group of 5 athletes and over the years has grown to be as many as 17 from all areas of Niagara. When I first started playing I could barely throw the ball high enough to hit the mesh, I did not have the coordination to catch balls or dribble. Over the years I have managed to get better at all of these aspects of the game, because of my commitment to practice, increase my strength and gaining a better understanding of the game.
Wheelchair basketball gave me the drive to lose 75 pounds and gain a substantial amount of muscle and kept me focused to do some source of physical activity every day. I swim, weightlift, riding my bike, go for walks in my chair or walker. I look for any opportunity to play basketball with the team or at the YMCA with friends. Being part of the Brock Niagara Penguins has helped me gain confidence as an athlete and helped me grow as a person. I have had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Penguins Club about my experiences and successes, hoping to motivate others to get involved in a sport they enjoy.
Last year I was asked by the Penguins organization if I would be interested in developing my skills to coach the team. I had never thought about coaching before but I thought it would be an opportunity to help the wheelchair basketball team grow. I love playing but as a coach I can do so much more for the team and for the younger developing players. I enjoy motivating others who are new to disabled sport and teaching them more about the game. The sport of wheelchair basketball is a fast paced, intense and team driven sport, it has changed my life drastically. I would encourage any person who is interested in coming out to try this sport to call or visit the Brock Niagara Penguins, to learn more (905) 359-6283 or www.niagarapenguins.org.
Niagara should be proud that there is a local club that offers wheelchair basketball, boccia and swimming for athletes with a disability in their community.