I arrived in India three days ago on my first trip to the second most populous country in the world. The three days I’ve spent so far feel like they’ve been packed with several weeks’ worth of teaching wonderful new players, meeting and working with fantastic, dedicated people, and seeing all the potential of a highly successful national wheelchair basketball program in its relative infancy. I will only be in India for six days, but in that time I’ll work with players in three cities in three different states located in three different corners of the country – Delhi in the north, Pune in the southwest, and Chennai in the southeast.

I just finished my first clinic in the capital city of Delhi and things are off to a great start. I had the pleasure of coaching two groups of players, all brand new to the game – 18 men and women at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center, and eight boys and girls at the Amar Jyoti Research & Rehabilitation Centre – and they were all fantastic, enthusiastic students. Seeing the excitement of the young kids was particularly powerful; even though they’re barely strong enough to get a ball up to the basket at this point, they still attacked the game (and their opponents!) with gusto. One girl in particular, Reika, had a competitive fire unlike any I’ve seen in a kid that young (I believe she’s 10) playing sports for the first time. I can already see that she has the potential to be a top player for her country and can tell from her intensity that she’ll work as hard as she needs to in order to make that happen!

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Teaching the kids at the Amar Jyoti Research Center, including future star, Reika (sitting to my right)

This has also been my first coaching trip on which I’ve had the opportunity to work with other international coaches – Mark Walker from Australia, Aram Voerman from the Netherlands, Mike Rosenkrantz from the U.S. (via Nepal) all joined me for the two days of training in Delhi – and with Manoj Soma, the president of Choice International (a UK-based nonprofit focused on sport development) and the organizer of all the wheelchair basketball activities happening at a series of different events over the next two weeks. Working with all these highly-dedicated, talented people was a ton of fun and allowed the new players to move more much quickly than they would have with a single coach trying to teach all of them.

On the second day of the Delhi clinics, we concluded the training with two highly entertaining scrimmage games. The first had with the kids break up into two teams and join Mark, Aram, Manoj and me for a game in front of all the adult players and volunteers from the Spinal Injury Center. I very rarely get the chance play with any of my students when I’m working as a coach, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to do so with those kids. They were SO excited to be playing on the court with us and loved performing in front of the crowd of spectators. I didn’t stop smiling the entire game.

The second game was between two teams made up of the best players from the adult training sessions, and was attended by members of the media, representatives from the ICRC (which has helped to fund and organize these events), and others. Mark and I each coached one of the teams, and the energy was fantastic.

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Competition! (photo courtesy of ICRC)

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Post-training photo opp with a few of the Delhi players and volunteers

We followed the training sessions by holding a symposium-style meeting with a couple dozen stakeholders from organizations all over India, including the Indian Paralympic Committee, the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India, and the ICRC, along with many other organizations and individuals dedicated to expanding adaptive sports here. I was very encouraged by the seriousness and pragmatism with which the meeting participants approached developing wheelchair basketball in India, and can envision the sport expanding rapidly given the commitment of the people involved.

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Speaking to the gathered symposium attendees about the potential of wheelchair basketball in India

Today I fly to Pune to conduct another two-day training session, this one for disabled members of the Indian military, and look forward to meeting and working with another group of new students!