Age is no boundary for local wheelchair basketball club

Age is no boundary when you’re gliding down the court in a wheelchair shooting hoops, with one local club having members aged between 10 and 76.

Chairman Ian Brown helped launch Jaguars Wheelchair Basketball Club, now based in Newark, which was first founded in 1995.

After a motorbike accident near Caenby Corner in 1991 Ian, who has been playing the sport for nearly 20 seasons, was left paralysed from the chest down.

He then set his sights on setting up NK Jaguars in North Hykeham as soon as he got out of hospital in April 1991. It has since become a satellite club for the Jaguars Wheelchair Basketball Club.

Club chairman Ian Brown. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Ian told The Lincolnite that, although the club has been going for 28 years, “it only seems like yesterday that I wheeled in there for the first time and went home with a big smile”.

Ian, who works for Active Lincolnshire, said: “Wheelchair basketball is a sport that all ages, abilities, disabilities, and non-disabled can play at the same time. Some weeks I was the only one out of 10 or so who had a disability.

“I have done a lot of sports and activities and nothing comes close and once you play your hooked.”

From left to right: Rebecca Sullivan, Ian Brown, Kamari Parker, Alan Cowie, Bernie Fox, Simon West, Victoria Lyon, Lynn Chantrey and David Argyle. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

When it was founded in April 1991 the club was originally called NK Disabled Club. At first the club did tenpin bowling, table tennis, archery, Boccia and on occasions basketball.

Wheelchair basketball is now the focus for NK Jaguars who train on a Monday night between 6pm to 8pm at OneNK Leisure Centre on Newark Road.

NK Jaguars now train on a Monday night between 6pm to 8pm at OneNK Leisure Centre. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

It has over 40 members aged between 10 and 76, with a mixture of able bodied and disabled players.

The cost is £3 for the two hours. Beginners are encouraged to come for an hour session 6pm-7pm initially, which is priced at £1.50

Age is no boundary

NK Jaguars’ youngest and oldest members – Kamari Parker, 10, and Bernie Fox, 76. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Bernie Fox, who turns 77 on Thursday, lives in Heckington and has been playing the sport for around 30 years.

Bernie took up the sport after his son had a nasty motorbike accident and broke his back, paralysing him from the chest down.

Bernie Fox, 76, said he is the oldest member in the National League. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

He helped his son get into Wheelchair basketball in Hertfordshire where they lived at the time. Due to low player numbers at the time Bernie asked about the possibility of able bodied people joining in to help out.

He never looked back and, after joining the Jaguars in 2004, he still loves the game as much as ever.

NK Jaguars’ member Kamari Parker, aged 10. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Bernie Fox, 76, said he is the oldest player in Wheelchair Basketball’s National League. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Bernie, who was previously nominated for a Lincolnshire Veteran Sportsperson award, told The Lincolnite he is now recognised as being disabled due to arthritis in his knees and hips.

He said: “No way did I think I’d still be playing now when I first took it up, but it’s a drug. I’m the oldest player in the National League which makes me feel good.

“Adrenaline is my motivation. I love helping other players out and giving them advice. I had to think very hard about how long I will keep playing, but I will play next season.”

Kamari Parker, aged 10. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

NK Jaguars

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The club also has a women’s team, junior’s team (ages 14-18) and regional team (ages 10-14), as well as three mixed senior sides.

NK Jaguars play in the National League, with teams in different divisions in the season running from September through to May.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Club chairman Ian Brown. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

There are barriers in terms of the chairs being costly, with the top ones costing over £5,000 and paying to enter in to the National Leagues. Ian, however, prefers to focus on the positive aspects of the game.

He said: “We have had several players who have gone on to play at the Paralympics and many who just want to play socially.

Club chairman Ian Brown. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“I love it and get great pleasure in seeing people develop and their confidence increase in and out of basketball. It’s a friendly sociable club, come and have a go, it’s more fun than you think.”

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Wheelchair Basketball Challenge

Ian also helped to set up the Active Lincolnshire CEO Wheelchair Basketball Challenge which he is hoping to make an annual event.

It is about getting companies to take part in sport with a mix of ages, able bodied and disabled competitors. The last competition saw the likes of Lincolnshire County Council’s communication team, Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue and Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly take part.

National success

Wheelchair basketball was played at the first Paralympic Games held in 1960 in Rome.

Former Jaguars member Richard Sargent was a flag bearer at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He also previously represented Great Britain, including captaining the Under-23s Wheelchair Basketball Team to the bronze medal game at the World Championships in 2013.

Another former member, Matt Byrne, won bronze medals at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and again in Beijing in 2008, while Joe Bestwick lives and plays professionally in Germany.

Anyone interested in joining the club should contact chairman Ian Brown on 07800 859 841 or coach Angus Drew on 07415 883286.