Published: 27th October 2018
Why Lee Roy Simon is every wheelchair basketball player's best shot
What does it take to coach a person whose lower body doesn't answer to them? Lee Roy Simon wheelchair basketball coach talks about his incredible journey of discovery
Lee Roy Simon is clearly a man who loves the basketball court. A proud alumnus of Bishop Cotton Boys High School, where sports was given great impetus, Lee was a part of the school basketball team from grade 7. However, life had a deal that included wheels for Lee. Unlike most boys with talent in the sport who give it up and 'get serious' at some point, Lee followed his calling and went on to become one of the most sought after coached for wheelchair basketball in Karnataka and the country. He not only put himself in coaching clinics for able-bodied basketball, he also spent hours training those who love dribbling despite being wheelchair-bound. The President of the Karnataka Wheelchair Basketball Association, Lee tells us why he does what he does. Excerpts:
What prompted you to apply for wheelchair basketball coaching?
Despite various attempts at being a part of able-bodied basketball, I knew that I had a greater calling and taking up challenges was a natural inborn trait I had acquired. A friend suggested it and I tried the coaching programme for wheelchair basketball. I then applied for the Referee’s Clinic where I was asked to sit on a wheelchair and analyse the moves involved for the game and how it needed to be implemented in coaching.
Head coach: Lee Roy post a rigorous coaching session
Who are some of the people who you train?
I coach people with lower limb disability. For people to be a part of wheelchair basketball they need to have the upper body strength to be able to push the wheelchair and also dribble the ball. We not only cater to basketball coaching and physical needs, but we also look at building self-confidence for those who have no hope. Wheelchair basketball is classified as a good physiological exercise by therapists that help with rehabilitating stiffened muscles.
Is there an age restriction on when a person can play?
Wheelchair basketball is not limited to certain age groups. My youngest student is 19 and my oldest is a 50-year-old woman and they are catagorised into teams based on their gender, age and abilities.
Is it expensive for the players?
I don’t charge any fee for coaching and I work for an association that is barely funded. We train our students for free. A few top-notch officials take the sport seriously and come forward to sponsor. Their support helped us take part in the Bali Cup in July 2017.
What are some of the challenges you face while coaching?
Our biggest challenge is the availability of durable wheelchairs because the players are aplenty. Wheelchairs are expensive and the cheapest one is Rs 30,000. We often find ourselves borrowing wheelchairs for state and national level tournaments, though the training is done on hospital wheelchairs. We don't have a court of our own either.
Hard work: Coaching and practice session in progress
How do you feel about community work with no pay?
I have been asked this question a lot. When I look at these people I see capabilities, not a disability. I take coaching very seriously because competing at a global level is not a joke. Although it makes me happy to be able to contribute to their development, I don’t take pride in myself for doing so. I take pride in their achievements after they participate and win tournaments