This weekend saw the launch of Wales Wheelchair Basketball Association’s (WWBA) 3 x 3 programme and the beginning of the association’s journey towards qualification for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Wheelchair basketball will enter Commonwealth Games programming for the first time in Birmingham and will be played in a 3 x 3 format, a fast-paced, half court version of the 5-a-side game routinely played in clubs and leagues across Wales.
The launch of the 3 x 3 programme, supported by Disability Sport Wales, saw a talent ID day held in Aberystwyth, which welcomed Wales’ performance athletes to showcase their skills.
Men’s Head Coach Caroline Matthews says of the day:
“Sunday’s event was a huge success. I really enjoyed the day and learned a lot about the new format for wheelchair basketball – and I hope all the athletes felt the same. There was some fantastic talent on display throughout the day and I’m really looking forward to moving forward along our journey towards the Commonwealth Games 2022”
Women’s Head Coach Lee Coulson elaborates:
“It was fantastic to see players from all over Wales in one venue. As the day progressed and players began the transition into the 3v3 game is was fantastic to see what potential Wales has to compete against other countries. It was exciting to see how quickly the 3v3 game evolved from the beginning of the day to the end and I look forward to the next session”
Feedback from athletes attending the event has also been hugely positive. Player and Head Coach of the highly successful North Wales Knights, Mike Hayes, says of the day:
“For me, it was an incredibly proud moment as a player to be part of such an exciting event as the 3×3 launch. I had given up any hope of ever being able to try out for a Wales wheelchair basketball team. It’s a long journey ahead to 2022, but for everyone involved in the game in Wales, it’s an incredibly exciting time.”
There is no guarantee that Wales will compete at Birmingham 2022, and at the start of the day on Sunday, Gerwyn Owen, Performance Pathway Manager from Disability Sport Wales, outlined the challenges to achieving qualification. However, WWBA, which was only formed in 2017 to drive the development of the sport across Wales, is determined to maximise any chance Wales might have of qualification.
WWBA Chair, Lou Englefield outlines the association’s ambitions:
“Qualification for Birmingham presents challenges, and we are happy to take these head-on. As far as we are aware, we are the first of the Home Nations to launch a targeted 3 x 3 programme. We want to be ahead of the game at all stages of the process and showcase the tremendous talent coming through the sport in Wales”