Over the last two weeks I was fortunate to be among those presenting workshops for my colleagues in the Social Services Department where I work.
This was an inaugural event; hopefully the first of what will be an annual undertaking. I say I was fortunate because there were only 3 workshops offered in any one day and to be involved in facilitating 1 of them was my privilege.
In addition to the workshops, there was a keynote speaker, some testimonials from those in receipt of our services both past and present, and there was a presentation on local workforce statistics too; giving us a fairly tight day. There was of course a much-appreciated luncheon too; if you feed us, we will be happier!
I tell you though, one of the most unusual and looked-forward-to activities of the day however was the opportunity to play some wheelchair basketball with my co-workers during our lunch break. It wasn’t the only option either. Some staff opted to join a drum circle; where 2.5 foot bongo-style drums appeared and a trained player came in to lead whoever opted to join the activity in learning how to play.
Oh and the third lunchtime option was sitting down and learning how to turn those large plastic milk bags – the ones that hold three individual plastic milk bags inside – into a weaved mat for families in poorer parts of the world to sleep on as a makeshift mattress. That was even more unique than the wheelchair basketball; I’d never heard of such a thing and it was indeed something to see completed.
My choice was to get out on the court and try out my skills while confined to a wheelchair and unable to use my legs in the process. It was so much fun the first day, that when I returned on the following two days, I opted to play a second and then a third time too. As those attending each day were different people, it gave me the chance to interact with fresh faces and play with or against co-workers I both seldom see or work with. Our department is very large you see, and we are spread across 5 locations so we don’t actually meet face-to-face often.
If like me, you’ve never had the chance to sit in a wheelchair and play the game, you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity if you can. Forget about your natural talent or lack of it. This wasn’t about finding out who the great athletes are and separating the good from the bad. This was all about having fun and interacting with people we’d only normally interact with in a strictly work-like capacity.
We’d all assemble on the court, strapped in to avoid falling, and then experiment with manoeuvering around the floor. Learning how much speed we could generate, how to turn left or right, how to pick up the ball from the floor and most importantly of course, how to shoot the ball without being able to generate any power whatsoever from our legs. That was a great leveling experience! One of the adaptations we were glad to see was the hanging of two hula hoops from the basket at each end. The lowest hoop counted as a point, the higher one worth a couple and if you did score in the traditional basketball net, it was worth three points.
Make no mistake it was fun; it wasn’t about which team won, how many points were scored or defended against. We had, I suspect, about 7 players on each team, although no one really stopped and counted. There were no substitutions or referee, no out-of-bounds even when the ball did go where the traditional boundary lines were painted on the floor. We were lucky in fact that there was netting all around the playing area to catch stray passes and missed shots. We were onlookers too; curious co-workers cheering on the group of us, curious enough to hang out with us but not interested in actually playing.
Like a lot of activities it accomplished what it was designed to do. Give staff the opportunity to bond with each other and interact in a fun way. In this sense, we all won. It was a good time. So good was it in fact that some wondered aloud if that wouldn’t be a great social activity for upcoming birthday parties with friends. That might sound unusual plans for a birthday party, but it put a lot of smiles on our faces.
When you play together you work better together. Relationship-building is something many good organizations seek to encourage in their employees. The people I typically email or speak with over the phone, but whom I seldom see face-to-face except in training events I now know better. The fun basketball get together is really the vehicle or tool that gives us some common ground upon which to strengthen our working relationship. It accomplishes the same thing for those I work with daily, including the person I share my office with. Getting together in a non-traditional way.
Mission accomplished. I’ve yet to hear anyone involved who didn’t have a good time. I feel that (heaven forbid) I should lose the use of my legs, I have something positive to look forward to, not to mention a real appreciation for those who unlike me, can’t get up and walk away when the game is over.
Written By Kelly Mitchell