About the Club:
Hi my name is Aaron Blyth-Palk and I run Plymouth Fusion Wheelchair Basketball. Alongside Richie Bolgiani we set up a wheelchair basketball club in Plymouth back in 2011 called Plymouth Storm. There was a real lack of disability sport in and around Plymouth and myself along with a few others from Plymouth were attending a wheelchair basketball club in Exeter, and that’s when I decided that there was a need for a club in Plymouth once again.
The initial aim of the club was to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to play a disability sport on a weekly basis. Over the last decade we have steadily grown the club, now known as Plymouth Fusion, to where we are today with 18 regular members.
We rebranded as Plymouth Fusion in November 2020, as this name encompasses all that we stand for as a club, and how we want to ‘fuse’ together, including individuals from all ages, genders, and disabilities to play the sport.
We are continually trying to improve the opportunities that we can offer and to continue raising awareness around disabilities and disability sport. We have had a lot of positive outcomes with the people that have attended our sessions, and we have seen them develop both as players and individuals, becoming more comfortable with their disability and learning to embrace it rather than feel like it holds them back. Here are some of the responses from individuals that attend the club, and what the club and sport has done for them:
“Playing basketball brings a sense of community through team play and a positively competitive aspect to my life. It showed me the perspective that a disability can be a gift and an opportunity. It also introduced the idea of hard work and commitment which have helped me in all aspects of life, not just basketball. It is a fun way to stay active and meet new people.”
“I have played basketball since a young age, but since an RTA at aged 16 that impacted my legs, I discovered wheelchair basketball that gave me a chance to still play the sport I love but accommodated for my injuries. It’s fun, fast, and full of challenges but I love competing with my teammates and seeing others not let their disabilities hinder or prevent them from playing the game they love.”
Plymouth Fusion’s vision is to create as many opportunities as we can for people with physical impairments or physical disabilities to be playing a disability sport like wheelchair basketball. We want to break down barriers surrounding disabilities, inclusion and equality.
“After having an accident at age 20 I struggled to keep my spirits up, then when I found wheelchair basketball it gave me a group sport I could do, despite anything my body refused to do. It has given me a social life intertwined with an active sport that has no boundaries, no limitations and fellow players that understand the need to be treated like anyone else.”
We aim to focus on encouraging people from all ages into the Club. People with disabilities, like everyone else, can face common problems like self-esteem and body image, stress, bullying, depression, academic problems and peer pressure. This project will help break down barriers around disability, inclusion and equality, and help us to continue to create a fun and safe environment for anyone to attend.
We are introducing 4 new sessions to our already existing sessions to our club that will provide opportunities for the following:
- 6-11 yrs Junior Session
- 11-16 yrs junior Session
- Women's session 14+
- Fusion Session (Open to anyone that wants to get involved with the sport).
These new sessions will provide opportunities for people to get involved and play wheelchair basketball with other individuals, in a similar position to themselves, who may struggle to play a standard able-bodied sport, or be unable to.
Rosie - (New club member since July 2021)
“I was beyond nervous to attend my first wheelchair basketball session but right from word go Aaron made me feel welcome. Attending the sessions for me is so much more than just getting better at basketball, it's about going somewhere that is accessible, where disabled and able bodied people can do something on an equal playing field. Being able to attend a club with my able bodied partner and be on a level playing field is a novelty I didn't think I would ever have! Since I started I can honestly say my confidence has skyrocketed both in the baseball chair and in my own day chair. The club itself is friendly and having the sessions that openly welcomes beginners made deciding to try it out feel safe.”
We hope that we can create the same experiences for our new members as we have for our current members, enabling them to gain confidence around their disability and to mix and socialise with others.
In addition to our original plans to start these new sessions, the unforeseen circumstances around the outbreak of COVID-19 has left many people physically and mentally affected through isolation and lack of physical activity. The Club’s aims will be highly beneficial in bringing people together once again with fun and engaging activities to help support people who have been affected,and bring the positive change in our community that is so greatly needed at this time.
Wheelchair Basketball is seen as an inclusive sport meaning that anyone can play it whether they have a disability/impairment or not, and this then allows both disabled and non-disabled people to play a sport together. We hope that those people that come along who do not have a disability or impairment will then help rid stigmas around disability and bring people together to play an inclusive sport.
How the money will be spent:
The money will be spent to make sure that our new sessions are delivered in a fun, friendly and safe environment. We will be looking to invest money into keen individuals that want to deliver wheelchair basketball by putting them through the relevant courses to make sure they are able to deliver these fun, friendly sessions safely for those attending.
The money will also be used to buy equipment to help deliver these sessions including: basketballs, hoops, bibs and cones as these are essential pieces of equipment.
We also need money to maintain the chairs, with the need of buying new tyres, spokes, and strapping to make sure the chairs are kept safe and usable.
The money raised will also help to continue running these new sessions by covering court hire. We can then make sure that the sessions are sustainable past the initial 12 months, and the club can continue to provide these opportunities for individuals who will have an activity that they can attend and enjoy.
- Coaching Level 1 & 2 - £2000
- Safeguarding/welfare, DBS - £500
- Chair maintenance - £1000
- Equipment - £500
- Court Hire - £6000
- Promotion - £500
Any consideration of financial support that could be given to help us achieve this goal would be gratefully received.
*If you are interested in getting involved with wheelchair basketball, or know anyone who may be, and would like more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.*