Rolling with the Punches
They always say it is the people behind an organisation like Suncoast Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Inc that continue to make it great. As mothers Sharon Fulwood, Maryanne Smith and Glenys Blanford prove, a mother’s love can bring about true greatness
What their group may lack in size, they definitely don’t lack in heart and this is clear when you meet the mothers behind Suncoast Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Inc.
Run by a truly dedicated collection of mothers, the group meets every Wednesday night at the University Sports Stadium, providing a place for some social basketball while still maintaining pathways to national level wheelchair basketball.
While the organisation of the weekly games is remarkable in itself, once a year Sharon, Maryanne and Glenys also put their organisation skills into overdrive hosting a world class tournament and bringing over 150 athletes both Paralympians and world championship players from around Australia and overseas to compete.
Sharon says their focus is clear – regardless of your age, condition or athletic abilities; you are always welcome at the Spinners, they definitely don’t discriminate.
“As part of the committee, it takes patience, hard work, a love of people and being willing to be in the background so that the athletes get their glory to make a group like this run successfully,” says Sharon.
“There are so many benefits to be had; for me personally it is the friendships and for the players you can’t go past the team spirit, confidence, positive role models for other kids with disabilities to see they can achieve in the community.
“Basketball is a great way for parents and siblings to ‘play’ with their disabled athlete where they are the ones at a disadvantage.”
Sharon started at Suncoast Spinners when her then 10-year-old son Jake went to a demonstration day and he was immediately hooked.
While Sharon’s commitment to the group is obvious, she is also extremely grateful for Suncoast Spinners and the game of wheelchair basketball helping to make Jake the man he is today.
“It has given him confidence to complete school, move to Brisbane to study and wheelchair basketball has also given him the opportunity to travel around Australia with state teams The Rolling Thunder and the RSL Spinning Bullets and overseas with the Australian Development team.
As part of the committee, it takes patience, hard work, a love of people and being willing to be in the background so that the athletes get their glory to make a group like this run successfully,”
“To see Jake’s confidence grow from a very shy boy who struggled to see what his abilities were, to a young man who not only knows what he can do, but where those abilities can take him is very inspiring.”
This same appreciation for the confidence it has brought her son Ben is also evident for Maryanne who got involved with Suncoast Spinners three years ago after an accident left Ben a paraplegic.
As a lover of sport and a very active person before his accident, Maryanne said his attitude of ‘it is what it is and just get on with it’ is fantastic.
“Spinners has enabled him to participate in sport again, giving him a connection to his previous lifestyle and what felt like a sense of normality for him I suppose,” says Maryanne.
“In the early days of his paraplegia it gave him a focus, something to look forward to each week.
“I'm so proud of how he has grown and developed because he has faced the difficulty of accepting the fact that his body can't do what his mind wants it to do anymore and he has learnt to embrace his new ability level and developed techniques and strategies to counteract any losses.
At Spinners everyone is the same, even if they are different,”
“This attitude has led him to now play for Queensland in the men’s National Wheelchair Basketball League for the first time this year.”
Through her involvement with Suncoast Spinners, Maryanne continues to see the benefits of basketball for those in wheelchairs; from providing an avenue for social interaction as a team sport to helping with physical fitness and strength.
“Because it is an all inclusive sport, able-bodied players can play as well so this helps break down some barriers and helps with awareness of different disability levels and respect and acceptance both on and off the court.”
When it comes to Glenys, she has taken her support of her own son Ben to the next level, because not only has she supported him in his chosen sport, but hit the court right alongside him.
Glenys says when people initially come to play basketball they are often the only one in their family or groups of friends to have a disability.
“At Spinners everyone is the same, even if they are different,” says Glenys.
“Every person may have a different disability or no disability in the case of some players, but once we’re in the chairs and playing, we are all equal; we are all the same and the only thing that matters is our basketball game, not our disability.
“The feeling of self worth that results from this can be very empowering to someone who has always been the odd one out and for me personally it has been a big part of my life for a long time.
“It has been fantastic to see Ben grow and develop as he has become more interested in basketball and it has improved his general fitness tremendously.
“It has given me great friendships and is a wonderful club to belong to where you get to be involved and we’re there to pick you up if you fall.”
It is this steadfast dedication that sees these wonderful women balance motherhood, careers and more to ensure the Suncoast Spinners continue to succeed.
Their organisational skills go into overdrive to run the major Sunshine Coast tournament each year, a tournament that may have started with only six teams competing but has continued to grow each year.
But perhaps at the end of the day it is Maryanne who puts it all into some perspective for them all when she says, “It is always important to give something back to the community. We all live busy lives, but if everyone gave a little more to help contribute to others, our society would be a far richer place. It is incredibly gratifying to be able to help someone in making their life a little better or happier, and not for personal or financial gain, but just because you can”.