Wheelchair Basketball And Relationship Building


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 plastic milk bags – the ones that hold three 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.

 

Advertisements

A Life Path Exercise


Here’s an interesting activity for you and those you work with to do, or it may be something that you’d like to introduce to an adult class you facilitate if you are a teacher or workshop leader. It has to do with depicting your path in life up to the present moment in time. It’s a good way to get to know others around you better and at the same time give you a visual representation of your own history; something very valuable as you’ll see.

How it goes is this: Each person participating is given a paper to write on that is large enough so that it can be posted on a wall for everyone to look at without having to use a magnifying glass. You’ll have to judge the size of paper based on the wall space you have and how many people are participating. Half a sheet of flip chart paper works nicely in most cases.

Each person begins by putting a dot on the page and labels that dot with the location of their birth; typically town or city and name of country. Where everyone started out in this world is in itself a good starting point for generating conversation. You could, if everyone agrees, add the year to the location.  What was going on in that part of the world when you were born is often very insightful. Everyone starts the same; with the first dot being their birth and ends with their final dot being the class everyone is presently taking or the company everyone is working at if it’s a workplace activity, although their positions will vary.

Moving out from the initial dot, each person now draws a line in any direction they wish (most will move from left to right in the western world you may find), and plots a second dot when they recall something memorable to note. It could be anything the person chooses to highlight and share with others including completing high school, moving somewhere new, losing a parent, meeting someone of great influence in their life; maybe even having a childhood illness of lasting significance.

The process continues with extending the line from the second dot to another one and so forth, noting significant moments like new jobs, volunteer roles, getting married, having children or grandchildren, losing jobs, life-defining moments they can recall, moving to new countries, taking the trip of a lifetime, buying a first home, education achievements, etc..

There are really only two guidelines when it comes to what to plot; it’s up to the person themselves to choose the events they wish to comfortably share and the other is that there should be a high degree of respect for what everyone sees on others lifelines. While some might reveal very little of their personal life and restrict themselves to a career path, others might open themselves up to a greater degree adding things like declaring their preferred gender for the first time, moments of great despair and failure etc.

You can see that the level to which a person shares their life journey is indicative of the relationship they feel they have with their audience. Groups that know each other well might reveal more or less than those who are less of a shared history together. This is the kind of activity that you could also do over not just 20 minutes but perhaps a week or more. Maybe people just sit and list on a regular piece of paper their own life events and then transfer these to the larger papers for viewing at a later date.

Now the interesting and most valuable part to this collective exercise is the conversations it generates and the shared or unique experiences people learn about each other. If you are facilitating this exercise in a class, you can draw attention to moments that took great courage, situations in which someone overcame great sadness or tragedy and of course celebrate those moments of great personal satisfaction and joy. It can be extremely uplifting and empowering to have one’s life experiences acknowledged, shared and celebrated.

It can be limited to just career moves as well which some might find safer and less invasive; but you only share what you want in any event. My advice would be to get some agreed upon parameters at the outset from those participating so everyone is okay with what they share and they should know who might look over their life path.

The benefit to this activity is that it can help people understand and appreciate others in ways they could not do otherwise. While one person might get to know another over time and over many conversations, this speeds up that ‘getting to know you better’ process and extends it outward beyond just the people we typically talk to about such things. A deeper understanding and empathy for co-workers, classmates etc. can come about that accelerates relationship building which then in turn can aid in shared projects, shared workspaces and interpersonal development.

A really good facilitator can also articulate and name the skills a person exhibited along their journey in life that they themselves may undervalue or think others will not find value in. It can also provide some good clues explaining why someone thinks, talks and behaves the way they do.

Is there an element of risk and trust in the sharing? Sure there is; there always is in most things worthwhile. Imagine the benefits.