Wheelchair basketball teams adjust to pandemic


Dane Sheehan

The opening Tip-off during a UW-Whitewater Men’s Wheelchair basketball game vs Illinois, in November 2019.

Devin Ulrich, Assistant Sports Editor

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, sports continue to have to adapt to new protocols. That includes wheelchair basketball, a very popular sport at UW-Whitewater. 

Wheelchair basketball is a big deal at Whitewater, and many people are always intrigued to find out more about the sport. Usually the Cornerstone Program is underway for freshman students to experience the sport and learn more about rules of play, and hear the unique stories of the athletes. With the unprecedented times, wheelchair basketball looks a little different this season since it is not in-person. 

“There is no hands on portion of playing basketball in the wheelchairs for the students to experience unfortunately, as it is all virtual. Though it gives more time to go into more depth of some of the athletes’ incredible stories,” women’s wheelchair basketball coach Christina Schwab said. 

While the Cornerstone Program has changed so have the practices for the wheelchair basketball teams. Coach Schwab elaborated on the new look practices for both the women’s and men’s basketball teams, “We are going three days a week of practice to limit exposure, everyone wears masks, and everyone receives their own two basketballs, leaving everyone to have their own space.” 

The practices tend to be individually spaced out, as social distancing is important to maintain. The teams continue to follow the NCAA and WIAC rules that are set in stone. Coach A.J. Messmer of the men’s wheelchair basketball team has implemented changes in practices and working out for the athletes. 

“We split it up so everyone is spaced out, so it has turned into a lot of conditioning and shooting drills for the players. We also have to limit only six athletes at a time in the weight room so that has been a bit of a challenge to make sure everyone can get their work in,” head said.  

Even with the changes to more individual work at practices, it is still benefiting some of the players greatly to fine tune their skills. That includes graduate transfer of the Women’s team, Mandy Willmore.

“I’m fairly new to wheelchair basketball, so with Covid we have had to adapt in practices to more individual skills which has been very beneficial to me, while I’m fairly new to perfecting my skills,” Willmore said. 

As Covid continues to change how we look at sports all around us, UW-Whitewater is doing its best to keep sports like Wheelchair Basketball afloat. The WIAC suspended sports until Dec. 31 of this year, but that still leaves the door open for Wheelchair Basketball to get some competition going in 2021.

The men’s team plans on a tournament in the middle of January to Omaha, Nebraska and the women’s team plans on a tournament in February in Champagne, Illinois. The teams will continue to follow the guidelines and remain hopeful for a season to begin in early 2021.