Building A Wheelchair Basketball Program

Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via Live Quickie Blog
Live Quickie Blog
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Katherine Kerr-Pankow, a school-based occupational therapist, began her passion project of creating a wheelchair basketball program when she returned home from completing her Master of Occupational Therapy degree in 2013.

Katherine and sports wheelchair

“The idea to create a wheelchair basketball program in the Quinte area started when I was an undergraduate student at Queen's University. I became involved in a program called "Revved Up" which provided opportunities for people with physical and cognitive exceptionalities to engage in physical exercise. The adaptive workout equipment caught my eye immediately, and I began to search for ways in which I could become more involved. This led to an interest in wheelchair basketball and my eventual entry into an Occupational Therapy master's program,” says Katherine.


“Some of the best athletes I know use a wheelchair for everyday mobility and for sport. Getting to know those athletes and their stories of perseverance & overcoming adversity is why I wanted to start this program.”

wheelchair basketball athletes

Katherine became involved with an adaptive sports program during her master’s program. She gained exposure to different adaptive sports and athletes with various disabilities. “I witnessed the tremendous impact of sports on the athletes I met, and I wanted to bring that same opportunity of sport to my hometown. Following graduation, I moved back to the Quinte area and decided to create a wheelchair basketball program,” she says.

Passion To Start Adaptive Sports Program

Katherine states her passion to start an adaptive sports program began from being exposed to adaptive sports as a child by her grandfather who was a below the knee amputee. “I used to spend my summers with my grandparents at Lake St. Peter, just north of Bancroft, Ontario. We loved to be on the water, whether paddling or on a sea-doo. My grandfather had a below-the-knee amputation, but that did not stop him from participating in the sports he loved. Rather, he decided to adapt, and he ended up getting a waterproof prosthetic so he could continue playing in the water. It was normal for me to watch Grandpa switch his prosthetics at the lake, and I would often help him,” she says.

wheelchair basketball athletes

“Never give up on your dream. Expect obstacles and hurdles, but keep pushing through them. Perseverance is key. Keep networking and making connections. Never forget why you started your initiative in the first place. Always remember your "why."”

Wheelchair Basketball Program Growth

 Wheelchair Basketball Quinte has been growing for the past six years. Changes have been made in the program to build a competitive team. Katherine states, “We now play from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday night from September to June. We have split the times to provide two different opportunities. For the first hour, we have our "Intro to Wheelchair Basketball" program (available for people aged 9 and older), where we do a few skills & drills exercises, and then play a smaller half-court game. For the second hour, we open up the full court and play a fast-paced competitive game (available for people aged 12 and older).”

Wheelchair Basketball Quinte has been invited into elementary and secondary schools across the community to conduct wheelchair basketball workshops, introducing the game to local youth.

wheelchair basketball team in halloween costumes

“One of the best parts of our program is that a person who does require a wheelchair for everyday use, will come and often bring a few of their buddies. Not only does our Tuesday night program provide an opportunity for physical exercise, but it is also a great social experience for everyone.“

Once a year, Wheelchair Basketball Quinte partners with Ontario Para Network to hold an annual 3-vs-3 wheelchair basketball tournament, where members within the program and within the general community put teams together to compete.

“Last but definitely not least, I need to express my gratitude to Sunrise Medical and Motion (formerly Motion Specialties). Sunrise Medical and Motion are the reason why this program has become what it is today. When we first started back in 2013, we were using fairly old equipment. Since then, Sunrise Medical has donated nine beautiful brand new QUICKIE® All Court sport wheelchairs to our program, and even giving us the opportunity to customize a few of them,” says Katherine.

Katherine gives the following advice for anyone looking to start an adaptive sports program - “If you are interested in starting an adaptive sports program in your community, my biggest piece of advice is to start networking. The reason why this program developed is because of the connections that were made. Don't hesitate to attend adaptive sports events, make phone calls to those who can provide advice, or reach out to local organizations. You never know who you might meet.”

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