Wheelchair basketball is fun, competitive and great exercise.
I’d never even set foot on a basketball court before, but within minutes of arrival both regular and new members were chatting and at ease with other.
The Olympic and Paralympic Sailing events held in Weymouth and Portland sparked a surge of interest in sport across the county.
In a bid to build on this legacy, South Coast Tigers coaching team Michael Dronyk and his son Luca successfully launched the county’s first wheelchair basketball club.
They started the initiative at Ferndown Leisure Centre after discovering the nearest facility was in Totton and are aiming to get funding together to start a club in North Dorset and another, hopefully in Weymouth and Portland.
With scores of members, the club is proving to be a great success with people travelling from far and wide to make the Friday evening two-hour sessions.
Facing the unknown became less daunting when friendly coach Luca clearly explained the rules. We were quickly split into teams following a warm up, which was fun in itself and involved laps, races and shooting practise.
The chairs are surprisingly light and easy to move around and before I knew it I’d worked out how to turn around, stop, dribble a ball and even shoot and score a few hoops.
The games were short but fast-paced and some real talent shone through from some of the more experienced players.
After the session, Michael said: “Wheelchair basketball is an inclusive sport that can be enjoyed by any level of ability. It is also a social event where everyone supports one another.”
Although all members of the group will play in one of 25 specially-designed chairs, not everyone is required to be a regular wheelchair user.
The Canadian national told me he has been coaching basketball for around 40 years. But he began dreaming of running a wheelchair club following the Paralympics.
He spoke of the success of the interactive sports arena, held on Weymouth Beach for 24 days during the home Games, which sparked a surge of interest in local clubs.
More than 100,000 people visited the sports arena, which included wheelchair basketball run by the South Coast Tigers coach.
The Ferndown sessions have already received backing from East Dorset District Council and Sport England's Sportivate scheme as well as working in partnership with Active Dorset, Ferndown Upper School and Dorset County Council.
He added: “It’s a really great project and we hope it gets a lot of support and some new members.
“In the long run it might develop future Paralympic and Olympic athletes.
“In Dorset, we are trying to give everyone a chance to participate in sport, whether they are sporty or non sporty and whether they are disabled or non disabled. Sport should be inclusive of everyone with training and competition for the varied levels of ability.”
The total cost to set up the Ferndown club was around £20,000, a total of £15,000 for 25 sport wheelchairs and the rest for a storage container and basketball equipment that included basketballs, vests, cones and variable height baskets.
For more information visit southcoast tigersbasketball.co.uk or search Ferndown Wheelchair Basketball Club on Facebook. The first session is free and from then on it costs £3 each time.