Wheelchair Rugby My Experience
Jim Roberts - Journey to LondonWRC
I was first introduced to wheelchair rugby by one of my nurses in rehab hospital. I was recovering from Bacterial meningitis. I've lost both of my legs below my knees, have a large amount of scaring over my body and limited use of my hands.
My nurse told me that I'd be a perfect fit because of my disabilities, she then lent me a copy of the film "murderball". She was at the time the GB wheelchair rugby team nurse.
It wasn't until the next year almost 6 months after leaving hospital that I got in touch with my local team which was at that point the "South Wales Pirates" now called "Ospreys". The guys there were brilliant, they found me a chair to use and gave me some tips on gloves (I go through a lot of gloves).
I was able to attend a couple of training sessions with those guys and at the time it was absolutely physically exhausting, my shoulders hurt and I had friction burns on my arms from the wheels but I enjoyed every second, I was hooked!
Shortly after I returned to my studies at Coventry University and could no longer train with the Pirates so I had to find a more local club. The "East Midland Marauders" were the team that took me in. They pretty much tried me in every spare chair they had to find one that would fit me best. I trained with them once a week while still at University. I remember the first tournament I attended with them was in Kent, and my first game was against the team I currently play for now "London Storm" being underdogs we actually won the game against London but being the rookie on the team I think I played a maximum of a bout 3 minutes.
I kept up with wheelchair rugby as more of a hobby for the next year or so not able to train as much due to the fact I had a full time placement job in London. The training I was able to do was in leisure centres and pushing around car parks. That season I played for the "North East Bulls" they didn't seem to mind that I wasn't able to train very much but welcomed me to the team with open arms (the Bulls are a fun team!).
Around April 2012 I was asked to attend a GB development camp, this was a pretty big deal as London 2012 was just around the corner so interest in rugby was high!
As I did more and more training it soon became apparent that I'd need my own chair rather than use old or other people's. I think I'd tried 7 or 8 chairs by this point so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted when I ordered mine. (Although knowing what I know now, I know now I'd probably have ordered a completely different chair). Wheelchair rugby is an expensive sport, we have to buy things like, tape, gloves, tubes, tires... But there are a number of charities willing to help people get back in to sports. I was lucky enough that the Meningitis Trust bought my first chair.
I returned to Coventry for my final year of university but this time instead of returning to the Marauders I was enticed to play for "West Coast Crash" based in Southport which was a pretty long drive on a Saturday for training.
I'd also been made a sports scholar at Coventry University and was being given help with my physical conditioning.
I was lucky enough to be selected for the GB development team to attend a tournament in Prague, We finished the tournament in 4th place, I didn't get to play a whole lot but I think that helped me want to get better and keep training.
Shortly afterwards I was invited to join the GB elite squad. I was still at University and in my final year so rugby was definitely taking a back seat to my studies. Nevertheless I was still keeping up with Club training and my strength and conditioning sessions, I think my game was improving all the time, West Coast Crash managed to win a bronze medal at that years nationals.
Thankfully the GB coaches thought I was improving enough and I was selected to represent GB for a number of tournaments that year and most importantly the 2013 European Championships where we gained a bronze medal.
This was the point that I joined "London Wheelchair Rugby Club", the whole wheelchair rugby community has been really open not just with wheelchair rugby but I've learnt so many wheelchair life skills from people around this sport that have helped me immensely. And as you've probably read I've been lucky enough to play for a number of teams in the UK and I haven't met a team I didn't like, (well apart from on the court, it's a different matter then, haha).
London Wheelchair Rugby Club and onwards... That's a story for another time...