For Swedish national team coach Ines Lopes, it’s all about confidence.
As an able bodied female coach of male handicapped players, Lopes has been able to earn the trust of her team which is currently participating in the Gold Cup Wheelchair World Championship in the Netherlands.
“The men are not used to being told what to do by a woman, so it takes time to earn their respect,” she said.
|“||I think I have earned their respect because I am confident in what I am doing.||„|
A native of Portugal and former player herself, Lopes has been the head coach of Sweden’s wheelchair basketball team for the past year.
Her involvement in wheelchair basketball traces back to 1999.
“It’s a good experience because I played basketball myself,” Lopes said.
“Some things are different. In wheelchair basketball you have to focus not only the game but also the classification system so there is much more to concentrate on.”
In the classification system, each player is assigned a number based on the severity of their disability and the total number of points a team can have on the floor cannot exceed 14.
Despite the differences in the system, Lopes treats her handicapped players no different than the able bodied.
“My point of view is to treat them as players,” she said.
“I don’t fall for the excuse that a player can’t do it. If an able bodied player or a handicapped player comes to me and says they can’t do something, then we work together and try to find another way of doing it.”
The respect Lopes has been able to gain from her players has been evidenced through the performance of Sweden’s top player, Hussein Haidari, in the Gold Cup.
|It took Lopes time to learn the classification system in wheelchair basketball.|
“In the beginning, he didn’t believe in the team system and was trying to do too much himself,” Lopes said.
“Everyday we were speaking to him about playing more team basketball. We finally got through to him and he now believes in the system. As a result, it has made a big difference in the atmosphere of the team.”
Sweden, with just 70 wheelchair players in the country, advanced to the Gold Cup quarter-finals before losing to Canada 90-60 last night.
Powerhouses in the competition such as Australia, Canada and the United States have thousands of players to choose from.
One of the motivating factors for Lopes’ involvement in wheelchair basketball is the positive effect it can have from a social standpoint.
Currently, she is working on developing a programme in Sweden to get more handicapped children involved in wheelchair basketball.
“It is amazing to see the difference it makes in these kids. Before when they are at school, they would have to just sit and watch. Now they are able to feel a part of something.”
The programme in Sweden allows for kids to practice every Saturday.
“The kids have such smiles on their faces. It brings them together, brings parents together, allows children to get exercise and creates so much positive energy.”
“The same is true at the senior level. Many of these people have had tragic accidents that have changed their lives forever. Basketball helps them to stay active. It gives them a chance to get out and build a social network with other people who may be in the same situation. It helps makes their lives more normal.”