This week, we go one-on-one with Niamh Horan, an outstanding young talent who represents the Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball team and who has recently been selected to join the GB Women’s Junior Training Squad in preparation for the European Championships later this year.
First of all, we asked Anna Jackson – her coach and the Chair of the Wheelchair basketball club – about Niamh, and this is what she said:
“Niamh being selected for the GB Training Squad is great news – she has worked really hard over the last 12 months and is growing in confidence both on and off the court. She is a pleasure to coach and I am a really proud Head Coach.
“As a retired member of Team GB it is great to see her starting out on her GB journey – I can remember that feeling of excitement and nervousness before my first GB Training session but also an immense feeling of pride – I am sure that if she keeps improving and working hard she will reap the rewards and get her GB spot. We are all really proud of her here at the Club and in our Angel’s Women’s League Club and we wish her well.”
Then we asked Niamh, how she first became involved with the sport.
“I wasn’t really all that much of sporty person up until a couple of years of years ago – I used to go swimming for the exercise I needed at the pool in the old EPIC, but as my disability progressed this became more and more difficult. We came across a leaflet advertising Wheelchair Basketball which put us in contact with Anna [Jackson – Phoenix WBC Head Coach] – and we went from there! When I started, the club was mostly just training and learning skills – but last season we entered Division 4 of the league – the development league – and we finished the season undefeated. This season we have two teams in the same league – Phoenix White and the team I represent, Phoenix Blue – who are also undefeated after two rounds of games.
But I also represent another couple of teams – I’m with the Angels of the North [with Anna as my coach there as well], in Division 1 [of four] in the Women’s League, and also the Lancaster Spinners in the Junior league. And soon I will be coming up again for possible re-selection to the North-West Regional Team, which I have represented for the past two years in the Lord Taverners’ National Junior Championship. I am also a member of a scheme called the AASE – [Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence] in Wheelchair basketball – which helps me to improve my game skills in court sessions led by Peter Mintoft who is a well-established and high up coach in the basketball and Wheelchair basketball world, and we also have classroom sessions dealing with off court aspects of the game such as nutrition and motivation, all of which contribute to my personal development as well as equipping me to be able to hand on the benefits to other members of the club in my role as Junior vice-captain.
About a month or so ago, I attended the GB U25’s development camp, and a couple of weeks ago I heard that I had been selected to go on to the Training camp at Sheffield at Easter – with a possibility of going on to represent GB at the upcoming European Championships. There are a number of current Paralympians who are eligible to play for the U25s, so there will be strong competition for places!
If I all goes well, I’d love to go on to the senior squad at some time in the future – and a dream would be to represent GB at the Paralympics!
As a member of the Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club , I genuinely feel that we are achieving great things – we have increasing numbers of players and the younger ones are making really good progress. I think we will continue to put teams into the Development League – to bring players on – something we are doing really well, rather than to enter Division 3 and have it all about promotion and relegation – apart from the fact that we would need more qualified coaches – Anna could not be expected to coach teams in two different divisions at the same time!
A lot of people don’t realise that you do not need to have a disability to take part in Wheelchair basketball – it’s a really inclusive sport that literally anyone can take part in. Our Phoenix teams contain both able bodied and disabled players, and I know on a personal level that my personal skills and self-confidence have both grown enormously since I joined the club. The club is enormously supportive to everyone involved – so why not come down and have a go?
(Article written by Mike Devitt from Cheshire Phoenix.)