In order for a Wheelchair Basketball game to be as fair as possible, all players must be classified prior to a tournament, so too at the European Para Championships. Director Toine Klerks of Basketball Experience NL explains the classification of Wheelchair Basketball.
Indeed, to play Wheelchair Basketball at the international level, players must meet several criteria. A player with reduced muscle strength, reduced passive range of motion, limb deficiency, leg length difference, hypertonia, ataxia or athetosis qualifies for the sport.
The point system of Wheelchair Basketball
To keep the game as equal as possible, players are classified into different classes. “With classification, the idea is to look at everyone’s abilities relative to his or her disability. This ultimately determines the number of points,” explains Toine Klerks. Players are assigned points between 1, 2, 3 and 4. In exceptional cases, some get 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 or 4.5 points when they do not fall exactly in one class.
A player with 1 point has the most handicap and a 4.5, on the other hand, has the least handicap. The total number of points a team’s five players must have in the field is a maximum of 14. “If you have two 4.5 players in the field, with two slight handicaps, you already have nine points. Then you have to put three more players next to it. There can only be people with heavy handicaps there, otherwise you go over the 14.”
‘Points system has positive effect on the sport’
So for a league coach of a Wheelchair Basketball team, there is a lot involved tactically during such a game. “You see very often that they then also switch in pairs. So for example a 4 and a 2 change for a 3 and a 3. I think the beauty of this system is that the sport is possible for a lot of handicaps. So this point system really did have a positive effect on the sport.” During the game, there is a placard on the back of the wheelchairs, showing how many points that person is. On the sidelines of the field, an official also keeps track of whether a team is not over maximum points.
Can a player’s class change?
“Someone with a disability that is progressive can eventually be changed class. If your functionality keeps decreasing or improving, you may end up in a different class at another tournament.” Also, with the International Paralympic Committee, the rules have become stricter. “Players with too light a handicap could no longer compete for their country after that.” Whether cheating occurs regularly, Klerks does not dare to say. “Yes, people say not of course. There used to be even a needle pricked whether the players could feel it or not. During games, if one has doubts about a certain classification of a player, they can put him or her on the spot. Based on that, that player might then get half a point higher or half a point lower.”