Recently, our junior writer Dylan Cummings, interviewed Australian Paralympian Brad Ness. Ness had just come back from coaching a preparation camp in India, helping to develop the sport of wheelchair basketball in the country.

After having such a successful playing career, how did Ness feel moving over to the coaching side of wheelchair basketball? He said it felt like a “natural progression”, adding that he’s got previous experience of passing on his knowledge of the game to others. Nevertheless, he also said that he’s found coaching difficult stating that no matter how long you play the game for, “coaching is a whole different story”, but he likes the challenge of being a player/coach.

Ness explained he enjoyed the experience of coaching a preparation camp in India, saying that: “I hope to get an opportunity to go back and work with the Indian Federation again.” He was impressed with the passion Wheelchair Basketball Federation India (WBFI) has for the sport, wanting to push India to Paralympic success and that what India has been able to achieve in such a short space of time is: “nothing short of a miracle.”

Continuing to describe the overall wheelchair basketball development in India, he said that: “they are definitely on the right path and are going in the right direction.” But he also highlighted that the athletes are faced with challenges that many perhaps take for granted such as; the availability of indoor basketball courts, access to top class sports chair or even accessible gym facilities.

As a result of lack of accessible gym facilities, one of the main aspects Ness focused on during the camp was fitness drills as the athletes stated how much they wanted to feel physically fit.

Ness also focused on fundamentals such as chair skills and 1-on-1 defence, adding that he thinks: “the biggest problem is people start playing wheelchair basketball and they think they’ve just got to shoot a basket but, they don’t actually get taught the fundamentals.”

Adjusting to a new climate and culture can also be quite difficult for a coach, Ness said that although the climate was similar to Australia the culture was very different. He said that the biggest challenge he faced was the communication barrier as there are multiple different languages in India and not all the athletes spoke the same language. So, when he said coached in English it would have to be translated three or four different times before everyone had a clear understanding of what he said.

Although Ness won’t be traveling to Bali to coach the Indian team in the 4th Bali Cup, the Australian government have helped sponsor the Indian women’s team and he hopes to stay involved, saying: “if they invited me back, I’d be back there tomorrow.”

According to Ness, the ones to watch in the men’s team include; Ramesh, Arul Augustus, Javed Choudhary and Parthasarathi. The ones to watch on the women’s team are; Kartiki Patal, Hindu and Vinolia Violet. He said that standard of competition from the teams was very good and he always saw the athletes with smiles on their faces, enjoying the game of wheelchair basketball.

When asked if he hoped to inspire others through what he’s done in his playing career, he responded humbly by saying that he doesn’t reflect much on his career but, has achieved everything by being part of a team. He also said that when he was out in India, he was constantly reminded daily about how much the Indian athletes appreciated him coaching them but also, he appreciated the opportunity to be there.

Finally, Ness’s advice for aspiring young coaches, “to watch as much team sport as possible.” He has learnt that no matter the sport, team sport terminology can be integrated between different sports.

Written by Dylan Cummings, IWBF junior writer