Athlete Profile – Charlotte M.

Athlete Profile – Team Charlotte!

By Colin Brandt

“… you could just know what it’s like to be like me or just have a lot of fun and try new things.”

Charlotte and her older sister Ava are two members of the Burlington Vipers wheelchair basketball team. Charlotte, 10 years old, first tried wheelchair basketball when she was 6 years old as a recommendation from her future coach. She looks at Melanie Hawtin, a wheelchair basketball player for Canada’s National Team, as an idol for her and one of the reasons why she
started playing wheelchair basketball. One year later, her sister Ava, 14 years old, was playing as well.

Now on the Burlington Vipers, both sisters play with their two cousins and get constant support from their parents, Andrea and John, “they come to every practice and they cheer me on”. Charlotte spoke about how impactful playing wheelchair basketball with her sister is: “It means a lot because she can finally understand what it’s like to be in a wheelchair and try it and play.” Ava enjoys it because “there’s not a lot of sports that we can do together. so yeah this brings us closer together and our family too.” Andrea believes it’s so important to have a sport that they can all play together, “Charlotte navigating this world in a wheelchair, a lot of the times she’s excluded. so, watching them all play and enjoy something together, words can’t explain. it’s what every parent wants.”

Charlotte pointed to the teamwork involved in wheelchair basketball as one of her favourite things about the sport: “… you can’t just dribble up the court, you have to pass, and you have to have a good team to play with.” To encourage her friends to play she, “would say that you could just know what it’s like to be like me or just have a lot of fun and try new things.” Andrea spoke to the inclusiveness and positivity that surrounds the sport and how it, “… is unique in regard to whether you’re able bodied or you have an exceptionality, you’re on an equal playing field. everybody is able to participate, and everybody is able to be a team member.” She mentioned the teamwork and communication that is required by the sport, even more so than stand up basketball: “it doesn’t matter whether you walk all day, or you roll, everybody is important on the team and everybody is needed as a team.”

Wheelchair basketball has allowed the entire family to gain a better understanding of each other. “Wheelchair basketball has definitely built strength in their relationship. its added that extra element that they’re teammates, not just sisters”. Andrea acknowledged how her daughters have been able to learn more about each other through playing wheelchair basketball together. “I look at my oldest daughter Ava, and she’s someone who wheelchair basketball has allowed her to, although she’s always been able bodied, it allows her a lens into a wheelchair world.” “And I think for Charlotte it gives her the sense that she can be included in this right. She can do just what everybody else does. I think for anyone who plays wheelchair basketball it gives you a sense that we’re all equal and we’re all the same.” Her daughter Ava agreed saying the inclusiveness is something she most enjoys about wheelchair basketball: “I think it’s the inclusion, how anyone can play, it doesn’t matter if you’re able bodied or you have an exceptionality, everyone can play.” Invariably

Andrea remembers when Charlotte was the only child playing among only adults. That’s no longer the case as the sport has continued to grow as Charlotte and Ava’s involvement grows as well. “It’s just continued to evolve into a sport that children are playing. Its accessible in the sense that, before we used to have to travel long distance but now there’s so many children playing in our area. It’s come to where we live, so we’re travelling within our city. and all of Charlotte’s friends, there’s opportunities given through Josee (through OnPara), and she gets to invite friends”. Charlotte has been enjoying the expansion of the sport, going to tournaments across Ontario with her team. “I like travelling and I like to see different teams and playing like usually we do scrimmage and split our team in two so it’s nice play with all our team together.” Even though she loves how fun wheelchair basketball is, “because there’s so few people we understand, and we just want to make sure we’re all having fun”, she still enjoys competing and can see herself continuing to play at a competitive level.

About the Ontario Para Network

Formerly known as the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association, our mission at the Ontario Para Network (ONPARA) is to grow opportunities for participation in adaptive sports across Ontario. As the governing body for wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis in the province, we strive to offer opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in recreational, competitive, and high performance programs. We lead, develop, support and advocate for athletes, coaches and volunteers to build strong and inclusive sport communities. We also deliver extensive outreach and education programs targeting schools as well as individuals and clinicians at rehabilitation hospitals and the broader health care sector.