Bears on the move

Bears' Macauley Thompson shoots under pressure from London Titans' Ade Adepitan.
Bears' Macauley Thompson shoots under pressure from London Titans' Ade Adepitan.

Warwickshire Bears Wheelchair Basketball Club have found a new home in Leamington.

Bears, who boast three senior teams, including one in the top division of the British League, a women’s side and junior outfit, currently train and play at WCG’s Henley-in-Arden campus.

The sale of the site to Wasps left Bears scrambling to find a new base, with the Premiership Rugby club hoping to gain access to the site next month.

Bears spread their net across the county in search of an alternative venue but found courts at schools and leisure centres were booked up well in advance.

Head coach Tom Masterson, who jointly formed the club in 2002 as Stratford Players, said it was not just a case of finding a new court, however.

“We train on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday afternoons and play games on Sundays,” said Masterson. “But the other issue is that it is not like an able-bodied side where you just have a bag of balls to carry around, we need somewhere to store the wheelchairs.”

Parking, changing facilities, toilets and showers all needed to be considered when evaluating a new base but thanks to the continued involvement of WCG (formerly Warwickshire College Group), Bears are set to move to the group’s Leamington campus.

A spokesman for WCG said: “We met with Bears head coach and founder Tom Masterson and treasurer Dan Smith last week and offered alternate venues at a couple of our sites.

“They have opted for our Leamington site with some conditions that were confirmed by email and that we are in agreement with, so we are delighted to be able to support the Bears going forward.

“We now have to undertake some work on the venue to accommodate them - including changing rooms and storage - and are just working out exact timings for this and when they will move across.”

Since rebranding as Warwickshire Bears in 2008, the club have gone from strength to strength and now battle it out with the sport’s elite teams in the British Wheelchair Basketball Premier League.

Masterson said it was not the fate of the senior side that concerned him most had the club failed to find a suitable alternative to Henley-in-Arden but what might happen to the promising youngsters should they be robbed of a chance to play the sport.

“There are not many sports clubs for kids to join, especially disabled kids and I want to keep it going for them.

“The main thing is getting them out of their homes and playing.

“I could give numerous testimonials from parents about their kids and how proud they are to say they are wheelchair basketball players - they brag to their friends at school.

“We’re not just another club. An able-bodied kid could just go down the road and find another football team if this happened to their club.

“For our kids it’s us or nothing.”

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