Parks bank on basketball accessibility.
Eighteen competitors from a variety of states faced off on Aug. 12, at the Glenville (N.Y.) Mini Sportsplex to compete for the title of Bankshot National Champion. Craig Washo of Pennsylvania finished in second place, only two points shy of his challenger, three-time champion Brad Ziemer from Indiana, who won first place for his fourth consecutive year. What makes this noteworthy is the fact that Washo is only 12 years old; Ziemer is 20 years old and two feet taller. Yet both competed equally against each other in a new sport being played at more than 100 locations in 35-plus states throughout the United States and Canada.
Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1992, companies have adapted their facilities for use by both the physically challenged and the able-bodied. Now, parks and recreation facilities are getting in the act with a new version of basketball played on specially designed courts.
Bankshot Basketball, the sport and court that were created in anticipation of the 1981 International Year of the Disabled, provides a fully inclusionary family-oriented sport that everyone can play together, regardless of physical ability or age. Originally developed and marketed to Israeli hospitals, the game features a course that is aesthetically designed, displaying traditional basketball hoops attached to colorful backboards, playing floors and color-coded locations. The basketball backboards feature a variety of geometric shapes that cause unpredictable caroms. Facilities usually feature 18 stations, ranging in difficulty and requiring various strategies.
Descriptive names, such as Chute Shots, Ricochet Shots, Double Glance and Wrap Around, adorn the various stations. The game itself, as well as the National Association of Bankshot Owners’ Commission, Rockville, Md., was invented in response to a car accident that left Rabbi Reeve Robert Brenner’s cousin Janis confined to a wheelchair. Dubbed the Rabbi of Roundball by Sports Illustrated, the inventor of the game has seen the special courts appear at parks and recreational facilities at about 100 locations in more than 35 states throughout the United States and Canada.
The result is an inclusionary, non-running and non-aggressive sport that emphasizes creative strategy, focused concentration, shooting ability and judgment over size, speed and other innate physical abilities.
“If somebody in a wheelchair wants to play traditional basketball or any other running sport against a person without disabilities, the able bodied player has to get in a wheelchair to play fair,” says Brenner. “In [this game] there is no need for that. Rather than size, strength, shape and speed, it is skill, intelligence and creativity that counts.”
Facilities like the revitalized Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park, New York, now feature bankshot basketball courts and are opening up the concept of universal design by offering access for all people.
The rink is the largest skating facility in North America and the site of Manhattan’s only outdoor miniature golf course. The basketball facility was added in 1993 and has turned into a popular spot for avid players in Central Park.