This was originally published on Quora on January 6 as Laura Hale’s answer to Is professional wheelchair basketball or American college wheelchair basketball more important to players trying to crack their national team rosters?.
If you’re a wheelchair basketball player looking to make your national team, what pathway is the best one will really depend on the level of talent in your country and where you are in your playing career.
For younger players who are 17, 18, 19 or 20, it makes a lot of sense to try to go to the United States, get a wheelchair basketball scholarship and play for a program like the The University of Alabama
, The University of Texas at Arlington
, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
, Auburn University
, Southwest Minnesota State University
or University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
to name a few schools. The quality of play at these programs is pretty high, and they are attracting young players from around the globe. Canadians, Americans and Australians are all playing for them, and they assist in developing Paralympic quality talent if you can make the squad. Most national team coaches in the Americas, Oceania and Europe know about them, have some relationships with these programs and get reports on player progress for them. The programs are structured enough that you can get some real discipline. Take it while you can get it, and take the free education.
That window is open only for a little while though. If you take up the sport later or missed that window, then playing professionally overseas is a really good option. The ideal situation is to get a professional contract that allows you to play overseas, and then to return home for your country’s domestic club season. Two season players have advantages in getting to play in multiple systems, getting continual play, and getting to play against the best internationally and domestically. The issue is managing to adapt when playing overseas, getting playing time over seas and not burning out your body. Some players go overseas, and can’t hack the local culture, find themselves not adjusting to a new system and then having to break contract and go home. It isn’t the kind of message you want to be sending to national team selectors. If you’re 25 though and still wanting to make the national team squad, playing overseas can really assist your visibility if you can make it. Coaches also appear to appreciate this. I think in deeper squads, if you have the chance and don’t take it, then you hurt your chances. Teams become so much better when their players are playing overseas. Iran has had players competing overseas in Germany and Spain. It’s helped position them as one of the better teams in Asia. Those players who do play overseas are becoming starters. It appears to be a decision that is really paying off for them.