In a year defined by uncertainty, the head coach of Canada’s men’s wheelchair basketball team has focused on what he and his team can control.
Heading into the already once postponed Paralympics in Tokyo, Matteo Feriani has prioritized solving the mental challenges he anticipates they will face, rather than the physical ones that nobody can stop.
Given the restrictions brought on by Covid-19, athletes have been forced to look within themselves for motivation, which can be difficult.
“The need to stay socially distanced and not being able to see another athlete to compare how fast he is going, how hard he is pushing, how bad he is shooting, how bad he is passing is a challenge,” said Feriani, on a zoom call Monday afternoon.
“For an athlete it is a challenge not to measure against anybody, we have to remember that we are in a competitive sport, we are always in a competition.”
Wheelchair basketball differs from the NBA style of game in that it makes use of all five players on the court, something that under current health protocols, they aren’t able to practice.
“Wheelchair basketball is much more challenging, it’s more difficult, we need to help each other a lot more, with picks, with timing, with creating the right space,” said Feriani.
Preparing for specific teams has been hard as well, but Feriani and his team have been able to persevere with the help of technology.
“We tried to work mentally with the athletes on everything, we were meeting once a month and they were discussing amongst themselves, but also using the video tools that we have in order to share the different strategies,” said Feriani. “Last year we studied together with all of the athletes and all the teams that we are going to face.”
For all of the difficulties athletes have had to face due to the pandemic, Feriani believes it has produced the opportunity for his players to miss the sport and remember the reasons they love it.
He’s noticed that a bit of time spent away from the game has made them appreciate the moments on the court. As a result, his players have been working harder in practice, something that puts every coach in the right state of mind.