Last month I wrote about measuring excellence, ‘the glory of achievement,’ and our collective fixation on medal standings: “Excellence may be immeasurable, but we know it when we see it.” Case in point: the Canadian men and women’s wheelchair basketball teams.
What stands out about the Canadian men and women’s wheelchair basketball teams isn’t their combined 8-1 win-loss record, or that they’re both headed to the quarter-final knockout round ranked first and third, respectively, in their groups after the preliminary round, or even that they’ve their won games by a combined 109 points. What stands out is these athletes’ remarkable teamwork.
Amateur athletes that play team sports—especially Paralympian athletes that play team sports—don’t often receive the support or the recognition that they deserve. Here’s where the focus on medal-counting fails: if we measure the success of a sport funding program by the number of medals it returns, team sports will always receive less funding than individual sports. Of course, that premise is already flawed: money doesn’t win medals; athletes do. It’s clear that Canadian wheelchair basketball players go for the gold in the spirit of friendly competition, for the glory of achievement, and, most of all, as a team.
Paralympians, Olympians, and Canadian amateur athletes do deserve our support and appreciation. They deserve needed funding support, they deserve to have their achievements celebrated, and they deserve to know that they’re part of an even greater team, a national sport community of more than 34 million Canadians.
The Canadian wheelchair basketball teams show us that teamwork is at the root of our greatest successes. Marianne Williamson wrote that, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” The dedication, the success, the immeasurable and powerful excellence of these teams reminds us that Canadians, united in our diversity of experiences, abilities, and perspectives, can together achieve immeasurable and powerful excellence too. This kind of excellence is ‘immeasurable and powerful’ because, far greater than wins, points, and rankings, the ripple effect of remarkable teamwork knows no bounds.
The Senate Human Rights committee’s recommendation that the Government of Canada “celebrate and publicize the achievements of athletes with disabilities in a manner that is equal to the way Canada’s Olympic athletes are celebrated and promoted” isn’t just about the human rights of Canadians with disabilities—it’s also about the immeasurable, powerful, and lasting ripple effect that celebrating these achievements can have on the human rights of us all.
Join me in cheering for the Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team as it takes on the United States at 9:15 PM BST today, and the Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team as it tips off against Spain at 7:00 PM BST tomorrow. Go Canada, go!