Wheels turning for basketball prospect
Legal's Arinn Young moving up in wheelchair basketball world
Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 06:00 am
World champion Arinn Young of Legal has accepted an offer to join the National Wheelchair Basketball Academy in Toronto.
The 19-year-old wheelchair basketball prospect has gathered a wealth of new experiences over the last year and appears to have a bright future in her chosen sport.
This wasn’t always the case. In 2011, Young was playing lacrosse when an awkward fall twisted her right knee. The seemingly minor injury would keep Young off the courts for months and require surgery.
For a lifelong athlete, the news was devastating. Young had played basketball since she was five and hated being inactive. Max MacMillan, a family friend and wheelchair basketball coach, suggested Young try wheelchair basketball.
“I was so bad,” said Young. “It was a lot more intense than I was expecting. The first time I stole a ball I was so surprised I apologized.”
The challenge was exactly what Young had been looking for. She kept at it, even when her knee healed and she returned to stand up basketball.
“My stand up coaches aren’t going to like hearing this but I like chair basketball more,” said Young. “It’s a lot harder and more aggressive. The co-ordination is a lot different because you have to control the ball and the chair at the same time.”
Young remembers the first time she brought one of her coaches to a game. He was amazed the teams were running actual basketball plays.
Young has gotten used to hearing misconceptions about the sport.
“Everybody thinks that we’re softer or our games are boring and unskilled until they come to a game. We beat each other up out there.”
Young doesn’t play stand up competitively anymore. Last season she jumped for a ball and landed with her left knee twisted beneath her. She knew immediately that something was wrong.
“I could tell right away that this was worse than my right knee. We went straight from the game to the hospital to get an MRI.”
The injury is nagging and may never heal fully. Young is meeting with doctors later this month about possibly getting surgery. It will be her fourth knee surgery.
After winning 15 MVP awards and two city championships, it looked like Young’s days of stand up basketball were over. It was disappointing for her but she refused to let it hold her back.
“It’s just what it is. I was still playing chair and getting better at that so that’s what I focus on.”
In January Young was invited to attend the selection camp for the Senior Women's National Wheelchair Basketball Team. She impressed the coaches enough to receive a call-up when another player dropped out due to injury.
“How could I say no? It was the world championships,” Young said.
Young held her own at her first international competition and took home a gold medal with the team, Canada’s first since 2006. It was an incredible moment.
“It was amazing,” she said.
In August Young will move to Toronto to practice full-time with the national team and take classes at Centennial College.
“Never stop trying,” Young said. “Even when things are difficult or going badly. You have to keep trying and working and things will get better.”