For those of you with resolutions to take better care of yourself and your body, let this be one reason why you’ll never stray from going on that run because you’re tired. And, to those of you who have a dream and can think of a million reasons why that dream is unrealistic, let this story be your assurance that anything is possible and only you can set limits for yourself.
#17 Mickey Kay, the young man you see in the picture above, is now playing in Germany for the Jena-Caputs, a professional Wheelchair Basketball Team. This wasn’t always the dream, in fact, Mickey hasn’t always been a wheelchair user. Mickey continued his active lifestyle even after sustaining a life altering injury. He’s been involved as a wheelchair basketball player and coach since 2005. This UC Berkeley Alum was a huge contributor to BORP’s (Bay Area Outreach & Recreation) wheelchair basketball team. Since 2005 a fortuitous combination of talent, determination and wanderlust brought Mickey to the Jena-Caputs, a member of Germany’s top-level league, the RBBL (Rollstuhlbasketball Bundesliga). He was kind enough to answer a few questions!
Were you a big basketball player prior to your accident? If so, how did your outlook on your participation in the sport change?
No, I was actually a pretty terrible basketball player! I’d played a little bit on my middle school team, and then just some pickup in high school, but it was definitely never my sport. I was a much better soccer player, and did pretty well at tennis and then ultimate frisbee as well. Wheelchair basketball is probably the most easily accessible sport for disabled individuals, and so I just sort of fell into it naturally after my accident
How did you get involved with the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program?
I started playing with the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation (BORP) wheelchair basketball team in 2006. At the time I was living about an hour north of the Bay Area, playing with a really recreational wheelchair basketball team. I mean really recreational. We didn’t even have basketball chairs, so we’d just play in our everyday chairs and go flying out of them all the time. A teammate mentioned that he was heading down to Berkeley to train with another team that was playing at the level above ours, and asked if I wanted to tag along. I was pretty new to the game and was really enjoying it, so of course I jumped at the chance. So, I started training more with BORP, and then eventually played for their team after moving to Berkeley to attend the University. A year later, I started Assistant Coaching the youth team, and the rest is history!
Do International leagues often recruit from organizations like BORP?
Not so much. If foreign countries are recruiting players from the US, it would most likely be from US college programs, which operate some of the best teams in the country.
Is Jena part of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation? If so, are all the players on the team eligible for consideration for the 2012 Games? Are you aiming to play in London?
The whole RBBL, and thus Jena as well, falls under the IWBF umbrella. All the players are eligible for the Paralympics in 2012, although who you play for in the regular season, or if you play for an IWBF team at all, doesn’t really affect your eligibility. Anyone can play if they make the cut at try-outs!
I’d love to say I was, but realistically that’s not going to happen. First of all, the first selections have already been made. I did attend the west coast selection camp, but didn’t make the selection. The guys who will make the team are playing at a level that is pretty ridiculous, it’s amazing to watch. I look forward to watching them do their thing this summer.
“Then one day I just decided, I really did want to try it out, and now here I am. When I finally got here, that was definitely an “infinite possibilities” moment.”
What’s been the most challenging part to playing overseas?
Adjusting in general. Language is always a tough one. Even though most everyone on the team speaks English really well, I try to speak mostly in German, and it’s hard to feel 100% comfortable in a language that’s not your mother tongue. Trying to find my role on the team is tough too. Back home I played with the same team for four seasons – I knew exactly what my strengths and weaknesses were, and I knew pretty well what to expect from my teammates. That takes time, and here in Jena we have a lot of new guys and we’re still working to build our confidence in one another.
With all that you’ve accomplished, has there ever been a moment when you realized, “I’m truly capable of anything”?
Haha, I wish. Truthfully, the more I do the more I doubt myself. I have high expectations of myself, and if I’m honest, I’m better at recognizing my failures than my successes. It’s been great to come overseas and play, but I’m playing against some amazing players that force me to see my own weaknesses, which can be a tough thing. In a sense though, you’re right. Coming overseas to play had always sort of been this fantasy I don’t think I really believed would ever happen. Then one day I just decided I really did want to try it out, and now here I am. When I finally got here, that was definitely an “infinite possibilities” moment.
Have you come up with any resolutions for the New Year?
I did in fact, two of them. The first is that I have to be in bed with the lights out by 11pm, two out of every three nights. The second is to meditate every morning and evening. I can’t say I’ve been 100% successful so far though.
Lately I’ve actually been thinking a lot about the fact that I lead a pretty miraculous life, and I have a million things to be thankful for that millions of people in the world lack. I don’t live in a war-torn country. I have the means to comfortably and plentifully feed, clothe, and house myself. I have leisure time. I have been able to travel extensively and experience wonderful places and people. I get to play sports almost every day. I have an amazing girlfriend, supportive friends, and a family that loves me. All things considered, I have a great deal to be thankful for
Check out the video below of Mickey in action! If you or anyone you know stateside is interested in getting involved with the Wheelchair Basketball League, visit the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s website, http://www.nwba.org/. Also, for more info on BORP visit, www.borp.org. Good luck to you, Mickey!
I hope that everyone is enjoying the start of their week!