Among some of the difficulties in living with a disability, is the social aspect of life and
keeping active. These relational and physical needs are easier satisfied for some than for
others. Professional studies have investigated and proven the benefits of disabled sport
into to quality of life of its participants.

Wheelchair rugby is an especially good sport, invented in 1977 to benefit athletes whose
disability affects at least three limbs – athletes left behind in wheelchair basketball.
Although the original sport, thought up in Winnipeg near Vancouver (Canada), catered to
quadriplegics, it has since come to include athletes with cerebral palsy and amputees –
which increases competitive performance on the court among all players.

Competition exists on international level at the Paralympics, which is the most prestigious
event, the World Championships, and these are preceded by the Championships of the
three world zones – Americas, European, and Asia-Oceania. Local national competitions
are the Irish League and the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby’s BT Super Series which has
three divisions. There are also annual tournaments held in Cologne (the Bernd Best
Tournament is the biggest in the world) and elsewhere in GB and Europe.

Ulster Barbarians Wheelchair Rugby Club was formed in 2013 by four players who
previously travelled to Dublin to train and play as part of the Gaelic Warriors – formed in
1997. The Antrim-based club currently has 16 participants from the Mournes to Buncrana
and sends teams to the Irish League and the BT Super Series, as well as to the Bernd Best
Tournament and the Bulls’ Tournament in Middlesbrough. This means that participants
have to step up their training and fitness regimes, which has the effect of benefitting their
personal lives. Training as part of a club and participating in competition with like-minded
teams also has the benefit of a social aspect where equals, as well as sharing in general
banter, share life experiences and advice which again is all beneficial.

The most recent tournament the club participated in – the BT Great Britain Wheelchair
Rugby League 2017/18 | Division 3 – finished on 18 March. This was the first time the
Barbarians sent a team to this tournament, having spent some years preparing their squad
numbers and fitness for the tough competition in Great Britain. The league began at the
end of October, with five games over three weekends each – the other two in January and
March – and included three other teams from England.

The league began decisively for the Barbarians with five wins and experienced gameplay.
Although their opposite numbers grew smarter to the Barbarians’ movements, so too did
the competitors’ confidence grow over the next two weekends and, faced with stronger
resistance, they stepped up their game. This adaptiveness enabled the team to secure five
wins each in January and March, granting them the top spot on the final table. This
undefeated journey to winning their first outing to Division 3 secures the Barbarians the
advancement to Division 2 in the 2018/19 season, where the competition will be stronger
and the team will be required to adapt some more in training.

If this sounds like something you would like to volunteer for, please contact Ulster Barbarians at to get involved. As positive as access to this sport is, we couldn’t do it without our volunteers, which we are always on the lookout for. Volunteering can involve preparing the basketball courts or helping players into rugby chairs at training sessions or travelling with us to tournaments to do the same.