Entry 3 of an assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee
After two days of ‘horror’, that means having to wake up early for different reasons, my son and I are now enjoying breakfast at a more decent time. Which means we have slept a bit longer. I notice how my son goes for the ‘traditional’ breakfast that our kids always go for in the context of a hotel stay with a buffet: scrambled eggs, sausage(s) and bacon.
But, then it’s time to get serious again. After all, we are here because my son is a player in the Belgian National Powerchair Hockey Team and is as such participating in the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 that is happening 9-14 August in Sursee, Switzerland.
The seriousness of today starts with having yet another aspect of the athletes being checked out. In a “classification” process every player is interviewed and assessed by a panel on various aspects: their physical capabilities and abilities, mobility, strength. That assessment leads to the assignment of a number of points to a player, where a higher number is an indication of higher mobility and strength. Fyi. 0.5 is the minimum and 3.5 is considered very high. This is important because a team is not allowed to have more than 12 points on the pitch during a game. There is no limitation to substituting players during the game, but there can never be more than 12 points in the field.
The classification is indirectly also an indication of the ability to hold a floor stick or having to play with a T-stick (for not being able to play with a stick in hand). A T-stick is a stick attached to the powerchair. Many of the athletes have progressive disabilities, meaning it gets worse over time. That is the case for our son, by the way. Others are just born with less physical abilities. As players score low, or lower and lower over time, they might reach the point of getting scored 1.0 or less, which is often the point where they go from playing with a hand stick to playing with a T-stick. That is also important for the team composition because, next to having no more than 12 points in play, a team is required to have minimally one T-stick player on the field, besides the goal keeper who also plays with a T-stick. So, there can never be more than 3 hand stick players in play at the same time for a team, as the game is played 5 against 5.
The outcome of this step of the classification process however is only a temporary score. The classifiers (you can recognize them by the green shirts that they wear) are attending games to verify their findings against the actual performance and behavior of a player on the field. The temporary score can still be corrected upon their observations. It is only after the first round of the world cup, the group phase, that the final score is assigned (Friday 12 August). A player needs to have a final score to be allowed to play in the finals phase of the world cup (Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 August). That does therefore imply that a player must have some chances to actually play during the first round.
And maybe you will remember the “IPCH Classification Consent form” that we needed to submit as mentioned in “Entry 2 of an assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee“? That is the document in which the players accept that the international classification takes precedence over the national one.
I must admit that the whole “classification” procedure was far less formalistic and bureaucratic than I had feared. The team of classifiers (3 people) were open, clear and patient in taking our son through the complete scenario. There was total transparency about the classifiers’ score on individual topics as well as combined results. And the temporary-final score was as expected, holding that it is also lower than the last national check. Our son went from 2.5 to 1.5. I am pretty sure it won’t change when the final score is determined.
Note: I was allowed to take pictures of the classification process but only with the consent of the classification team and the people present from Team Belgium and only for the potential use in a book that one of the classifiers is writing. It is about the classification process, so not really for the general public. I wish Kees the best of luck with writing his handbook for classifiers! Having written a few books and papers myself, I know how much work goes into it.
This step concluded all tests and assessments that our son had to undergo which means he is now actually allowed to actually play:
- Documents control? ☑️
- Speed check (forward, reverse)? ☑️
- Powerchair and equipment compliance? ☑️
- Classification? ☑️
After lunch the team has a light tactical training at the training location. Ending a training by asking all players to do a few shoot-out penalties is a bit of a tradition as well.
But, obviously, the BIG MOMENT of today is the OPENING CEREMONY of the world championship. Yesterday we felt pretty overwhelmed entering the arena for the first time, going on the pitch for the first time, getting our materials checked again.
But…this is the REAL, REAL THING, and more than overwhelming.
Being a total emotional softy, I also had a few tears rolling down my cheeks a few times, thinking about the honour of being there with the team, the pride of our son being in the team, considering the long road of getting there, the many complications and difficulties encountered during his life so far, his persistence and ambitions. Even at the national anthem being played. It wasn’t easy, it isn’t easy and it will never be (easy). But there are moments when we realize that the fight is worthwhile.
I was proud to be able to join Team Belgium in the parade with all of the other teams to greet the audience, accept the appreciation from the audience, show our gratitude for being at the event and remember the loved ones who are no longer with us.
Personally, I salute all players, their assistants and the staff members for the hard work they put into their sports and their lives, the persistence they show in addressing and overcoming the many, many challenges that they meet in their daily lives as well in their sport. Believe me, they can fill a few blogs with stories…
We are sooooo glad that the days of checking in and being checked out are over. Time to play! Tomorrow…
I hope you will enjoy reading all about our adventure for which I envision following episodes:
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 0: Introduction
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 1 (Sunday 7 August): Gotta go
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 2 (Monday 8 August): Checking in and being checked out (part 1)
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 3 (Tuesday 9 August): Checking in and being checked out (part 2) (what you are reading)
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 4 (Wednesday 10 August): Match day 1
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 5 (Thursday 11 August): Match day 2
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 6 (Friday 12 August): Match day 3
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 7 (Saturday 13 August): Play-offs
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 8 (Sunday 14 August): Finals
- IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 9 (Monday 15 August): After-day