Wheelchair athlete Harry gives his teachers the runaround

Wheelchair athlete Harry Smith introduced his teachers and classmates to his own favourite sport on a day devoted to wheelchair basketball at the King's School.

The teenager from Leek has been a hot shot at wheelchair basketball since he was just seven years old and gave his willing apprentices a real run-around on the basketball court in King’s Sports Centre.

Harry's diagnosis of Spina bifida means he has limited opportunity to join in with other sports, but his competitive spirit is brought to the fore when playing for Stoke Spitfires in the National League 3 Central Division and for the West Midlands at national level for their under-15 team.

Harry, who can walk but finds life easier and safer in his chair, said modestly: "There's no secret; it's just practice. As I spend a lot of time in my chair I know how to move around much more easily than my friends."

During the day, King's pupils in Years 7 – 10 were introduced to the sport Harry loves during PE and Games lessons. Chair and player coach of Stoke Spitfires, Andy Flower, brought down more than a dozen wheelchairs and gave coaching sessions to various age groups. Andy, who then refereed a highly competitive Staff v Pupils match, said "The secret is to learn to move the chair and control the ball at the same time. It's a bit like tapping your head while rubbing your belly and, as Harry says, takes a lot of practice."

King's School Head, Jason Slack, who Harry somewhat aggressively man marked out of the game with the occasional clash of wheels, said: "It was very hard work but great fun. I have played a little bit of basketball but never in a wheelchair and it’s whole set of different skills.

"It was difficult moving towards the ball and then controlling direction when you’d caught the ball.  Passes had to be so much more accurate because your teammates found it difficult moving from side-to-side.  I suppose as Head, I had to expect some special attention, but Harry didn't really need to mark me so closely; he was so much better than me in every department of the game."

However, Harry countered: "I wasn't picking on the Head. It was simply I recognised he was their best player and I wanted to keep him away from the ball."

Business Studies teacher David Williams, who scored the golden basket for the staff side, added: "You realise how much power is generated from your lower body, which is why so many of our shots at goal fell so miserably short.

"Hats off to Harry; he's an incredibly popular character in our community and the support he got from the side-lines was phenomenal. I almost felt guilty about scoring the winning goal. Almost…"

King's Head of Cricket, Steve Moores, who, after a chat with Harry's mum, arranged the day and the Staff v Pupils match said: "We certainly hope to make this an annual event. Andy Flower from Stoke Spitfires did so much more for us than we could have expected, and it was much appreciated by everyone at King's."   

Harry concluded "I'd just like to thank our coach Mr Flower, all my teachers and friends for taking time out to find out about my sporting passion."