Bali – Good even for wheelchairs
A while ago, I received an invitation from the Bali Sports Foundation to coach some up-and-coming teams in Asia that have taken up wheelchair rugby. Rugby has been a relatively new phenomenon in various South Asian countries. Consequently the players do not have many opportunities to develop and better their game as individuals or as a team. The Bali 4s is a South-East Asian wheelchair rugby competition played each year, and this year the competing teams were from Indonesia, Malaysia, and a combined Singapore/Timor Leste team. There was also at team from the USA invited to take part. I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to coach and mentor the teams and, at the same time, have a little holiday in the idyllic weather. Therefore, with the support of Disability Sport and Recreation (DSR), I got a few players from Victoria together to form an Australian team.
I had never been to Bali before, but having visited Indonesia and Thailand, I understood that it wasn’t going to be the most accessible place in the world. Inaccessible footpaths, minimal and inconsistent curbs, steep ramps, incessant traffic etc. were just some of the things I was already expecting. Don’t get me wrong – some parts are okay, but overall not very dependable. However, I knew the locals would be fantastic – very friendly and helpful if I got stuck anywhere. In fact, this is what drew me even further into wanting to experience it. I found it was okay to push along the road in many cases, if necessary. You just need to be cautious and stick to the left; cars and scooters will avoid you.
I flew in a few days before my teammates, so I could spend time coaching the other teams. Some players had a good understanding of the game, but others had only been playing for a few months. I went through the basics – teaching them wheelchair skills, ball skills, offensive and defensive tactics. There was a language barrier with most players, which made it frustrating and repetitive, but also humorous, in trying to get the message across. It was great practice for me in trying to communicate in different ways. It was great to see that after each training session, their skills kept improving. I’m not sure if this was because of my hard work or maybe they were better than I thought they were.
My first night there, I stayed at the Taksu Hotel in Sanur. Taksu was fully wheelchair accessible, but I was only booked to stay there for the one night. I would move to the team hotel for the rest of my time in Bali. My teammates arrived a day before the competition and settled in at the hotel, the Grand Inna Bali Beach Resort in Sanur. They liked what they saw, even though it wasn’t perfectly accessible, many could manage without the use of a bulky commode/shower chair. Unfortunately, the shower in my room was not accessible, but we made things work by bolting a hose to the tap in the hand basin. I’ve done this in the past and it works well, as long as there’s a drain in the floor.
I Googled some hotels in Bali to see if there were any ‘real’ wheelchair accessible places around, and I was not surprised to find quite a few were. I could have changed hotels to be more comfortable, but I preferred to stay in the same hotel, close to the stadium and my teammates.
On the day of the competition, Helena Studdert, the Australian Consul-General to Bali officially opened the games. Our team was by far the strongest in the competition, but we made an effort to let other teams, as well as some of our newer players develop and practice. Each player was given the opportunity of being the main ball handler to develop their skills. It was great to see the other teams improve in their game and gain confidence. They continually played better each time. One of my teammates, Shane donated his rugby chair and a spare day chair to the sports foundation, which was greatly appreciated.
To those of you who want to go away on a holiday, no matter where that may be – don’t hold yourself back. You can go anywhere, as long as you do your homework and are prepared to accept that some things can go wrong. Just give us a call, and we at Spire are always happy to talk and help you with your plans.
Overall it was a great trip and I’d have no hesitation in going back again. Terimakasih!
Naz Erdem is a four time paralympian medallist having won 2 gold medals (Rio 2016, London 2012) and 2 Silver medals (Beijing 2008, Sydney 2000) playing Wheelchair Rugby for Australia. He’s also Team Leader of Spire. He has been living with a complete C5/C6 Spinal cord injury since 1990.