Basketball season is starting, but for one Neuse Charter eighth-grader the season started months ago.
To see her walk down the halls you might not think Alyssa Lynch is much of a basketball player. Lynch has a pretty noticeable limp that would be a career-ender for most, but for her it’s the defining reason she has her sights set on Olympic gold.
Lynch was born with a severe deformity in her right leg, but the soft-spoken teen hasn’t let that stop her from starting in her sixth season of wheelchair basketball playing for The Revolution.
“At first I didn’t like it,” Alyssa said. “It looked rough. People fall over and you have to be really aggressive to steal the ball.”
But with the encouragement of her dad, Richard, Alyssa tried and came to love the game.
“I could barely shoot,” she said. “Now I am the main shooter.”
For four years, the Lynch family traveled nearly an hour from their home in Clayton to a facility in Raleigh to play. Richard Lynch took note that four of the players on the Raleigh team traveled from Johnston County and started looking into forming his own team.
“There was a need in Johnston County,” he said. “We started our first season with four players and ended it with 11.”
The Revolution is a wheelchair basketball team open to youth up to age 18 with any lower extremity disability. The team travels all over the South to play in what equates to about four or five tournaments a year from November to April and they practice weekly at the Clayton Community Center.
But while Alyssa enjoys the game and travel, her paralympic basketball dreams have been shaped by some notable coaches and experiences.
Last year the team was able to travel and practice at the Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, Ala., the training facility for the USA Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball team.
In addition to that experience the assistant coach of The Revolution is a three-time Paralympic gold medalist. Andrea Woodson-Smith, assistant athletic director at NC Central University, has helped the U.S. win gold in global games and now helps young people obtain their dreams on the court.
While Alyssa’s dream is to play in the Paralympics in about five years, she has some opportunities now to showcase her skills.
“She’s been asked to play on a women’s-only wheelchair basketball team in Charlotte,” Richard said. And while both agree the drive to Charlotte won’t be that bad because of their love for the game, both Lynch members want to showcase the team a little closer to home.
“We’ve talked to Coach Browning about doing an exhibition/scrimmage game against our NCS Cougars,” Richard said.
Gail Browning, NCS middle school athletic director, said she’s looking into the possibility of another game. Neuse Cougars played the Triangle Thunder a few years ago. Alyssa was asked to be a guest player on the team for that game since she was a student at NCS.
“It was fun to watch these big basketball players maneuver the chairs,” Browning said. Browning added it was hard for the players, but an eye-opening, learning experience as well.
As The Revolution season’s opener approaches, the team is doing events to raise awareness and money to help them fund the season.
“Chairs cost $2000 each,” said Lynch, “In addition to the cost of travel.”
The team plays in Georgia, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. The first game/tournament of the season is at the Mosack Athletic Center in Charlotte on Nov. 14-15.
The team welcomes the community to their practices on Sundays at the Clayton Community Center from 3-5:30pm.
“We usually have time at the end of practice for able-bodied people to practice and scrimmage with us,” Alyssa said.
Members of the team will also have their chairs on display in Garner on Nov. 4 at City Barbeque. The local business is giving the team 25% of all sales throughout the day when people mention The Revolution.
“There are not a lot of sports with disabled kids,” Alyssa said. “It is hard at first, but you can’t give up. If you keep practicing it gets easier. I’m thankful for it.”