CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Things are opening up around North Carolina, from movie theaters to bars and gym. For some athletes, it’s been a long time since they’ve had a consistent place to practice.
The Rollin' Hornets, a wheelchair basketball league in Charlotte, is normally busy practicing and gearing up for tournaments around the country.
Preston Howell, an athlete on the varsity team, said the pandemic halted practices and games.
“We didn’t play a game for about 400 days,” Howell said. “It was really tough being isolated.”
He said the hardest part was missing out on the social interaction with his teammates and coaches.
“It’s just missing out from my team, my big family really hit home. I get to see these guys, I feel at home with these people, and I’m very blessed for that,” he explained.
Mike Godsey, the director of the Rollin' Hornets, said after their home gym closed, he did everything he could to find a new location.
“In the fall we were at a gym in South Carolina, it was a YMCA. They ended up closing the YMCA for good as a part of a strategic decision,” Godsey said. “In January, we couldn’t find anywhere to practice. It’s literally impossible to be a new customer somewhere during a pandemic when things are still under lockdown so to speak.”
Partners For Parks, a nonprofit in Charlotte, stepped up to help the players. The nonprofit promotes physical activities and recreation, and wanted to give the team a more permanent place to practice.
After some calls, the Steele Creek Presbyterian Church became the Rollin' Hornets new practice facility. Howell said now the players can focus on bringing home a trophy at the National Championship tournament.
“It feels great. I’m glad to be back,” he emphasized. “Although we’re wearing masks and stuff, it’s better than nothing. I’m glad to be back.”
Two of the junior teams were picked by Charlotte Hornets player Cody Zeller and his Kicks for Kids Initiative, and received some of his game shoes. They also received a $15,000 grant to help fund the prep and varsity teams’ trips to the national tournament.