Brixton Ballers coach Percy Hutchful has devoted over a decade to the sport, dedicating his time and effort to building an inclusive sporting environment at the club to the benefit of the wider area. His work with the club provides a fun and welcoming environment for all people of any background and experience to get involved in. To celebrate Black History Month, we sat down to chat about the legacy he is building in Brixton, and the journey he has been on within the sport.
Percy’s involvement in the sport began following the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where the coverage and activities surrounding the Games led to gaining his first wheelchair basketball coaching qualifications – an easy transition from running game, given his love for the sport.
As a coach and as a member of the local community, Percy is active in engaging people within the area and promoting inclusive physical activity opportunities through sport:
“[At Brixton Ballers] we have an hour where anybody can come and sit in a sports chair and feel what it’s like, and to appreciate the environment. Before that, I spend about an hour in Brixton every Saturday walking the streets speaking to people who might want to try the game, so it’s not just limited to the coaching – it’s about getting out there.
“We work closely with Lambeth Council as much as we can do to ensure that they’re raising our profile within in the community. I was born and raised in Brixton, so for me it is personal – going to Brixton every week is going back to my community, trying to make a difference.”
Percy was a torchbearer on the 2012 relay building up to the Games, an honour he received for his coaching achievements in other sports – a proud memory he fondly reflects on:
“It was in Kingston, but I used social media to get as many people there as possible because I knew it was a once in a lifetime experience. My late mum was there, and for me that was a really big thing considering all the support she’d given me over the years. It was surreal, in the sense that, until that day when I physically stood there in my whites, I didn’t believe it was happening.
“It’s a community thing – even now, for Black History Month I was in Brixton yesterday and took [the torch] with me. Ten years since the Games, its Black History Month – come and have your picture taken with the torch!”
In his coaching career over the past decade, Percy has worked hard to empower young people to develop life skills and socialisation through the power of sport. In his achievements, and those of the athletes and coaching colleagues he has supported, Percy has built a legacy to be proud of within the sport.
“For me, its all about educating the next generation and allowing them to have tools that they can use in the future to better who they are, and that’s what got me into coaching. It’s all about the next generation.”
“One of the highlights of my life was the National Junior Championships and the School Games, which to me are two of the biggest events in wheelchair basketball in this country. To have been nominated and to successfully coach teams within those environments means a hell of a lot to me – it really does. It allowed me to grow as an individual, see what the peak looks like, and how I could contribute further to the development of young people.
“The day I learned I was going to be a coach at the School Games, I was like a child in a sweet shop! To get out there and be amongst that elite environment – to take some of what I could learn over there and bring it back to my club was a huge honour.”
Coaching and having a coach-player relationship with young athletes is not only about the techniques and skills learned on a court. A coach can help a player develop valuable life skills, as well as giving them the opportunity to socialise with peers.
“During the lockdown, we couldn’t play, we couldn’t get out of the house. So, we used to have Zoom sessions where we would just sit down and talk nonsense about what’s happening and what it was going to feel like when we actually get back onto the court. That was my way of keeping touch with everybody on a personal level and on a professional level, by making sure they were in the right headspace.
“When we were in that partial lockdown, I lost my mum. I decided to do a million steps march – a million steps to raise money for Mind. I asked the [Brixton] Ballers if they’d like to come on a walk with me as part of it, and we met in Brockwell Park which is very local to Brixton. Everybody turned up. Every single player turned up to support my cause. You can’t ask for better than that as a group, as a community. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.”
On working with the local community and with athletes to build the welcoming environment found at Brixton Ballers, Percy reflected on how the strong familial bonds forged across the club are vital to their success:
“Nothing I ever do is about me. The fact that Brixton Ballers are still around ten years after it was formed is a testament to the community we are in and the way we have tried to grow this club, and the players that have come through have helped us achieve that.
“Brixton Ballers is bigger than anything I’ve ever done. I just want to show gratitude and thanks to the wheelchair basketball community for allowing me to coach in the first place so that I can effect that kind of change. The fact that [Brixton Ballers] has been there ten years for me is the biggest thing, and I thank God for that blessing.”
Find a wheelchair basketball club near you using our Club Finder: https://britishwheelchairbasketball.co.uk/get-involved/play/club-finder/