Life and Basketball: Peter Berry, the nation’s No. 1 high school wheelchair basketball player lends advice and shares how TIRR Memorial Hermann shaped his life

By Jade Waddy

In July 2011, Peter Berry was involved in a tragic motor vehicle collision, suffering spinal cord injuries that left him paralyzed from the waist down when he was just 9 years old. Berry was introduced to wheelchair basketball when he joined the TIRR Memorial Hermann Junior Hotwheels team at age 10.

With great determination and skill, and the support of his family, Houstonians, care teams and his coach, Trice Hamm, Berry has become a powerhouse on the basketball court. Now 18, Berry is recognized as the nation’s No. 1 high school wheelchair basketball player and recently signed a Letter of Intent to continue his academic and playing career at the University of Alabama in 2020.

EverydayWell: How has the TIRR Memorial Hermann Adaptive Sports Program helped you?

Peter Berry: The TIRR Memorial Hermann Adaptive Sports Program has helped me in a multitude of ways. First, it is important to note that I played all of the mainstream sports before my accident. My favorite sport was football. I think it appealed to me because the physicality and speed of the game. After the accident, at 9 years old, I did not lose that craving for a physical outlet in the form of sports. Wheelchair basketball filled that void in my life. The TIRR Memorial Hermann Adaptive Sports Program has not only given me that free, pre-accident feeling, but opened doors that never would have been opened. Examples of this include receiving a full-ride scholarship to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Alabama and meeting people who have taught me valuable lessons that have enhanced my appreciation and understanding for life. Additionally, the support from TIRR Memorial Hermann has allowed us to practice in a gym several times a week, travel the country to play wheelchair basketball, and work closely with incredible coaches, recreational, occupational, and physical therapists. They try hard to keep us healthy so we can thrive in the sport we love and in life.

EW: What would you like to see for the future of adaptive athletics?

PB: I would love to see adaptive sports grow with time. Adaptive athletics not only provides a physical outlet for individuals with disabilities, but introduces able-bodied people into the world of accessibility, which is necessary if we want adaptive athletics to grow. Also, there are not an extreme amount of resources in adaptive athletics. I think that this will be fixed with exposure and education about adaptive athletics.  

EW: What advice would you give other athletes?

PB: I would tell every athlete to not let anyone determine what they can and can’t do, as cliché as that might sound. It is important for every disabled athlete to be their own advocate and understand that they deserve to play any sport just as much as any other individual on earth. Also, please do not be embarrassed to go work out and perform your craft in front of others just because you think it might not look “normal.” Lastly, do not give up. My favorite quote, which hangs up in the gym I play basketball in every night, goes like this: “Character: following through on a commitment long after the emotion in which the commitment was made is gone.”

Read Berry’s personal ode to the sport and what it’s done for him:

An Ode to Basketball

Basketball visited me when I was little,
no older than eight years old when she initially said hi.
I did not like her back then.
She was beyond my skill or interest.
Little did I know that the problem was not her,
It was me.
Then something happened;
I got in an accident.
Basketball decided to
pay me another visit.
However,
this time she was
different,
more adapted,
more able to conform to my needs.
Very understanding,
but I would learn that understanding
wasn’t a new trait for her.
She was always understanding.
She was always present too, just waiting
For the right time,
when she knew I was ready to learn and accept.
Basketball has taught me patience,
She has taught me perseverance,
how to be humble,
how to accept,
have time-management,
work ethics, love, persistence,
Grit, strength,
How to carry through on a promise
long after the emotion in which the promise was made
is gone.
If she, or whatever it is, will stick with you through the ups and downs
And figure your [stuff] out with you,
You know she’s worth keeping, worth
clinging on to.
Now she is a part of my life.
You could say we are in a relationship,
a healthy one. One that requires both of us to play our part.
When I practice with her, she rewards me.
She asks her gods to make me better.
If I do not, she uses it as a teaching opportunity.
This helps me learn and grow not only as a player,
but an individual. You see,
she is wise.
She understands that if she is not helping me grow,
as a person, on and off the court,
then she is not doing her job.
I find myself thinking about her all the time,
regardless of what I am doing. She makes me happy,
relaxed, more content with who I am,
and my circumstances… not my so-called
“setbacks.”

The moral of my ode is this:
When you add all these things together:
The natural, mutual feeling of acceptance and care,
With the desire to do well and make choices not only for
the benefit of yourself,
But for all included, you know you have found
Love… something worth keeping.
You see, it is not just a feeling and it’s not just a choice.
One will not exist in the absence of the other.

Comments

  1. We are so very proud of you as would your parents be .iI still remember you going to the park across the road with Zach playing basketball soon after the accident. You are an amazing young man.

  2. I have met Peter and I can personally tell you that he is an awesome young man with the amazing strength to overcome a terrible situation and then become a role model for all.

  3. This is wonderful words of wisdom Peter. So proud of you. Please send me your email. I want to share some photos of your great uncle Hyman Perlo with you.
    Much love,
    Carla Perlo

  4. Peter so well written and so from your heart. We have watched you grow and overcome so many obstacles with so much grace, we can all take a page from your book

  5. Now I learn you are more than just a good player, you are an excellent writer, too!

    Well done, Peter B. Quite inspiring. Hoping you soar even higher along your journey.

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