History

‘The Bears’ were first formed by Mark Butler and Tom Masterson in 2002.
Originally playing for The Midland Panthers, Tom and Mark wanted to form a club in the Warwickshire and Solihull area, allowing local disabled people to play the exciting sport of wheelchair basketball. The club formed as ‘The Stratford Players’, joining the National League in 2003. They show cased their home fixtures at Stratford-upon-Avon High school, while training at St Peters High School, in Solihull, on Tuesday evenings.
Mark Butler and Tom Masterson- founders of ‘The Bears’
Mark Butler and Tom Masterson- founders of ‘The Bears’

The Stratford Players
The Stratford Players
The Stratford Players’ first season saw them finish top of the third division, promoting them to the second division of the BWB (British Wheelchair Basketball) league. Following their first successful season, ‘The Stratford Players’ consolidated their position and finished mid table of the second division. The team then continued to attract new players going from strength to strength.
By the beginning of the new 2005 season, they had enough players to enter a second team into the league. For the next couple of years they continued in their development meaning both teams could steadily improve, allowing them to keep moving up the divisions.

In 2008, ‘The Stratford Players’ made a decision to broaden their area of attracting players, rebranding as ‘The Warwickshire Bears’. Building on their already stable foundations, the club then had enough players to enter three teams into the league with the first team in the BWB second division for England South.
The club could then enter a second team into the third division Central, as well as forming a development team.
Bears 2 - March 2010
Bears 2 – March 2010

Bears v Spitfires 14
Bears v Spitfires 14
For the further development of the club, it was recognised by the players and coaches, that a new venue was a key aspect of this. It needed to be central to all of the existing players, as well as allowing the opportunity to draw in new players from the surrounding areas.
The Warwickshire Bears moved to a newly built Sports hall at Warwickshire College in Henley-in-Arden.

In the 2011/12 season, the Bears first team finished second in the league, qualifying for the national play-offs in Sheffield and promotion to the first Division.

Unfortunately, at this time due to the lack of players, the decision was made to pull out of the league and start a concerted effort at recruiting new players.

During the 2012/13 season, The Bears continued to hold weekly practice sessions and slowly attracted new players to the club.
They then re-entered a team into the league in season 2013/14.

Due to the BWB league rules, The Bears had to re-enter the league as third Division Central. In their first season back, the Bears finished in a respectable third place.
The end of that season saw a major recruitment drive of both new and returning players.

 

 

Looking over the outstanding season The Bears have just delivered, it is quite clear that pulling out of the 2012/13 season had a positive impact on the future of the club, as well as the performance of the players. It has enabled a complete refresh and re-structure of the club in all areas; including promotion, finance, sponsorship, media attention and recruitment

 

Bears in action 2014- 15
Bears in action 2014- 15
Bears juniors in  action
Bears juniors in action

 

I was welcomed that first day (and every day since) as a family member enveloped in a community of good humour, patience and support – I was and still am overwhelmed- as a child with a disability I had never experienced such a sense of belonging especially in a sporting environment; I was always trying (and failing) to meet impossible standards but with the Bears the true goal is always self-improvement. They have created some truly memorable moments for me – I will never forget scoring my first match basket and feeling that I had truly earned my place in the team.

Natalie Hall
Bears Player

‘Ashleigh’s spirit and excitement has increased over the time of coming to training sessions. The group inclusion for all is fabulous and her strength has improved in her body. She has learnt how to manoeuvre a wheelchair more easily. Thank you all for encouragement and support in a great community spirit.’

Debbie Simpson
Parent of Junior Bears Player