Disability Sport and Coaching

Did you know that disabled people account for around 20% of the population? Great if you did, but most people are unaware that 1 person out of every 5 is disabled, making it likely for you to coach a disabled person at some point, whether they choose to make you aware of this fact or not. Regardless of who your clients are, it’s important get cover for your sports coaching activities.

We should not be surprised then that towards the end of 2013, in the afterglow of the London 2012 Paralympics, the first disability coaching degree was introduced at the University of Worcester. Its Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport BSc will be now producing a generation of teachers trained to help aspiring Paralympians. The success of the 2012 Paralympics has rightfully fuelled an interest in disability sport and it is catching as other universities create specialised Disability Sport degrees as part of their Sport programmes.

Though forward steps are being taken towards increasing awareness of disability sport, it is a long road ahead. Sport England have recently revealed that 80% of disabled individuals are put off playing sport because they feel self-conscious about their bodies, and 70% of people feel their mental health makes taking part in sport too difficult. These high statistics are saddening, as having a disability should never be a barrier to enjoying sport, and disabled individuals must be able to engage with sport freely – to benefit from the personal and social development on offer.

A lack of facilities for disabled people, particularly for students at university, is also hindering the progress of disability sport and contributing to the lack of opportunity for disabled people to access gyms and sports clubs. To ensure that disabled individuals are as involved in sport as their peers from the offset, more fully inclusive facilities need to be introduced in schools, from primary through to university level as this will enable a sustained interest and enjoyment.

At Worcester University, a 2000-seat arena designed to accommodate disabled players was opened in 2013, and has become the training base for the GB men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams. The European Wheelchair Basketball Championships 2015 has been occurring this week and saw the continent’s greatest teams descent upon the city of Worcester to play for both the European title and their place at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Live audiences of around 15,000 attended, making this a truly great event.

Get involved with coaching disability sport

Coaching disability sport is an amazing and rewarding way to broaden your coaching experience. Not only will it improve your personal skillset, but you are also contributing to highly rewarding end goal: to make sport accessible for everyone.

The success of the London Paralympics has certainly raised the public profile of disability sport, which is great, and there has been a lot of discussion about projects, campaigns and funding, but there is a gap between these talks and whether they actually touch the lives of individuals. This gap needs to be closed, and coaching disability sport is how to do this.

As a disability sports coach, you can provide individuals with the empowerment and confidence they need to engage in sport and make the most of the opportunities that do exist. Disability sports coaches are key to breaking through the ignorance about disability – that it will hinder sporting
development – and show through emotional intelligence that disabled people have equal opportunity to become elite athletes.

Sports Coach UK offer several resources to help you increase participation figures, as figures reveal that of the 12 million disabled people in the UK, only 7% of those are regularly active in sport (Active People Survey 5, Spot England, 2011).

It has various free online resources, ranging from factsheets that provide generic coaching awareness and top tips around coaching people from specific impairment groups, to quick guides to inclusive coaching which provide information about the inclusive spectrum, and how to create a more inclusive coaching environment.

Sports Coach UK also offers workshops suitable for all coaches. The most popular – ‘How to Coach Disabled People in Sport’ – will answer commonly asked questions about disabled sports participants, showing you how, with a few minor adjustments to the way you work, you can make your coaching more inclusive and effective. For many governing bodies, the workshop is a requirement as it is seen as a basic standard that should be met by every coach. If you have not taken the workshop yet, but want to include disabled people in sport and know how to select appropriate coaching activities, then head to the Sports Coach UK website to find a workshop running near you.

Finally, there is also the UK Disability Sport Coaching, Learning and Leadership (UDKS-CLL) Group which aims to develop a nationwide way of working to support good practice around coaching people in sport. A higher level of qualification, membership to this group involves understanding the vision for disability sport coaching and how to provide education, development and delivery opportunity that seamlessly include disabled children, athletes and players.

Get involved with Get Set to Go

Backed by Sport England and the National Lottery, this campaign will support 75,000 people with mental health problems to join mainstream sports clubs, go to the gym, or take up a new sport. It aims to use resources to connect the success of the Paralympics with disabled people effectively, in ways that will actually make a difference to their lives. If disabled people have not had a good experience at school in PE, Get Set to Go provides an alternative way to engage with and enjoy sport.

Across the country, there are eight Mind centres that will help people become more active through sports projects. Mind’s research shows that concerns over body ability and fear of judgement are barriers to engaging with sport and exercise, and so each centre seeks to liberate people from these issues through sport. Head to Mind’s website to find out more about your local areas and how you can get involved, to help people get active and improve their mental health through sport.

What are you waiting for?

Even if you don’t plan to follow a career in disability sport, able-bodied students should be encouraged to take the opportunity to take a disability sports coaching workshop. Not only are you doing something amazing by learning how to include people with disabilities, but you are also widening your skillset portfolio, something which can make you stand out from the crowd. Working with individuals with disabilities, you will become more versatile, adaptable and hence more employable, regardless of your chosen field. The advantages are endless, so what have you got to lose?