Sport isn’t all about winning premierships. A positive club culture that embraces inclusivity, including supporting People with a Disability (PwD) is more rewarding.
Just over 9 years ago I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to commence a role at GippSport, focusing on a program called the Access for All Abilities (AAA) program. Fresh out of uni, in all honesty, I had little experience working with PwD, and there was definitely a bit of fear. The fear was mainly the fact that I didn’t want to say or do the wrong thing when talking with or providing support for PwD. What if I said something by accident that hurt someone’s feelings? What if I offered a helping hand or a form of support that wasn’t required and insulted participants?
Over time my fears are gone. What was the easiest way to conquer that fear? Yes, professional development sessions, workshops and courses have certainly helped. But one main factor sticks out – asking questions and most importantly listening to the answers. If you don’t know, ask questions. The amount of information that has assisted our work is priceless. Hopefully, it allows for more inclusive programming and advice that we can pass onto clubs. There are too many examples of inclusive sporting practice where our Gippy Clubs/Associations/Facilities are providing wonderful opportunities for PwD to participate. Participation isn’t just playing games or competition, but can be attending training sessions, volunteering at the club, and just being made to feel like a part of the Club furniture.
In our latest podcast my colleague Amelia and I chat to Brendan Stroud about all things inclusive sport. Brendan is currently working at the Collingwood Football Club as an inclusion development officer, and has a wealth of knowledge within the disability sport sector. This includes participation at an elite level representing Australia in multiple wheelchair sports, and recently as captain/coach of Collingwood FC’s wheelchair AFL team. He touches on the importance of sport for physical and in particular looking after your mental wellbeing. Sport has saved his life and in his words “given him a reason to breathe.” Please check out our podcast Between Games: Ep 10. Inclusive Sport with Collingwood FC and have a watch/listen.
I am sure you will learn a lot from Brendan, as I have over the years working with him on a variety of wheelchair sports programs and events across Gippsland.