The day I tried paralympic sports
The Paralympic Games were established right here in Britain in 1948! Just one of the many things I was taught during my volunteers’ training for helping to run the recent Paralympic Sports (parasport) Taster Day, a recent event organised by me as the Be a Champion Ambassador for UCL and UCLU. The UCL Volunteering Services Unit and the Greatest Needs and Opportunities Alumni Fund sponsored the event.
The company who ran the day, Aspire (a charity who support those with spinal injury) made us question our perceptions of what a disability is during our training. There were eight volunteers in total and our task was to assist Aspire with running the activities later that afternoon.
After training, we headed to Talacre Sports Centre in Kentish Town. From 2.30pm onwards, we began helping Aspire with the running of the activities, as well as trying them out for ourselves.
First, we tried Boccia, a parasport that requires a lot of skill and concentration. It is played with two teams. First a white target ball known as a ‘jack’ is rolled along the court. Then, in turns, players must propel their own balls towards the jack, aiming to get them as close to it as possible. The team with the closest ball to the jack wins.
In the Paralympics, it is mainly played by those with cerebral palsy and related locomotor conditions. Adults with young children found this the most accessible game, so if we couldn’t convince parents to play sitting volleyball or wheelchair basketball they at least tried out this activity. (See the game in action here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmNxKoubdVw)
The next activity in the hall was sitting volleyball. It has one simple modification of the popular sport volleyball: all players must sit down on the court instead of
standing up and a part of each player’s body between the shoulders and the bottom, must be in contact with the court at all times.
It is also played on a smaller court than volleyball and is one of the fastest-paced parasports you will see at the Paralympic Games.
Older children and adults with young children all enjoyed this activity as its pace and simple rules make it very accessible and fun for everyone. (See the game in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zsPMJDsZrI)
The next activity is probably the most popular parasport - wheelchair basketball. All the young adult, teenage and younger participants were especially keen to try it out, as were many of us volunteers.
It is broadly similar to basketball with the basket being of the same height, the scoring being identical and so on. The exception is that all players are in wheelchairs. (See the game in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt_L_P0YXrw
Overall, the day was a great success with 30 participants in total - the majority being from the local community and some being UCL students in addition to us, the volunteers.
The day provided a great platform for trying out parasports and developing both participants’ and volunteers’ awareness of disabilities, and challenging the perception that being disabled can prevent a person from participating in sports.