Thursday, 28 August 2014

AGM2014: Sportability - David Heard

This post is the final one in the set of my AGM posts. Those that were there know that after this presentation Jon Marsden spoke about telehealthcare and telerehabilitation, but I've already grouped that together with the other Plymouth talk previously.

David talked about Sportability, which he was one of the founding members of. Sportability was set up about 25 years ago, with the aim of providing access to sporting events to people with paralysis. This would include not only people with HSP but also people with spinal cord injury, stroke or MS.

David shared with us some stories about people who had used Sportability and gave us examples of what people had felt after taking part. The range of sports which are on offer include riding quad-bikes, archery, canoeing, sailing, scuba diving and so on. (their website says "archery, angling, abseiling, canoeing quad-biking, gliding, clay pigeon shooting, motor-sport and more." the list of activities also includes falconry, jet-skiing, marshall arts, tennis and blokarting)

Some people who participate in the activities may have been keen participants of those sports earlier in their lives, whereas others will be trying sports for the first time. People feel a range of emotions from this, some of which are positive - for example, there is excitement and the feeling that something can be done again, and there may also be negative thoughts - for example reinforcing the perception of being disabled.

David said that one of the main outcomes from people taking part in sport were psychological benefits. Undertaking a sport either again or for the first time can begin to re-build a persons confidence and self esteem. These activities can also help to re-define someone's horizons, and people can begin to think that if they can do this, then what else can they achieve. Overall, participation in such activities can help put some purpose back into someone's life as well as getting a good shot of adrenaline as well.

David had a good selection of photos and videos of people taking part in some of these, and it was good to hear the genuine happiness and excitement of the participants. David also shared with us how different some bookings can be, in some instances people call up with a definite idea of what they want to do and are prepared to travel to take part, whereas others are not sure and David gave examples of the "negotiation process" with some people in order that they convince themselves that they really do want to take part.

Sportability aims to remove barriers to participation. So, all activities are free of charge, and there are a number of regions all over the country offering different activities. the Sportability strap line is "taking the dis out of disability". Sportabiliy is a charity and all activities are funded by donations, so people may like to consider this as a good recipient for fundraising activities they organise or take part in.

You can find out more about Sportability here:

Personally, I hadnt really thought about this side of things before, but I can see that this is a really good way of helping people get some self-improvements. A lot of the comments that David made tied in well with what was said at the mood management course I went on a few months ago ( - Exercise and being with other people reduce stress, Taking part in a new activity can help break out of the depression cycle,  Getting a rush of adrenaline in a new situation may get you a new set of symptoms and help you think about anxiety differently.

I can also picture how important the potential for allowing people to re-define their horizons is, and I think that many people will get a lot more out of doing this than they ever thought about beforehand. This sounds like an excellent thing to bear in mind down the line when I'm less able to do what I want.

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