Want to encourage your disabled students in sport? Godfrey Hall has a number of ideas and sources of support for schools in doing so

The BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year 2008, 13-year-old Eleanor Simmonds, had an amazing year. She was selected for the swimming team at the Beijing Paralympics and came home with two gold medals for her top performances in both the 100 metres and 400 metres freestyle.

During her training with Billy Pye, a former miner, Eleanor regularly travelled more than 160 miles from the village of Alridge near Walsall, West Midlands, to Swansea to use the Olympic-sized pool (her family has since moved to Swansea). Training three days a week for 16 hours, Eleanor has now become the youngest ever British Paralympian to receive a medal.

In total, British Paralympians at Beijing brought home 42 gold, 29 silver and 31 bronze medals. Their success offers an excellent boost for disabled students who can at times feel somewhat left out of school sport despite participating in the PE curriculum. There are also plenty of schemes available to support students with a wide range of disabilities.

First base for talent
The Playground to Podium Strategy for Young People, set up by organisations including the Youth Sport Trust to identify, develop and support talented disabled athletes, is one of the most important developments. It aims to provide a pathway to take disabled students from school PE through to high level competition standards.

The strategy is based around multi-sports clubs out of school hours, where 11- to 18-year-olds can be coached. Ability days also bring students and coaches together so disabled students with specific talents can be assessed and provided with specialist training.

Find out more at: www.inclusion.youthsporttrust.org

The national arena
There are national disability teams in a wide range of sports including cricket, basketball and football, which mean large numbers of disabled youngsters can take their performance to the next level.

One of the most popular sports is disability football. Essex is a leading county in this area, working hard with its disabled sports clubs. The Soccability programme includes regular club festivals where youngsters and adults receive professional coaching and the chance to take part in a number of games. Working with Southend United, Chelmsford City and Colchester United, the local FA has an Essex schools programme in place to help and support youngsters keen on developing their skills.

John Manning, inclusion development officer for the FA in Essex says: ‘We are trying to create momentum in Essex for disability football, so that there is a pathway for players to move from training sessions to playing in a league that feeds into the national networks.’

Once youngsters have achieved a certain standard they may be able to join one of the national disability teams which play internationally.

Find out more at:
www.disabilityfootballessex.btik.com
www.thefa.com

Five-a-side football for the blind
In this sport (now a Paralympian event), the ball makes a sound when it moves and sighted goalkeepers act as guides. Side fencing is used so that the game is not interrupted. The area of play is split into three areas, each with a guide, which helps the players to know where their own side and their opponents are located. Team orientation is very important and players are constantly challenged as they decide whether to pass or shoot for goal.

Blind football helps youngsters to learn to run and develops their co-ordination. Brazil is the leading country in this sport worldwide. In Europe, the Spanish, English and Greek teams always do well.

The UK government is working with organisations including Sport England and British Blind Sport to develop blind football. Further support will also be given through the English Federation of Disability Sport which it is hoped will inspire schools and clubs to become more involved. The Actionaires Project, run by Action for Blind People, provides a wide range of young people with multi-sport opportunities.

Find out more at: www.actionforblindpeople.org.uk

Disability cricket
Disability cricket is played all over the country and there are a number of county youth teams. In Somerset, the Dragons meet in the Taunton area and play on against other county sides. The team includes James Dickens, a top bowler who suffers from learning difficulties and plays for the national team.

Blind cricket
This has been played since the 1940s. Players have to be registered blind or partially sighted, and four players in any team must be blind. England and Wales has finished third in three Blind Cricket World Cups. The national team has recently toured abroad and won the Blind Cricket Ashes.

Blind cricket uses a larger ball than sighted cricket (a size 3 football, filled with ball bearings so that players can hear it approaching) and the ball must pitch at least twice before it gets to a blind batsman and once for a partially sighted batsman. A blind batsman is given one chance before being declared out by LBW and cannot be stumped. The bowler must ask the batsman if they are ready before bowling and shout ‘Play’ as the ball is released. A blind player is also allowed to let the ball bounce once before making a catch.

In 2008 there were seven teams in the Blind Cricket England and Wales league, including Birmingham, London and South Wales.

Find out more: Your county cricket board will know about disability cricket and blind cricket opportunities in your area.

Sports for the hard of hearing
The Active Futures Sports Project in the Glasgow area, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, is designed to improve the quality of life for 17 to 24-year-olds by encouraging them to take part more fully in local sports projects including classes for families with deaf or hard of hearing members.

Parasport
Set up by the British Paralympics Association (BPA) and Deloitte, the Parasport project seeks to increase the participation of disabled youngsters in competitive sports through a new disability sports institute known as Parasport and run by the BPA.

Parasport is also the name of a web-based programme designed to inspire, engage and educate people with disabilities and point them towards high quality sporting opportunities. It supports the Playground to Podium Framework in partnership with YST and Sport England and has created and will house the MyLogBook athlete tracking system, a key element of the Playground to Podium Framework.

The tools on the website include:

  • Club search facility: users can search for clubs within a 5, 10-, 20- or 50-mile radius of their postcode
  • Self Assessment Wizard: enter a disability, and the Wizard identifies sports suitable for someone with that disability.
  • Sports information: all 23 Paralympic sports have their own pages with pictures, video, information and contact details.
  • Plus contacts, events calendar, news, blogs and information on coaching and volunteering as well as playing sport.

Find out more at: www.parasport.org.uk

Inclusive Fitness Initiative
This scheme seeks to give disabled people equal access to gym-based activities through 180 facilities all over England and advises the leisure industry on how to become more inclusive.

Establishments that meet the scheme’s criteria are awarded the Inclusive Fitness Initative mark. For example, the Pemberton Centre in Rushden, Northamptonshire launched the Young Inclusive People (YIP) Club in November 2008, offering sports such as archery, table tennis and New Age Kurling.

Find out more at: www.inclusivefitness.org

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