Barriers in Sport: The First Step

Published February 7, 2017

It’s the start of 2017 and the world feels a markedly different place from this time last year. Of course, no one would have guessed that Donald Trump would be President, Power Rangers would be rebooted and Twin Peaks will finally be returning. But, that’s not the big change I’m alluding to from last year to this. As of the 9th of January 2017, I am officially in employment.

I know what you’re thinking, you’ve looked at the title “Barriers in Sport” and just read the first paragraph, thinking this has nothing to do with sport and I just have a massive ego. Well, you’re half right! But, a big reason I got the job was to do with sport which can play an important part in any body’s life, non-disabled or disabled.

One thing in particular that disabled people face and often the hardest barrier to overcome, is getting into sport, whether just for a social activity or competitively. The way I got into my main sport Boccia was through my school, John Chilton and we used to play once a week. I enjoyed the social and competitive aspects of it so much so that they suggested that I go visit a club called PACE. Fast forward ten years later, I’m now working for PACE where I deliver Boccia coaching sessions at my old school. That’s why I think schools are vitally important for sport especially for disabled people. In introducing the sport for young pupils, networking with local sports clubs to encourage and help them grow. I know, because it happened to me.

According to UK Government statistics, in 2012, “46.3% of working-age disabled people are in employment compared to 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people. There is therefore a 30.1 percentage point gap between disabled and non-disabled people.” This wasn’t the whole of the UK, this was just in London! This statistic illustrates how hard it is for disabled people to find employment.

When I first started to play Boccia more seriously, I would never have envisioned that I’d have a job heavily involving the sport. I still don’t really. The point is, you never know where something may lead and sport can be that for some people. As part of my job I’m actively encouraging schools, parents and community centres in taking that step. You never know where it may lead.

Next time, I’ll be speaking to various Boccia athletes and their experiences in trying to break into the sport.

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