For John, sport is more than a hobby, its more than being physically active, its the next level up. “It’s about challenges, self belief and pushing boundaries”. Let’s hear his story.
Tell me about your experience of being physically active
Being physically active for me is not just about taking part in sports activities but about achieving as much independence as possible. For me sport was a key element in achieving that. However, growing up it meant pushing myself instead of others pushing me, it meant doing things for myself instead of allowing others do it for me. It meant wanting to learn to drive, live on my own in my own place, socialising etc. And of course then, sport fed in to that and played a critical part in allowing me to achieve all that. Physical health, mental well being, confidence, self belief etc………and I discovered something to do that I love doing.
What activities/sport/exercise do you do?
All sports but then found I was better at wheelchair racing and basketball.
How did you get active?
I only got involved in sport at the age of 14. Before that I was active and had a family that made me do all the above mentioned independence related stuff. However, the local IWA got me to come to a sports event and I initially hated it. But went back and over time started to love it. I tried everything from Archery to Table Tennis but soon found the ones I liked and had some talent at are basketball and wheelchair racing.
What are some good/positive experiences? Bad/negative experiences?
Good experiences mainly. It was great to finally have a sport that Icould go back to school and talk about after my weekend instead of having tolisten to every one elses. I loved being active but also competitive and having something I could really challenge and push boundaries on.
If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be?
“Empowering or fulfilling”
What does being physically active mean to you?
Being active means health, mental well being, enjoyment, involvement, contentment.
What do you enjoy about it?
I love sport. I love the challenge and the feeling you get from trying and doing. I love the social element and loved the competitive element when I raced internationally. I love now seeing the difference it can make in the lives of young children coming after me. I love being as independent as I can be which as I get older becomes more and more important. It is not about anyone else but about what I can achieve for myself.
If you met someone who had never taken part in anything before, what would you tell them, and why would you tell them they should start?
I would ask them just to give it a try and not to care about what anyone thinks. Its about trying and having fun. And if they try and don’t like it, that’s ok but I usually find that they do like it.
Tell me if you encountered any challenges in participating in sport or physical activity?
There are challenges no matter what we do. There were attitudinal challenges but these are gradually changing. There are the challenges of access and also the fear of getting involved and not knowing how or where to start.
What makes participating in sport/physical activity difficult?
For someone with a physical disability, it may depend on your level of functionality as to what you can get involved in or how easy that may be. We need to distinguish a difference between being physically active and sport. Being physically active means some of the very simple things about doing as much for yourself as is possible and controlling as much as you can control. Sport is a next level up from that and a logical step in my eyes.
Having access to the correct and fitted equipment/chair is a problem as its specialised and expensive. Physical environment is a challenge too.
To what extent are people with disabilities able to engage in physical activity and sports of their choice?
There are a lot of options out there although knowing where or how to begin may put people off. I find if you have a will and really want to try something, you can figure out a way.
If you wanted to be more/begin to be active, what would help you?
Find out what you want to get involved in and being realistic about what you like and what you can initially achieve. It is about no one else but you.
What would make participating in sport/physical activity easier for you?
More time! I am a bad person to ask as I am involved for a long time but now having a family, a wife and two year old, it is time that I need and less fatigue.
What more must be done to ensure constant progress towards everybody being active?
We must keep creating opportunities for people to get involved and really promote those opportunities that are already out there. Awareness is key and invest in those opportunities where we can.
What is your wish list for sports and physical activity?
A world where sport is truly available to everyone including those with disabilities.
If you could change one thing, what would that be?
More people having the confidence to get involved in sport. That peoples expectations of the abilities of people with disabilities would be the same as our able bodied counterparts.
If you could tell providers one thing, what would it be?
There is nothing to be afraid of, if you work with us, the answers to whatever questions you may have are very simple. A good example of this was when I was in New Zealand, I wanted to go on to a boat on Doubtful Sound. I asked the lads on the cruiser was it possible for me to do the trip and their response was it is not whether you can, but so you want to? Once I was happy to try, so were they. I want more of that.