A car accident Keith was involved resulted in the devastating loss of his legs. He recalls those as being some of his “darkest days”and among other things the realisation he would never play hurling again really hit him hard. Lets hear how wheelchair sports and remaining physically active has enabled Keith to navigate his overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety after his accident.
Tell me about your experience of being physically active
I was always an active sports lover and played hurling for years prior to my accident. When I was in the hospital the enormity of my situation became apparent when I realised I could no longer re-commence my life as before triggering all sorts of emotions. Sport was a great outlet for these potentially overwhelming and debilitating emotions offering a release from trying to establish a new role in society. Rowing was the first sport I tried and represented Ireland at an event in England. From there I tried table tennis, handcycling and basketball. I much preferred basketball for its physcality and speed and the fact it’s a team game also suited me more. I played basketball to a good level; playing for Galway and again representing my country at the Europeans in Bosnia in 2016.
How did you get active?
While still in rehab I started to learn about all the different sports available to people with disabilities. Sport also offered a much needed platform of fun and social activity for me. Rowing was the first sport I played after I became a wheelchair user. While I didn’t love the sport itself I started to realise that just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t still be competitive.
Why do you take part?
I’m a highly competitive person and while individual sports meant every competitive opportunity is a chance to beat your personal best, it wasn’t the same as a team sport.
If you met someone who had never taken part n anything before, what would you tell them, and why would you tell them they should start?
I think its very important to exercise for both the body and the mind. And like I said just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t still be competitive.
What do you enjoy about it?
I enjoy the element working together to achieve a result. Everyone has an assignment and is expected to execute their task effectively. Success and failure are not yours alone to bear.
The members of our group supported each other during the highs and lows and during moments of defeat we drew closer. Even during h low times in training when I didn’t feel like pushing myself to achieve just a little more, teammates got the most out of me.
If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be?
To what extent are people with disabilities able to engage in physical activity and sports of their choice?
I’m not sure but the main thing is for people to know that there are options out there and to keep trying stuff until you find something you like.
What makes participating in sport/physical activity difficult?
The financial aspect to disability sport is huge for example equipment like chairs of all descriptions and travel costs to training etc.
If you could change one thing, what would that be?
Peoples negative attitudes towards disability sports. They are just as skillful, physical and strenous!
What more must be done to ensure constant progress towards everybody being active?
I do think the area of disability sport needs more funding; as both times I represented Ireland I basically had to fund it all myself.