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Another fruitful year of ‘insport’ giving disabled people a taste of sport

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If the insport programme run by Disability Sport Wales needed some poster athletes to promote their success, they could do worse than point to Beth Munro and Harrison Walsh.

Both Paralympic athletes in their own spheres – Munro in taekwondo and Walsh in athletics – they were introduced to sporting opportunities for disabled people through the inclusive approach offered by insport.

But the programme is about far more than unearthing the next elite Welsh disabled athlete to compete on the world stage.

It is fundamentally about broadening opportunity for all groups and ages through inclusivity. The concept being inclusion + sport = insport.

There are several strands to the insport programme, with Disability Sport Wales (DSW) providing expertise and guidance to help clubs, sport’s national governing bodies, as well as partner organisations such as the Urdd, Local Authorities, and Community Interest/Benefit Companies to develop an inclusive approach to sport and physical activity so that disabled people can take part in sports in a way that suits them.

But perhaps the most visible aspect of the insport programme, since it began in 2012, are the insport series events that are arranged to give disabled people tasters of different sports so that they can see what’s available, and hopefully, enjoyable. 

Those who attend could be potential world-beaters such as Munro (although she didn’t know it before she rocked up for a session) or more often people looking for some fun through sport.

With the support of AF Blakemore (SPAR), DSW co-ordinate 15 insport series events across Wales annually, with the aim of attracting thousands of disabled people to try out new sports for the very first time.

Recent examples of insport series events include the delivery of a powerchair football event, for the first time in Wales, alongside the Cardiff City FC Foundation. DSW also hosted three wheelchair-sport-focused insport series events within the Gwent, North and Mid Wales regions in partnership with WhizzKidz. 

Over 70 participants attended overall and the events highlighted the opportunities available within each local community. Sports on offer included wheelchair rugby, wheelchair rugby league, powerchair football, wheelchair tennis and boccia.

Wheelchair rugby

Earlier in 2023, DSW partnered with Wales Deaf Sports alongside the Welsh Rugby Union, Wales Golf, the Football Association of Wales, Tennis Wales and Table Tennis Wales to host four Deaf Sport Series events across the country. 

Netball is another sport that was recently highlighted thanks to an insport partnership between DSW, Wales Netball and Urdd Cymru – Wales' largest national youth organization.

Tomas Birkhead, sport events manager at the Urdd, says: “At our most recent Urdd National Netball Tournament we organised an insport series event which ran alongside the mainstream competition. 

“We invited 50 young people to take part in a netball taster session which was led by a combination of Urdd, Netball Wales and DSW coaches and staff. 

“By offering this opportunity we were able to give many of the attendees their first taste of netball and signpost participants to local clubs.

“Making sure that we can provide competitive opportunities for young athletes with disabilities is important to us. 

“It’s great to see and hear the positive impact these events and opportunities can have on individuals. It demonstrates how important it is to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to try something new, or to compete in a sport that they enjoy,” added Tomos.

insport sessions can have a hugely powerful impact for young people, according to Jo Chaplin, mum of nine-year-old, Sienna Allen-Chaplin.

Sienna has a passion for sport and wants to try as many sports as possible. She can have some difficulty with coordination as she has cerebral palsy, but she doesn’t let that get in her way.

The insport series gave her the opportunity to try lots of different sports in one place and now the youngster from Gorseinon near Swansea has found her groove in swimming, athletics, cycling and gymnastics.

“An event like the insport series is a great opportunity to see different sports and other children and young people with disabilities,” says Jo.

“The events shows what is possible and how sport can bring people together.

“Sport and exercise has been so beneficial to Sienna. Not only has it helped improve her overall mobility, balance and strength, it’s also helped her social skills too”.

A girl with one arm playing table tennis

The return of face-to-face delivery following the Covid pandemic has enabled DSW to target provision in sports and areas of the country where it’s most needed. The last 12 months have been really successful, but 2024 is already lining up to be an even bigger year, kicking off with the insport series returning to the National Indoor Athletics Centre (NIAC) in Cardiff on Thursday 25 January.

It will be the first time the event has been held since 2019 and will see inclusive activities being offered across more than 25 sports which will be suitable for everyone. It’s 20 years since the first such event (then known as the Wheelchair Sport Spectacular) was held at the venue and the 2024 session is already fully booked! 

Fiona Reid, CEO for DSW, is passionate about the impact of the insport series events. She said: “These events are absolutely about connecting disabled people in Wales with the multitude of fantastic opportunities available locally.  Partnership is fundamental to these events.

“We know there are still many disabled people who don’t know what is available on their doorstep, or which sports are accessible to them. By coming to an insport series event people and their networks get the chance to try something new, different, or familiar and then the choice to continue with it beyond the day.”

“In the current circumstances it is more important that people have opportunities as local as possible, and we absolutely couldn’t do this without the support of A F Blakemore, the clubs, local authorities and NGBs. It really is about working together.”

Wheelchair tennis

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