Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Why access to sport and exercise for disabled children is so important

ACCORDING to Sport England children and young adults with a disability are twice as likely to be inactive as those without a disability! It’s hardly surprising when you consider that access to sporting groups and the right type of equipment can be a challenge. But this is a problem that needs to be addressed because sport and exercise aren’t just about fun, it’s a fundamental part of leading a healthy lifestyle that all children deserve. 

Following the amazing legacy of the London 2012 games, there was certainly increased awareness about the importance of para-sports and it led to more funding for para-sports at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. However, a study by the Activity Alliance in July 2022, found that since the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 3 in 10 disabled people feel that they have been encouraged to be active since the pandemic. The study cited that accessibility to sports and exercise as well as constraints on health and finances were major barriers to taking part in sports. 

This is why groups like the Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball are so important. We recently had the pleasure of joining them for a practice session, where we met 13-year-old Bradley Thompson and he told us all about what basketball means to him. 

Why access to sport and exercise for disabled children is so important

Bradley said:

“My passion is wheelchair basketball and I became interested in this sport at the age of 10. The way this came around was through my auntie looking through the internet and seeing the Sheffield Steelers wheelchair basketball team promoting the kids club every Saturday morning. My mum and dad took me along to see if I’d like it and from then on I became addicted to the sport. 

“I started training with Sheffield Steelers in April 2019 and in June 2019 was asked by the club if I would like to play for the Yorkshire team in the regionals at Worcester and of course, I said yes. This then drove me to focus on more training so I could experience more game time and play in more tournaments. Finally, all the hard work in training paid off when I received my first gold medal for Yorkshire in the regionals in August 2022 and then the weekend after won gold again at the International children’s games in Coventry with the Sheffield Steelers.

“Both times I received these medals was the first time history was made. I became the first under 14’s for Yorkshire to win gold and it was the first time that international children’s games featured wheelchair basketball, and my team won gold. My future ambitions are to play for Team GB at the Paralympics and the premier league for the Sheffield Steelers.

“Wheelchair basketball means a lot to me. It is my passion, a comfort place and somewhere I can escape to. I’d recommend this sport to anyone and I would also recommend the Sheffield Steelers as they are a great team to be a part of!” 

Fiona Harris-Hunt, Children Today’s Northeast regional fundraiser, said:

“Bradley’s very lucky to have found a fantastic wheelchair basketball team that is able to provide the equipment needed, and even get funding for his very own sports wheelchair – at a staggering cost of over £5000 – to give him the competitive edge he needs to take his passion for basketball to the next level. 

“But there are so many other disabled children and young adults desperate to be active and take part in sports, who struggle and in some cases find it impossible because they don’t have access to the right equipment. Sadly, adapted sports and mobility equipment for disabled children and young adults is so often prohibitively expensive as Bradley’s case demonstrates. Without charity funding, he wouldn’t be able to follow his dreams! 

“For Bradley discovering the Sheffield Steelers was the beginning of his sporting journey, but team sports aren’t for everyone of course. Some people prefer solo exercise and for others – some children with Autism for instance – group activities might be too overwhelming, so relying on teams and groups to provide classes and equipment is problematic. 

“This is why we believe it’s so important to invest in all young people to help give them the healthy future they need and want, whether that’s being the next Team GB Paralympic superstar or simply being able to ride a bike with their friends!”


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