Following the unprecedented success of Glasgow 2014’s para sport programme, Scottish Disability Sport (SDS), is teaming up with some of Scotland’s most inspiring para athletes to find the next generation of sporting stars.
The agency, which is the official sporting body for people of all ages and abilities with a physical, sensory or learning disability, is urging everyone to give sport a go, whatever their disability, because they could have what it takes to go all the way at the next Paralympic or Commonwealth Games.
Feature Image: L-R: Aileen Neilson, Martin Perry, Jo Butterfield, Billy Allan, Meggan Dawson-Farrell, Ron McArthur, Lewis Clow
The nationwide drive to unearth the next generation of disabled sport stars is being fronted by some of the 22 ‘Team Scotland’ para athletes who competed at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow across a wide range of sports – with more athletes, personal bests and medals won (seven in total) than ever before.
To build on this legacy, SDS is on a mission to raise awareness of the many ways in which its local, regional and national initiatives can open up sporting opportunity for all. This includes:
- 13 local SDS Branches providing access to a wide variety of grassroots sporting opportunities across Scotland.
- Seven SDS Regional Managers who have been in post since 2012, each with a specific remit to identify and develop local talent and to facilitate the link between SDS’s local Branches and national pathways.
- The addition of 27 ‘inclusive’ sports clubs which has so far supported 73 new athletes to progress to regional squads and individual programmes.
- Ongoing investment in a new series of regional multi sport and sport specific development days which has so far resulted in the identification of 230 new athletes.
- The 2-year extension of SDS’s pioneering Disability Inclusion Training programme. Launched in 2012 and funded by the Scottish Government, it offers education staff a free training course to improve the quality of PE provision for disabled children and their non-disabled peers – encouraging the next generation of disabled young people to lead full and active lifestyles through sport.
Gavin Macleod, Chief Executive Officer of Scottish Disability Sport wants to ensure that the excitement and momentum of 2014 is channelled into future success for new generations of para athletes in Scotland. He commented: ‘Sport is an incredible and empowering outlet for people no matter what level of ability or impairment they have. We want to ensure as many people as possible can participate in their chosen sport, but also provide the support and training for those with real talent and commitment to go all the way to the podium at the world’s top sporting occasions.
‘Glasgow 2014 demonstrated just how much sporting skill and ambition there is amongst Scotland’s disabled communities and we want to take a message of encouragement and inspiration to give sport a go – across all sports, age groups and parts of the country. The SDS Branch and Regional Manager network with their coaches, training and events has uncovered some of Scotland’s leading para sports stars, many of whom had no idea of their talent and potential at the beginning of their sporting journey. So we’d urge everyone to come along to one of our development days, ask at their local sports club or check out our website for information and ideas about how to get involved.’
Scottish para athletes Martin Perry, Aileen Neilson, Jo Butterfield, Ron McArthur, Meggan Dawson-Farrell, Lewis Clow and Billy Allan are all supporting the campaign, appearing in a selection of empowering images and short films to tell their inspiring stories.
Meggan Dawson-Farrell (22) from Tullibody is a wheelchair racer who reached the finals at Glasgow 2014. She is now aiming for a podium place at Rio, Tokyo and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. ‘I tried out at a sports camp run by the Spina Bifida organisation when I was 16 and everything started from there. I now train twice a day, 6 days a week and last year I came first in the Glasgow Great Women’s 10, and took 2 gold and 1 silver medal at the Scottish Senior Championships. I was also so proud and happy to be part of the team at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The team spirit was brilliant and it just goes to show that it’s important to take opportunities when they come your way. Scottish Disability Sport has given me support along the way with things like competition attendance and I now love to go into schools to talk to young people and really encourage them to give sport a go.’
Table Tennis champion and triple amputee, Martin Perry (20) from Paisley, is already making his mark in his sporting field. ‘I was 16 when my mum persuaded me to stop lazing about the house and attend a SDS summer camp. I did everything from archery to basketball and on the last day I had a go at table tennis. I was rubbish, but four years later I have five international medals and I’ve played as part of Team GB all over the world. SDS is fantastic at what it does, supporting athletes with everything from training and funding to psychology services. I’d encourage all young people to get out there and give sport a go because it opens up so much opportunity.’
Scottish Disability Sport is the Scottish governing and coordinating body of all sports for disabled children, athletes and players of all ages. It is committed to broadening the range of available sports options for disabled individuals of all abilities in Scotland and is responsible for creating sport specific pathways to help them achieve their goals.
Further information on training, courses and development days can be found at www.scottishdisabilitysport.com