Tony Waymouth, Chief Operation Officer of the Panathlon Foundation, brought a group of disabled school children to Team BRIT’s latest race at Snetterton. Here he tells us why providing competitive sports opportunities for disabled children is so important.
Panathlon sees it as important to get young disabled people into sport for a variety of reasons.
The opportunity to participate and compete across a variety of programmes gives them choice and hopefully long-life engagement with the beauty of sport and their chosen favourite, with the knowledge that sport can become part of their life.
Many of our students don’t take part in team games, so Panathlon provides them with this amazing opportunity. It helps build their confidence and self-esteem and also shows them the importance of teamwork. It enables them to work together within a team but also gain understanding of fair play and how others like them can be successful and good at things
So often it is seen that for minority or
disadvantaged groups, taking part is enough. But Panathlon offers a competitive
sporting environment for all.
You can learn so much from competitive sport. You learn about winning, losing, travelling, new environments and working together in a team. Panathlon provides this opportunity to develop these skills which are so important throughout life.
Children often comment that as a child with a disability in a mainstream school ,they never get picked to be in a sports team. It’s extremely important that they get this feeling as they do deserve to be part of a team and to represent someone.
Others have their time, Panathlon is their time; it is their ‘look at us’. They aren’t involved in a token, ‘well done you’, tap-on-the-head kind of event. This is where we align so well with the ethos of Team BRIT. We share their desire to ‘normalise’ disability and to create opportunities where disabled people can compete equally.
Children of all abilities like to be challenged, they also understand context and relevancy, something that Panathlon brings to what they do in their time competing. It counts as an equally impressive achievement to anything the other pupils (mainstream able bodied) pupils have done.
This context and relevancy has also given teachers direction for a sports calendar and has created good old fashioned rivalry, tradition amongst schools in counties and across regions.
The tradition and rivalry has created a desire to represent, having pride in one’s school and creating success for younger ones to follow. Year groups want to be part of it and follow older one’s achievements and continue schools success.
It's important that all schools and athletes find their level, something Panathlon allows through its determination to provide a pathway. Not every school , every child will be the 'winner' but parents, grandparents, teachers, support staff, peers watching them during competitions see for the first time, the lift in their confidence, expanding their skills and makes them realise just what they’re capable of achieving.