Since we LOVE Rowing, we want to put a spotlight on some of the exciting initiatives across the world of rowing. If you know of an initiative that you think we should feature in our Love Rowing newsletter please get in touch!
Mark at SUABC gave us insight into the amazing adaptive community and his top tips for clubs to welcome all abilities.
“Get over your fear!”
A sentence which echoes throughout the adaptive community is “accessibility IS a mindset” and is Mark’s top tip to starting adaptive. Mark told us that he often gets asked for advice from other clubs on pretty much anything adaptive. The most common question is, “Can this person with X disability row?” (replace X with a variety of impairments). His answer:
“In my 30 years, I have only ever said ‘no’ [to someone rowing] twice and this was due to a very severe case that meant it wouldn’t be safe for that person [to row]. It’s extremely rare that someone with a disability couldn’t row.”
Mark’s response is in line with our experience of adaptive programmes, which means clubs need not fear opening their club up to people with intellectual or physical disabilities. Of course, there are a few key additional considerations when hosting adaptive rowers, it could be that a club needs more volunteers in place or specialist equipment, but Mark made the point that it isn’t always about funds. Specialist equipment may be necessary but it is more important that your club has someone to welcome this person and find a solution to any issues. Another top tip from Mark: “Don’t be afraid to ask what is best for them.” People know what their body is capable of and quite often can help you to make the best decision. Safety is of course key and this needs to stay high as your priority as always.
In all his years at Stratford, he said he is still learning every day and it’s extremely rewarding to hear how rowing has had such a positive impact on peoples’ lives.
Mark is inspired by the SUABC adaptive community and in his words, told us about a few of the members’ stories that made our hearts sing!
Hattie joined SUABC as a junior aged 13. Soon after she suffered a brain tumour - this left her with a number of issues including having to use a wheelchair. She won her first pot at Worcester in 2019 aged 29 and said "Well that only took 16 years"!
Ian is mid-range autistic. All teaching has to be visual, we often use a trigger statement or sign to produce the desired result. We have taught his mother Paola to row so that she can race with him. She knows the buttons to press. He has been with us for 5 years and is still in special needs college nearing 20. He has several wins to his name.
Kelly and Jonny
Kelly joined just before lockdown and her partner Jonny has just started. Both have an SCI and both are PR1 classification and wheelchair users. Kelly now represents the section on club committees. The first move towards the rowers taking the lead on running their section. I am trying to start handing over the reins so we build long term sustainability. I am a bit long in the tooth.
James has been with us for a year or so. He was knocked down by a car and has an acquired brain injury. He is cortically blind (difficult to explain but sees very little due to his brain not being able to process images - though there is nothing wrong with eyes) and has dyspraxia. Due to this we could initially only put him out in a stable quad with 4 volunteers. After a number of kit adaptations he now races in a supported double. He won his first event at City of Oxford in August. James has run half marathons to raise money for charity and regularly surfs. One of our real high points at overcoming seemingly impossible difficulties. Up until recently he would often be supported in training by Esme Booth who has just joined the GB mainstream rowing squad full time.
Mark went on to say that each of the club’s members “have an incredible story to tell and inspire us. We just provide the environment and support.”
From all of us at Love Rowing, we want to say a big thank you to Mark for an insight into Stratford Upon Avon's adaptive community. It's absolutely fantastic to hear so many wonderful stories from the club on how rowing has helped impact people's lives.