I am quite a complicated chap, I have Cerebral Palsy, which affects my whole body from my eyes to my toes. I use a wheelchair to get around and about, although I can weight bear, using my walking frame to get around the house. On top of that, I also have many severe food allergies, and that can be much more of a problem than my disability. Now, I am not writing all this so you can feel sorry for me or anything of that nature. As a 22-year-old, I am very aware of the multitude of problems facing young people today, from social media to finding a first job and the power of sport in trying to overcome those challenges should not be under estimated.
I am not saying that sport is the answer to everything because it isn’t. However, I believe that sport has the power to change someone no matter whether they’re young, old, disabled (physical or intellectual) or able-bodied. There is no doubt in my mind that sport has completely changed my life, with all the problems that I’ve mentioned above, it would have been very easy for me to shy away from society at large, but I didn’t. I remember taking part in a boccia competition, a game I hadn’t played before in my life. I had a very quick lesson in the rules of the game and then took part in my first ever sporting competition, and I’m pretty sure that we came last, but to me that didn’t matter. From then on, I was hooked and before I knew it, I was leading my school boccia team to the National Schools Finals in Sheffield.
The confidence that sport has given me has allowed me to do so many things that I couldn’t imagine doing before I discovered sport. Things like learning to drive (now I have my own car) and going to the USA with my sister, through to volunteering at music festivals.
It doesn’t matter if a keen sports student goes on to be an actor, politician, lawyer, maths teacher or an elite athlete. They will still have the same board to spring from, that is sport. To go on and make sure that tomorrow is better than today.
I was soon taking part in leadership academies and started to really enjoy the leadership side of sport. That made me so much more confident in all parts of my life. And now I have the honour and privilege to sit on the Youth Board of the Youth Sport Trust, focusing on disability sport and inclusion. Now it is my chance to give something back.
YST Youth Board Member