Athletes with a disability enjoy a greater profile than ever before, in Scotland and beyond.
Trailblazers such as the wheelchair tennis champion Gordon Reid and the teenage runner Maria Lyle have helped to spread the message that anyone can overcome physical barriers to not only participate in sport but progress and succeed on the world stage.
But what about coaches with a disability? We asked two beneficiaries of a new, nationwide programme to tell us how they have been able to break down barriers on their own sporting journey.
The Inclusive Coach project is run in Scotland between sports coach UK and Scottish Disability Sport (SDS) and the various Scottish governing bodies of sport (SGBs) with funding and support from sportscotland.
Research and consultation targeted at people with a disability found that better support was needed to help people get into coaching, and so the Inclusive Coach project was born.
Each potential coach is first matched with a mentor who meets with them regularly to help identify their strengths and areas of development. This contributes to that individual becoming a confident and competent coach and their mentor supports them on this journey.
The project is helping to increase the number of coaches with a disability active in Scotland.
Lucy Walkup and Gemma Lumsdaine are two of the coaches benefiting from the project and we asked them about their experience to date.
How did you get involved in the Inclusive Coach project?
Lucy: I have known my mentor, Richard Brickley, since I first got involved in disability swimming through Disability Sport Fife (DSF). I participated in sessions once a week from ages nine to 13.
I have attended numerous swimming clubs through the years and was competitively swimming in local, national and UK disability swimming events, as well as being part of the British Deaf Swimming programme.
Throughout all of this Richard has always been a constant in my career and when I decided to retire from competitive swimming I was delighted to accept a place on the project from Richard. I love passing on my knowledge, expertise and experiences to other young swimmers.
What barriers have you faced that made it difficult to get involved in sport?
Gemma: I am in a wheelchair and for a lot of my life I felt like I could not even take part in sport, let alone actually coach it. There wasn’t many opportunities for me whilst I was growing up so, to get to do this now, I feel very proud.
Lucy: I have experienced a few challenges throughout my swimming career but I would not consider them barriers. I am deaf so there have been communication challenges that had to be addressed.
I have found coaches are very patient and understanding, particularly during training. DSF has always been there to help me - whether it be when I decided to change clubs, fundraise, or any other support I have needed.
Communication will always be a challenge for a deaf sportsperson but by introducing a few simple strategies or modifications, potential and real challenges can be overcome.
What do you love about coaching?
Lucy: Since the age of 4, I have been involved in swimming and, although training has always been hard, I appreciate success only comes with commitment and hard work.
Because of my love for the sport I would love to be the one who encourages and supports others to follow a similar pathway.
I love seeing children grow and develop within the sport of swimming.
Gemma: I absolutely love being able to develop people, as players and in themselves. I get to share my passion for sport and see the positive impact it can have on people’s lives.
What have you done as part of the project?
Lucy: We have talked about volunteering and coach development opportunities, career development and short- and medium-term employment options.
To date I have successfully completed the Level 1 UKCC Swim Teaching Qualification, STA Lifeguard qualification and I attended my first sports coach UK CPD workshop. I am hoping to participate in more workshops in the future, fitting them around my degree course at Stirling University.
Gemma: I have been mentored by one of the UK’s top wheelchair basketball coaches and have been able to get new experience of coaching in games, which I hadn’t been able to do until this programme came along.
What are your coaching ambitions?
Lucy: I hope to become involved with mainstream, sensory impaired and physically disabled learners. I would like to coach and teach others and offer them the opportunity to experience many of the benefits that I have gained through sport.
In the future, I would love to coach in a mainstream club and pass on my experiences to those who want to be successful in sport.
Gemma: I would love to be a head coach of a women’s wheelchair basketball team but most of all I just want to make a difference to the lives of everyone I coach.
How has being part of this project benefited you as a person?
Lucy: I would like to think that I am more confident and accepting of who I am through participation in performance swimming. Richard has always been supportive of me and my family but being involved with him in the project has added a new dimension.
Gemma: I am more confident to try out new things and if some don’t work then I will be able to find ways of adapting. The programme has made me realise that this is what I want to do as a career in the future.
Find out more
You can also contact Victoria Clark for further information on the programme.