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How Inclusive Sports can Improve your Well-being

A few reasons as to why Inclusive Sports goes further than just fitness and mobility.. but mental health and well-being too.

One of the most interesting things about Inclusive Sports is that the benefits to our services are endless. There is not one single goal that we aim to achieve within our participants, but instead a vast selection… making both the opportunity and service offer diverse and unique. But today, we thought we would detail all the main reasons as to why our services can majorly improve your mental health and well-being… 1) Reducing Isolation Time It’s probably safe to say that most of us are fed up of being at home. We spent the best part of a year there, with low human interaction and only so many things to watch on Netflix. However, for a lot of audiences, this reality isn’t too dissimilar to everyday life, Covid or not. Some individuals can go for weeks without any human interaction- whether this is due to low mobilisation, low income, poor self-esteem/mental health or a lack of friends and family to spend time with. Even if an individual attends a single session a week as an incentive to get out the house- this is so much better than none at all. The commute could take longer, turning an hour trip into potentially more of a day outing. The smells coming from the Olive Branch cafe is more than enough to get you to stay a little longer for a snack. This could instantly improve self esteem just by gaining that little bit of newfound independence and a change of scenery. Making friends at the session could then extend the time they spend there before and after, and eventually present more opportunities to get out of the house. It is mandatory for all children and young people to take part in sports as part of their curricular activities at school. But not only do they usually not get a choice in what they do, many schools do not cater to disability audiences and the fact it is enforced can often make it feel like a chore. Unless you're a naturally sporty person- that weekly PE session is a thing of nightmares for some. We want more than anything for our participants to get excited about our sessions and want to come back instead of feeling forced, so leaving the security of the home isn't a stressful task. Our Inclusive Practitioner role provides an opportunity to leave the house on weekends, so our services do span further than just after school and half term time provision. These Saturdays can get our participants out and getting up to activities that they may not have been able to experience otherwise. It will also get them out of an environment that they may find themselves confined in for long hours throughout the week. 2) Friendship, socialisation, and self esteem Some children and young people may feel isolated in their current educational setting- especially in mainstream schools, which is an extremely sad reality. Special educational needs children can be often set apart from mainstream children due to a lack of understanding surrounding disability. Bringing them to an environment with specialised equipment that is already adapted for them will enhance this sense of belonging. With a team of highly trained individuals who have a full grip on the nature of disabilities that make them feel safe and comfortable. Being surrounded with like-minded individuals with similar conditions may make it easier to make friends. You would usually surround yourself with individuals who have things in common and a mutual understanding of each others situation, it's no different to our sessions. It will also reduce the risk of both alienation and rejection- many of which sadly a lot of SEN children may face in schools by other mainstream children. There are so many children that have formed friendships at our services who they wouldn't have met otherwise... As they are used to environments where SEN and disability is absent for the most part. We recently held an Inclusive Sports Festival promoting our services and disability sports, and whilst trying to capture a few images of the day I heard one of the participants say; "I've really enjoyed today. Spending time with kids like me, who understand me." A passing comment to some, but to us that's what it's all about. Enjoyment and boost in confidence are two of the greatest things for everyone's mental health- and that verbal confirmation meant the world. It also showed that the individual may have not experienced an environment before that is fully exclusive to disability audiences. The feeling of belonging is one of the most important things humans can have (according to Maslow's theories)- and that is one of the main things that Inclusive Sports strives to do. Every individual who attends any of our sessions is made to feel included- with a team behind the scenes making sure that there will always be a coach on hand that is fully trained and knowledgeable of their wants and needs. This spans further than just our children and young people- it goes on to their families and carers. We love seeing all of the parents chatting before and after the sessions about their children, and making friends because of them. Not only this, but we also hold a 'Dads Need 2 Talk' group, which centres on breaking down the stigma surrounding men and mental health.. Giving single Dad's an emotional outlet that they may be lacking elsewhere. 3) Fitness and mobilisation Of course- sports is in the name, so it’s obvious it would have appeared on this list. We aren’t talking about putting our participants through gruelling workout exercises to become the next Paralympian. The NCBI states itself that exercise in general has been proven to 'Improve self esteem and cognitive function', which is exactly what we work to do. Our exercises are designed to be fun and stress-free, whilst getting the blood pumping. Even then, some lower-active sports like archery can improve aim and accuracy, upper arm strength and honestly just trying something a little new. Sport can however not only do wonders for the reasons already mentioned, but a lot of teamwork skills are often implemented without even realising! Working together in group sport is also a factor in building those important friendships and adapting social skills for everyday life that can be transferred outside our sessions. Especially with our PA service, everything is tailored to exactly what our participants want to do and will all centre around their specific hobbies. So, if they do want to take part in football- they can do this in a monitored and inclusive capacity. Within our sessions we also try our best to tailor our sport activities to the individuals, so we can accommodate their physical restrictions and needs. A lot of sports outlets do not cater to disabilities unless they are a specialised company, nor do a lot of mainstream gyms. Anyone, no matter their ability should be allowed to take part in sport- no matter what their intentions are, and sadly the reality is that a lot of individuals don’t get to make that choice. We want to change that. 4) Family and home life improvement Our PA and after school provision are adapted to mainly benefit the individual- they're our target audience after all. However, there are also intentions to make life a little easier for parents and carers. We understand it is hard enough to get time for yourself or get things done without access to childcare. However, having a loved one with SEN can massively narrow down the chances of finding supervision with specialised training and equipment. We can provide this, which will hopefully take off any stress or strain whilst simultaneously improving your mental state. As well as this, one of our most successful projects Inclusive Families is designed to specifically benefit families living with a child who has SEN or a disability. We understand that there are so many restrictions to family days out that it could be a blog post in itself… So, we encourage parents or relatives to stay with the child and join in with group activities whether it be physical sport, a quiz or even some craft making. Financial strain can also be alleviated, as all sessions are HS2 funded and free to families. This bonding time with your child again reduces isolation to the household- but will also massively improve your relationship. Other children and families attending at the same time can also boost everyone's socialisation levels. Of course, having a happier, more socialised, and active child has a massive potential to also make life at home a lot easier. These were just a few of the reasons as to why our services cannot only enhance mobilisation and fitness levels through sport- (After all, it is in the name!) But there also countless other ways that we can improve overall well-being and mental health, which we believe is one of if not the most important thing in the world. Do you have any other way you feel that Inclusive Sports has improved your well-being? Please let us know in the comments below...

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