Our very first blog post discusses a little more about what we do, and why CIC's like us are so important to the local community.
Inclusive Sports’ origin story occurred much like most other community interest companies do. A slow emergence of a need within Solihull for outlets readily available to children, young people and adults with disabilities and SEN. In this case, it was by a squash coach with a passion for Inclusivity in sport, and a belief that sport is for everyone. The whole of our story can be found in our Inclusive Sports Documentary right here. But to cut a long story short, (or a 20-minute-long video short), our founder and director Andy Warmington was a squash coach who was getting requested more and more for disability coaching sessions. That was when he decided to form his own business and create a hub that does it all in one place. It’s a good job he did too. Nearly 24,000 people in Birmingham alone have some form of special educational need, and just under 200,000 either have a form of disability or illness. Many clubs also usually cater to a specific area or age group- however we cater to children, young people, and adults as well as those living with a physical disability and/or an educational one. Having a single location where all of this can happen is almost unheard of and is also why we think Inclusive Sports is so unique. Although it’s in the name, Sport is not all that we do here. Socialisation, wellbeing and just creating happy memories for our participants is also a massive priority. It has been easy to capture this within our social media feeds, that I’m sure if you’re reading this you have scrolled down at least once- but there isn’t anything like the atmosphere our sessions and clubs have when you’re there in the flesh. One of the first examples I personally saw of this was our five weeklong Summer Camp. Prior to this, I hadn’t been to many sessions, but this completely changed my perspective on what we did here. A lot of the kids have probably (most likely certainly) experienced discrimination and exclusion in their schools at some point simply because of their disability- a sad reality. Here, there was no child playing on their own, and not one that looked like they had been forced to give up their summer for a club that was more of a punishment than something fun to attend. Running in bright eyed and ready for their day ahead every morning no matter their activity and leaving in the evening with big smiles and full hearts, was refreshing to witness. To share just one of the quotes we received from a parent whose child attended our camp, I think it speaks volumes on the work that was done. “He came out in the best mood I’ve seen him in for well over six months. He actually said, “This was the best day of my whole life!” Thank you, as a parent this is all I ever want. For my son to be happy and today he was like a different child.” I’ve realised from my past five months at Inclusive Sports, as someone who has lived quite a sheltered life when it comes to disability in all its forms- how important it is for establishments like us to exist. If you’re reading this, you likely have some link to the world of disability, or you might even be part of it yourself. It’s concerning to think that in 2021, retaining inclusively skilled staff in schools is not mandatory. Nor is it in most social and playgroups that are imperative to everyone’s social development and fitness. So many people are turned away every single day from these settings simply because they don’t have the facilities or skills- something we are also working on with our partner business Inclusive Educate. Yet luckily, more outlets are becoming readily available and the importance of inclusivity in a workplace is gaining more attention every day. We recently held an Inclusive Sports Festival, which was essentially an event for young people to have a go at some of the activities we hold and learn a little bit about the history of disability sport. During research for this, I was surprised to discover that the structure and creation of our company was not too dissimilar to that of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s founding of her own camp for children with SEN, which ended up developing into the Special Olympics. Now, I’m not saying that we are about to create one of the world’s largest sporting events (We unfortunately do not have the funding J F Kennedy’s sibling had) … however the power and demand of disability sport is something that is massively under-estimated. The Paralympics this year managed to get over 20 million viewers alone, the highest watch count of the event in history whereas the Olympics received 15.5. This awareness and respect of disability sport is absolutely nothing but good news not only for organisations like us, but also our audiences. We can expand and broaden as much as possible in the West Midlands, and who knows- one day we could develop to other parts of the country. But worldwide appreciation and understanding is more important than ever and it’s happening. A few of our more successful sessions such as Inclusive Families reaches out further outside of our immediate circle of participants and incorporates their loved ones and carers. Bonding and socialisation I have learned can be extremely difficult in plenty of settings that families take for granted. Place like bowling alleys, cinemas and parks lack not only the equipment to facilitate to physical disability, but to mental disabilities alike. Here there are plenty of fitness activities, but also some quizzes and board games too. Just getting these families out of the house that they are probably sick of seeing post-covid is so important- and in a space they can trust there is a low risk of covid contraction and trained individuals who can react to unprecedented emergencies. We have also been holding a Youth Night for slightly older kids for them to socialise with each other with gaming being the primary focus. Again- there’s probably plenty of youth groups across the borough who claim to be inclusive, but how inclusive are the rest of the kids that go there? With a current lack of education of disability and SEN in schools, it only takes a couple of kids that may not necessarily understand someone’s condition to say the wrong thing. This can then become a completely hostile environment that the participant dislikes attending. Here we are building a safe space that can be trusted and is open to anyone no matter their ability- however it also presents opportunities for them to socialise with children that live with similar conditions. We have several different exciting events coming up, for example this week we held a Halloween event for our younger children. We also have some tips on how to make Halloween a little more Inclusive on an upcoming video- keep your eyes peeled on our socials! We are also hopefully going to be holding a Christmas event in December for our children and young people, much like the summer camp we held a few months back… only trips to the park may be a little sparser and a big, bearded man in a red suit MIGHT just come to pay a visit. Might. The idea of this blog will detail what we have been up to and upcoming events, as well as ways we can suggest to you to make your life and skillset more inclusive and accessible to all. We hope you have enjoyed and would love for you to join us every fortnight for more of the Inclusive Sports blog.