Busy Sporting Calendar For AWD Participants
The Wellington Athletes with a Disability (AWD) Sports Programme is now in full swing and runs throughout the year incorporating a diverse range of sports.
Each year several hundred students take part in the activities, which includes athletics, basketball, indoor football, swimming and tenpin bowling, among other sports.
“We started indoor football last week, and the programme is proving popular with the region’s AWD students who come together to play on serious level for some or with a more social or participatory involvement for others,” says College Sport Wellington Executive Director Bryan Dickinson.
The indoor football runs for four weeks, with approximately 150 students taking part in mixed teams. Students with an intellectual and/or a physical disability compete.
The CSW AWD programme has been running for a number years, an initiative of former CSW Executive Director John Hornal.
“It is long-established and popular. We keep looking to add to the programme every year and how to enhance it. Without Wellington Community Trust’s support and assistance from Special Olympics and the Halberg Foundation, we would really struggle to keep this programme going for the students” says Dickinson.
The Wellington Community Trust provides financial support to deliver the programme, while CSW works with Special Olympics New Zealand and the Halberg Disability Sports Foundation to help pull the programme together.
Special Olympics New Zealand work within the schools programme to help engage athletes with an intellectual disability to ensure they are participating in the meaningful competition that is being provided through the AWD Schools programme. The link with College Sport Wellington and Halberg also helps with the transitioning of our students in to their local Special Olympics Clubs where they are able to further develop socially, learn new skills whilst participating in regular training and competition throughout the year. Athletes compete as young as 8 so creating those links within the colleges is becoming vital to ensure athletes do not miss out on any opportunities as they transition in to adulthood.
Students who get involved with local Special Olympics Clubs are given the opportunity to excel in their chosen sport(s) for example Toni Tawhai of Mahinawa is the only female who competed in the Special Olympics Mana A Basketball team at the Special Olympics National Summer Games held in November 2017. It is great to see the participation from schools within the Wellington Region in the AWD programme. Over the past couple of years we have introduced sports such as Bocce and Boccia, helping to develop basic skills required for competitions which are available at club level via Special Olympics Clubs and the Parafed Wellington Boccia Club. Special Olympics New Zealand have a clear competition pathway which allows athletes to compete on a local, regional, national and international stage whilst competing against athletes of similar ability, gender and age.
There is a calendar of events throughout the four school terms.
The age-bracket of the participants is also wider in the AWD sports programme, with some ages ranging up to 20 and 21 as students are given an opportunity to remain in school longer than their mainstream counterparts. It also gives students from non-mainstream schools such as Kimi Ora in Wellington City and Mahinawa a vehicle to compete and interact with their mainstream
“Mahinawa in particular have got some talented athletes, such as their basketballers who were strong last year,” adds Dickinson.
There are also opportunities in sport for AWD athletics students. Wellington College has a pair of visually impaired discus and shot put throwers
Another local example of an AWD student exceeding on a regional and national level is Ben Ellis, who won the Disabled Athlete of the Year award at the CSW awards last November.
Ellis, who has now left school at St Pat’s Town, has Beals syndrome, which causes abnormal bone and aortic enlargement problems, inhibiting fluid movement.
“I got into throwing a discus when I was in Year 9,” Ben explained. “I hated it at first, but I kept at it because I was inspired by a Liam Malone speech at school. Two years ago I won the regionals and thought I might as well have a crack at the North Island’s. I won that too and started to like it.”
Ellis competes in the T43 (lower) or T45 (upper) body impairments classes. The latter classification is where he most frequently competes. Ellis is coached by Wellington throwing guru and former National representative Shaka Sola.
Last year Ellis was also one of only a dozen individuals selected in a National training squad for promising AWD athletes.