Stratford Boat Club named Parasport Club of the Year
CELEBRATIONS are in the air at Stratford BC after their adaptive squad was named Parasport Club of the Year.
The fantastic news comes just a couple of months after the Swans Nest Lane club were named as Parasport Club of the Month for October.
The financial reward for picking up the Club of the Year accolade is worth around £1,000 and the money can be used towards new adaptive rowing kits, access facilities or anything to benefit provision for the disabled. As part of the award, a top Paralympics GB athlete will spend a day at the club next year.
Mark Dewdney, head adaptive coach at Stratford BC, said: “It is a humbling accolade given the fantastic work being done by the other nominees for the award as well. This is recognition for a great team effort over several years.
“Parasport congratulated Stratford Boat Club’s adaptive squad on their great and often humorous ‘Club of the Year’ campaign and specifically the important message it contained on inclusivity within community sports.
“The club would also like to take this opportunity of thanking the Herald, its readers, the people of Stratford and their families for their magnificent support by voting for us.
“We will not be resting on our laurels. There are many more tangible targets we have yet to achieve. We still have a long way to go improve provision and facilities for the disabled community.”
The club launched their adaptive section in 2015 with two rowers and now have six or seven different boats serving a squad of more than ten.
The squad’s secret to their success is simple - a 'listen first' mentality, embracing a people-centred approach to physical and coaching challenges
"What makes the adaptive squad work is that we're always learning from our athletes - we listen," said Dewdney.
“Necessity means the rowers have often come up with clever ways of overcoming their particular challenges.
"We take something from every person who comes to us - something that we have not thought of that help us to improve what we do with others.
"We are at our best when it comes to finding novel ways to teach people how to move a boat.
"It is different for every single person we get, whatever their ability. That is what makes it so interesting to be an adaptive coach”
One of the two rowers who joined the club in 2015, Kingsley Ijomah, is African champion and will represent his native Nigeria at the 2021 Paralympics.
Stratford BC has been coaching another athlete on the GB Paralympic Development Pathway during 2020.
However, Dewdney's coaching philosophy is rooted in inclusivity rather than high performance.
"If we can do it and if it's safe, we will have a go," he said.
"We don't select on how good someone's going to be, we just look at how we can make it work for that particular individual.
"We can help those who just want a paddle, enjoy the social side and be independent or those who want to go all the way up to the top of the sport."
Stratford's adaptive rowers have wide-ranging needs, including participants with spinal cord injuries, hemiplegia, visual impairment and autism.
They are support by five qualified coaches plus a large number of volunteers who provide safety, launch driving and much else besides.
Parasport is developed by Paralympics GB in partnership with Toyota as part of their commitment to making movement better for everyone.
To discover inclusive local opportunities to become more active, visit parasport.org.uk.
Anyone interested in trying something new, getting outdoors on the water, seeing what’s possible, or just assisting with Stratford Boat Club’s adaptive squad, get in touch via http://www.stratford-rowing.co.uk/contact and marking the subject box 'adaptive’.