Kicking a Garden Gnome Off a Cliff- Finding Accessible Sport
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
It's been a long time since I've written about myself from a personal perspective! I think I've remembered how to do it, so if I don't cringe myself to death hopefully this will be the first of many!
I'm in an awkward position with my disability/illness at the moment. It's not at all stable, I have some new stuff going on which hasn't been diagnosed and I'm struggling to figure out which is the new stuff and which is the old stuff, and which of the new stuff is actually old stuff just being flared up by the new stuff.
But I don't stop wanting to do all sorts of new things just because my body isn't cooperating, so I’m persevering, probably against the advice of everyone I know, but what can they do about it. (hint, bugger all).
I’ve been intermittently looking for some kind of sport/exercise I can do for years, since I realised that swimming regularly is out of reach until the alternate timeline takes over and replaces the hot, humid and slippery changing rooms for spacious air conditioned hotel bedrooms with space to lie down and replenish fluids.
I used to quite like PE at school, even if I was never particularly skilled at a lot of it until year 10 when I discovered I was alright at badminton, about a year before I wasn't able to play anymore. Typical.
In years and years of intermittent research, I’ve looked in all the typical places for such things, done all the googling I can think of and struggled to find anything much. In the city I live (Bristol) an organisation linked to the council has a website where you can look up all the disabled sport in the area! Great right? Except most of it is for children, some of the clubs haven’t posted any updates in at least 4 years and the rest of it isn’t actually disability sport, it’s just sport that the people in charge reckon could have a disabled person tag along. Not really the same.
Aside from anything, I’m the wrong kind of disabled for most parasport, and able bodied clubs that would happily play with a wheelchair user (eg a few tennis clubs nearby) aren’t set up for disabled players, so would require me to bring a wheelchair. I’m not a wheelchair user at the moment, let alone an owner of a sports wheelchair!
I’ve been considered a liability for sports before, like when I played Ultimate Frisbee at university and the powers that be tried to ban me because I used a crutch on the field. (Never mind that everyone was jumping into each other while wearing spikes on their shoes, that’s besides the point clearly).
For a while I considered the slightly more whacky sports where it wouldn’t really matter whether I was disabled or not, like underwater hockey, or kayak polo, or kicking a garden gnome off a cliff.
This is what led me to try bicycle polo.
The problem with those is that often you're the first disabled person to turn up to that group, and they have no idea how things can be adapted.
Another issue is that with these newer, atypical sports, you have no real way of knowing whether you can physically do it until you try it.
As it turns out, I can't.
Bristol as a city has a fairly high level of cycling, but because I can't road cycle (hills and dips and muscle strength and joints and balance to name a few) I don't own a bike. Why would I? It would be frankly weird if I did. So I hadn't cycled for years, as became apparent when I got off the bike and immediately fell, not just off the bike but off the kerb too. I hadn't even had time to put on the helmet yet. The bruising from the entire session was quite remarkable.
Throughout the session I certainly improved at cycling, but due to the polo bit, it requires you to use a mallet to hit a ball into the net to score a goal. As it turns out, my balance isn't good enough to control a bike one handed and my muscles aren't strong enough to compensate for that.
A lot of people probably could've told me this before, but I wanted to try something new and frankly, I was really drawn to how close it was to my house. That was very appealing.
So, I'd better try something else now. Thankfully, at Naidex in Birmingham they had a whole section dedicated to accessible/inclusive sports so I have a few more ideas!
(I also found some videos of paracheer. I don't think it's for me but my god it's quite a watch. Thank me later)