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The BPA previews the Paralympics – and offers advice on how to get involved in disability sport August 28, 2012

Posted by Jonathan Barnes, editor in Special Educational Needs.
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With the Paralympic Games about to begin in London, we thought it would be a good time to revisit this article, written by The British Paralympic Association earlier this year for the 2012-13 edition of our leading guide, Which School? for Special Needs.

As well as previewing the Games, the piece provides useful information about how to get involved in disability sport…

“This year, the Paralympic Games will take place between 29 August and 9 September in London. The Games started in this country in 1948 after Dr Ludwig Gutmann organised a competition for disabled WWII veterans, so this year they are coming home.

The BPA’s mission for the Games is to use their power to inspire lasting change in the way people perceive disability sport. London 2012 will be the biggest Paralympic Games in history. The team from Great Britain and Northern Ireland that compete at the Games are known as ParalympicsGB and they are very proud of the team’s record at the Paralympic Games, coming second on the medal table at the past three summer Games. They are expecting to field their biggest and best team ever in London with over 300 athletes expected to compete in a GB tracksuit.

So far, more than a million tickets have been snapped up and spectators can look forward to watching over 4000 athletes from 170 countries compete in 20 sports. These include well-known sports in which Great Britain have a proud track-record, including cycling, equestrian and swimming, to Paralympic-specific sports such as boccia, wheelchair rugby and sitting volleyball.

To be selected to compete at a Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of an elite disabled athlete’s career. It takes years of hard work, training and commitment to reach the levels needed to compete at the Paralympics. However the BPA recognise that the London Paralympic Games present a fantastic opportunity to inspire a new generation of disabled people to get into sport.

The BPA believe that sport is an excellent way for all young people to keep active, build confidence and make new friends. Disabled people in the UK can get involved by logging on to Parasport, a web-based programme run jointly by the BPA and Deloitte, which is designed to allow users to identify sports suitable for them and then identify clubs within their local area.

Through Parasport, the BPA provide information to make it as easy as possible for people to find high quality sporting opportunities in their area. It is both an educational and signposting tool. As well as allowing users to identify suitable sports and local clubs, users can also read and watch videos about existing Paralympic sports and a growing number of non-Paralympic sports; useful links are included for those interested in learning more about any particular sport or club. News, events listing and information on coaching, volunteering and skills are also available on the site (www.parasport.org.uk).

Another programme is the Playground to Podium scheme within schools. This programme, a partnership between the BPA, the Youth Sports Trust, the English Federation for Disability Sport and Sport England, has given support to schools to set up and run specific days to identify potential talent and signpost young disabled children to sporting opportunities. Playground to Podium has now been running for three years.

The BPA also use talent days, called Paralympic Potential Days, to identify talented individuals who could represent Great Britain at future Games. At an elite level, the Paralympic Potential Days have proved increasingly successful in allowing National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to identify talented individuals and increase the number of people in their sports development programmes. The days, several of which were run last year, are held at various locations across the country and are attended by up to a dozen NGBs who get to see between 50-100 pre-screened athletes aged between 13-38.

These programmes have all helped to develop the pathway disabled people have, to not only start in sport but also achieve success at the highest level. To this end the BPA can be proud of a comprehensive talent ID programme that ensures that the next generation of athletes are continually being identified and nurtured. Several athletes identified through these days are likely to be selected to ParalympicsGB for London 2012.

The BPA is working hard to maximise public engagement and awareness of Paralympic sports and athletes, with the aim of using the inspirational performances of British athletes on the field of play during London 2012 to encourage the next generation of Paralympians to take up sport.”

For more information about Which School for Special Needs 2012-13, see this earlier post. To order a copy, visit our bookshop.

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