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changing lives through the power of sport

changing lives through the power of sport
changing lives through the power of sport

 


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the stories waiting to be written about the athletes and coaches of the global GAPS camp will be epic bestsellers.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the stories waiting to be written about the athletes and coaches of the global GAPS camp will be epic bestsellers.

Over the course of the week, participants from 21 different countries developed into sportspeople, sharing skills and learning new techniques. They developed as a collective force for good and left feeling empowered and determined in their desire to succeed both on and off the playing field. They have found their voice and will advocate change through images, words and actions through the power of sport.

GAPS is a Commonwealth Sports Para-sport, development and inclusion pathway programme, designed to provide para-athletes and coaches with access to skills, knowledge and resources that support their personal development and training as they prepare for competition, whilst building hope and encouraging motivation and building pride and a strong sense of identity among the para-athletes and coaches.

The Global GAPS Camp welcomed a mix of coaches and athletes to the University of Birmingham last weekend to take part in the sports of Para Powerlifting and Para Table Tennis. For some it was their first time in Britain, for others it was their first time leaving their community. For everyone it was a step into the unknown. However, within a day, participants from all corners of the world, regardless of language, had been able to connect and bond over their mutual love of sport. Over the course of the week, barriers were broken down, characters emerged, and friendships were formed.

Previously I missed interaction. GAPS has taught me how to deal with people

South African para-table tennis athlete Sthabile Mnyandu

Practical training took place every day, with a competition day in the middle of the week. For many, it was their first competition offering the opportunity to compete against international para-athletes of similar abilities. It was their chance to put what they had learned into practice and demonstrate their potential.

It wasn't just the athletes who acquired new skills. Coaches are the catalyst for success. Those who support athletes' growth share their dreams and open doors to give them the support and training needed to reach the stars. At GAPS the coaches were also coached. UK Sport hosted several sessions where they were able to share their expertise and offer advice and support. There was a great knowledge sharing between everyone, with several younger British coaches learning first-hand the nuances surrounding training para-athletes and their requirements, whilst communicating their skills and lessons. For some, it wasn't their first experience with GAPS, with a handful returning with new athletes after seeing their potential. Their continued involvement is a testament to the value of the GAPS program.

Fiji Para Powerlifting coach Eric Hanfakaga is inspired by GAPS. “Before I came here, I was like a blind man. I have taken things for granted. There is much more than what we perceive. This camp has put me in a situation where I will have to change my perspective on how I see things change. “

The camp was organized by GAPS Partner, the University of Birmingham. The first-class facilities allowed the athletes to perform optimally. In addition, a team of university students spent their week volunteering to support the athletes and coaches. Their enthusiasm and goodwill were invaluable to the camp's success, with some reevaluating their careers after coming into contact with GAPS.

The Cultural Evening has become something of a tradition at the GAPS camps. The evening event is a time to celebrate the diversity of each country and for all attendees to learn something about each other. Held in the beautiful Great Hall of the University, the attendees dressed in national dress and were entertained and educated with song, dance and speech.

During the final four days of camp, the athletes and coaches attended classroom sessions specifically tailored to help them find their Athlete Voice. The programme, Powered by Purpose, run by The True Athlete Project in partnership with UK Sport, gives athletes the tools to take an active role in issues they are passionate about and become advocates in their communities. Over the next nine months, the athletes will have the opportunity to learn from experts from around the world and begin their own journey towards social change that will continue for years to come. This was a truly inspiring session with coaches and athletes talking about their personal experiences throughout the week.

The only handicap is a bad mentality!

Joan Nabasirye from Uganda

Para table tennis athlete Joan Nabasirye from Uganda is determined to make a difference when she returns home. “People with disabilities are hidden and not encouraged to be motivated or believe they can play sports. The only disability is a bad mentality! As an athlete and model, I want to inspire others through social media to communicate so that others can learn to love themselves.”

Similarly, Tonga Para table tennis athlete Luani Moeakiola, when speaking about the transition he experienced in camp, said: “I only went to the training center when someone took me there and I trained on my own. I missed the feeling of belonging belong and be part of the training center.” from a team I now realize that I can learn from other people and when I train with them I feel the difference to take home the training I learned.

After 10 days, the 80 athletes and coaches left with hearts and minds full of excitement and ambitions for the future. The camp created a new support and friendship network of like-minded athletes and coaches who returned home with the opportunity to change their lives through the power of sport.

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