If anyone asked me what my relationship is like with my coach, I’d say it’s similar to a marriage.
We both have our eyes set on getting to the Paralympics, so we are on the same page most of the time, but we don't always agree, which leads to an irritated discussion until I eventually come to the realisation that she is right.
Over the years, I have learned how important it is to have a good relationship with my coach, because the understanding of each other has to be on a completely different level to normal, as there is also the disability to contend with, so I feel extremely lucky to have that so early on into my sporting career, but it’s meant I’ve had to go through a fair few coaches to find that ‘special one’.
Every coach I’ve ever trained with has taught me something, and helped me to identify what qualities that ‘perfect’ coach must have, and it’s really allowed me to pinpoint that single most important quality I have always needed in a coach, and that is ‘open mindedness’.
Why open mindedness? Because it is the key ingredient to teaching anyone with a disability, whether that’s an adult or child regardless of whether that is sport or anything else. Anyone with a disability has to be far more open minded in order to find ways around doing things that would be easy for the average person to do, for example; I’ve had to learn to do my shoelaces up with one hand, which has taken a long time for me to be able to do that, and I still have to think about doing it now at the age of 21, whereas you could probably do your laces up with your eyes shut.
The point I am trying to make is there is usually a conventional way of doing things, and having a disability can sometimes mean that the ‘conventional’ way is sometimes just not possible at all, so being an open minded coach who is prepared to trial and error different ways around doing things is imperative.
Open mindedness also applies to those who are neurologically impaired. I sometimes find it really frustrating, because people can only see my physical disability, they don’t understand the brain damage. There has been plenty of times during training with my coach where she has got extremely frustrated with me for a number of things like; not listening to what she’s asking me to do, giving little feedback, or not responding fast enough.
The fact is, that’s not me being ignorant, the way I explain it is; whenever anyone says something, whether that is just in a normal conversation, asking me a question, or more importantly asking me to carry out a task, my brain takes much longer to process it, it’s like a ‘whiz kid’ decoding something on a computer to enable people to understand it. I have to decode everything in a way that only I can understand.
There are times when I attempt to ‘decode’ something, that I simply can’t understand, despite the fact it seems simple enough to you. Over the past 18 months of working with my coach, we have both come to the realisation that if I don’t understand something that she has said, its usually the way she has said it, so she has to be open minded to word it in a way that my brain can comprehend.
I only can imagine how difficult and daunting it must be for a coach to teach someone who is physically disabled, neurologically impaired or both, because you don’t even know how to enable them to do things yourself. Not even the best coaching qualifications can teach you the skill of clear communication and open mindedness, but as long as you are able to communicate effectively with that person, and open to try different ways around doing things in an unconventional way, it can really amaze you at how much can be achieved with a little creativity and open mindedness.
Active Superstars offer unique sporting opportunities to all abilities. We believe that every child should be given the same chance, and we try to make every child involved whilst understanding their limits.