Felix Chivite-Matthews has been supporting our supported living customers with accessing sports venues for about six years now and we asked him to share some the experiences so others can perhaps try them and experience how doing sport can benefit both customers and care/support workers.
Customer Simon W and I have been training for the Norwich 10k for about three years and we finally got a chance to run it in October 2022 (the event got cancelled twice before because of Covid-19). Our training involves running on the treadmill for about 80 minutes once or twice a week at the Sports Park gym. Simon lives a bit far from Norwich, so driving into the city and accessing the sports facilities is a great outing for him (and for me too!). We completed the race in 72 minutes for me and Simon took 74. Simon was very proud of himself, but I think what really matters, more than the medal, is his sense of achievement after the long period of preparation.
Fresh water swimming, canoeing, hiking, and cycling
Simon and I go to Sea Pauling about once a month. When the weather is warm, we take our shoes off and walk in the water. Sometimes, we even have a swim. We usually take a long walk all the way to Horsey Gap and stop to see the famous seals. I still remember the first time Simon saw a seal, he was so excited! We didn’t realise that a bit further on we would see hundreds of them! Simon is a very fast walker and I often struggle to keep up! I think it is great for a person with a disability to actually outperform his Support Worker! Suddenly, he is the one who can, and I am the one who struggles: quite a role reversal!
In the summer we will take to the waters in a canoe working as a team to navigate and paddle along the beautiful waters. The river Yare water is cold any time of year so, after a cold-water swim, a quick drive to the city and a good meal makes a great outing and you get a feeling that you have done something different. It is a lovely adventure a stone's throw from Norwich.
When it comes to cycling, Customer Paul. is really into it. We go from his house all the way to Whitlingham Great Broad and around the park. We then stop for cake and a drink at the Flint Barn cafe before cycling all the way to Thorpe St Andrew for a meal out, and then back to Paul’s house. Altogether, we spend around three hours on our bikes, and we do that every Friday when the weather allows it! The fact is, cycling really is Paul’s thing.
Tennis, football, basketball, crazy golf and indoor swimming
Both Simon and Paul enjoy playing tennis in the warmer months. Simon and I have been playing tennis for about three years and he has been getting better and better at it, which means that I must run more and hit the ball harder. We play excellent rallies, and he counts how many times we have hit the ball: “that was eight. Good tennis!”, he says. And I reply to him: “ you do like to make me run!”
A big favourite amongst the people I support is football.
Customer Carl loves to go to Eaton Park Crazy Golf, Pirate Island Adventure Golf or Congo Rapids Adventure Golf. Carl takes his crazy golf very seriously and has been getting quite good at it. Apart from a healthy time outdoors, it offers our customers a chance to beat their support worker! It is also quite a sociable activity, as groups of customers and support workers can play together.
Paul and I go to riverside leisure centre when the weather doesn’t allow us to go cycling. We do have a good laugh in the jacuzzi as it resembles a big cauldron where we are being cooked! After the jacuzzi, we go into the steam room and then we take a cold-water shower, which, in the winter, is freezing. After doing those two or three times, we are invaded by a great feeling of relaxation and ready for our meal out.
Someone who used to love basketball and swimming is another Simon, Simon M., but now he is concentrating on strength training, which involves lifting weights in a controlled manner with a one-to-one coach. Carl G. is also training at Norwich Strength Training and finding it very rewarding. In Carl’s case, it was difficult to find a sport that he would enjoy. His care team and family spent years trying to motivate him to be more active, but it wasn’t till we found Norwich Strength Training that he started taking sports seriously.
The difference here is that the sessions are private, so it is very good for people who need a lot of direction. Both Simon and Carl are very proud of their achievements as the benefits are clear almost from day one: energy levels go up and there are improvements in posture, mood and concentration. Sometimes you look at those weights and you think “I’ll never be able to lift that!” so when you actually do it, you feel like you are breaking through a barrier. In fact, you learn to believe in yourself.
After reading this, you’ll be tempted to think that I get paid for having fun, and you’d be absolutely right! I love doing sports with our customers and they know it: they know we are equal partners in a sports challenge.