Meet James Irwin – One of Scotland’s Glasgow 2014 Umpire


DSC_0034The connection remains from the moment you share a passion and a vision about Lawn Bowls.

I have had the pleasure of meeting James Irwin MBE after being introduced to him by Ron McArthur, a Silver ParaSports Lawn Bowls Medallist in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at the UK Visually Impaired and Blind Championship at Kelvingrove in June this year. James was at Kelvingrove as an Umpire for the competition. A very important role to undertake to ensure the matches are carried out fairly and has the  responsible for presiding over the game from a neutral point of view and making on the spot decisions that enforce the Laws of Lawn  Bowls. It was only a few weeks before Glasgow 2014 would begin to get underway and I knew straight away, James Irwin MBE would become one of many stories I would endeavour to encapsulate on my ParaSports venture.

The Commonwealth Games was billed as the ‘friendliest Games’ in Glasgow and when I caught up with James at Dumbarton Bowling Club where he is a member,  he echoed the remarks further saying ‘it was down to the people of Glasgow who made it friendly’.

On an extraordinary sunny day in September, 2014, I was delighted to pay James a visit to his Dumbarton Bowling Club, near St Mary’s Way. It was an opportunity to find out more about James’s passion for Bowls and a dedicated gentlemen who has given so much the community, bowling community and the people he had coached in the area.

James has been playing bowls for thirty years taking up the sport in 1984 and twenty four years respectively for coaching bowls. He was also the founding member of the committee for the people of Dumbarton to have their own Indoors Bowls Centre. He recalls that his wife started playing bowls before him and lots of his friends began to take up the sport too. However, it was the words of wisdom of a neighbour, Kenneth Millian who encouraged James to take up bowls and hasn’t looked back since.

James has had a very successful story on and off the Bowling Green, he has been a member of Dumbarton Bowling Club for thirty years; he had been appointed as the Club’s President three times, 1991, 1996 and 2012. (In 1996, he served as President alongside his wife of Dumbarton Bowling Club.) The present President of the Club is Margaret Shield. It is currently unified. Margaret Shields has been previously the President of the Scottish Women Bowls Association. However, what makes Dumbarton Bowling Club universally different, Margaret Shields is the first Women President in 182 years of Dumbarton Club. James cited that is ‘quite an achievement’.

There was no doubts during my interview with James, I became engrossed with what he had to say when he recalled the moment the journey began, he wasn’t particularly brilliant at the games through practice and practice, he became a better bowler and soon began representing his club at competitions. It wasn’t long before he started winning titles. His list of titles speak for itself: Club Champion, Singles Champion, Fours Champion, Triples Champion and Twice in the Pairs Champion category. He used to coach the current Scottish Singles Champion Kevin Anderson.

An area that I was so looking forward to hearing from James was he his dedication, time and desire to coaching children, young adults in the community as I’ve yet to come into contact with another coach other than Ron McArthur who I have had great admiration for and display the same trustworthy, loyalty and understanding about disability.  James quickly whipped that this club had catered for people with disabilities and I happened to know a former member of the club who had a complex disability. I soon realised that there are clubs within the local communities, you just have go searching and hopefully you feel at eased with club.

As James mentioned earlier, he had been a coach for twenty four years and goes onto say that Bowls has become his passion now. He would sorely missed Bowls if he wasn’t playing. He conclude that in order for Bowls to survive in generations to come, the young boys and girls will be key to ensuring that Bowls grows and prosper.

When I first met James at Kelvingrove in June this year where he was an umpire. The role of an Umpire who can be seen in action at all lawn bowls events, from club and county events to national finals, international matches, Commonwealth Games and World Championships. Umpires are qualified through an intensive training and examination process, and the desire to commit time and dedication to the sport. James emphasised the word “considered” as you have to be “considered to be an Umpire at Lawn Bowls competition following an ITO (International Technical Official) exam which allows Umpires like James to hold an accreditation for up to five yearsdehlirs. James’s accreditation has nearly expired and has indicated to Tom Weir who oversee the Bowls Scotland’s Umpiring Committee that he would like to his renew his accreditation

It is clear from James’s passion, commitment, dedication and wealth of experiences have served him and not only confined to home soil, he has been incredibly fortunate to Umpire at the previous Commonwealth Games in Delhi four years ago. It was a magnificient experience, different culture and the people in India were so kind says James. James highlighted that Lawn Bowls is not a big sport in Delhi. The matches during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi were ‘streets away’. Scotland’s Lawn Bowls team suffered their worst performance and came home without a medal.

James has also followed Lawn Bowls closely, travelling to New Zealand to watch the World Lawn Bowls Championships. He said he was glad to travel and watch it as when you are umpiring at these Games, you don’t have the opportunity to explore the country as umpiring is a long day from being up at 6am and not finishing till 9pm.

Clyde-sider290714 (11)Our attention turned to Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Like Jim, I was incredibly fortunate to have played a part in the Games. For me personally, I was in a unique position compared to most Clyde-sider volunteers that I had been engaged with the Bowls community from countless of people I have met along the way. Jim elaborated further that Glasgow 2014 in particularly at Kelvingrove, while it was low key, it was very atmospheric and he believed the people who were involved made it the friendliest Games.

During my shifts at Kelvingrove, Jim and I caught up on numerous occasions and we really appreciated each other involvements. I was assigned to the Print Distribution Team within Results Technology who were responsible for distributing the results to clients meanwhile James was umpiring matches. Catching up with James was a pinnacle highlight of my ParaSports, (Clyde-sider) journey during the Games.

Jim has been instrumental to the success of Bowls in his community of Dumbarton. He has impacted on many different lives already. James was awarded an MBE for his services to Allied Distiller and part of a community team which raised over £500, 000 for various causes.

After having been on the road for two years covering the ParaSports for Glasgow 2014 and the Glasgow Evening Times, Jim and I have partnered up as he wanted to relishes the challenge of coaching me with complex impairments associated with my Cerebral Palsy. Within eight weeks, Jim has transformed me into a bowler with his steer determination.

The next Taylor Bowls’s blog update will focus on Jim’s attribute to ‘get’ me bowling and what inspired him to do so.

Jim couldn’t have made it clearer “Bowls is a Game for life as long as you want to play it. Lawn Bowls is the most simple Games, come to this club”.

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IBD Championship 2015

Five months since the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Scottish Para-Lawn Bowls team continues to go from strength to strength.

I went to Falkirk Indoor BC to see the development and elite squads in training. It was also to find out more about those who have been selected for the IBD, (International Bowls for the Disabled) Championship 2015 which is being held in New Zealand from (16 – 27 February 2015).

The list is below, players are:
Billy Allan (Cowdenbeath); Gary Clelland (Linlithgow); Martin Hunter (Burntisland); Michael Simpson (Auchtermuchty); Garry Brown (Kirkmuirhill); John Hughes (Stewarton); Rosemary Lenton (Dumfries); Barbara MacMillan (Cowdenbeath); Irene Edgar (Saltcoats); Billy Edgar (Saltcoats); Maria Spencer (Dunfermline) and Harry Harris (Larbert)

Staff supporting the players:
Bob Dick – Head Coach, Ron McArthur – Assistant Head Coach/Director, Celia Smith – Assistant Coach, Eric MacMillan – Assistant Coach, David Thomas – Director, Grace Whitton – Director, Sarah Jane Ewing – Director.

They have appointed a Team Manager who will accompany the team. Liz Mendl has been confirmed as their manager. She has an impressive track records as previously appointed as the Head of Medical Services for Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and comes from a physio background. Her valuable expertise will be instrumental to them.

One of the coaches selected to accompany the Scottish Para-Bowls team to New Zealand is Ron McArthur who is a Director and Silver Medallist at this year’s Commonwealth Games. He was a Director for the Visually Impaired player, Robert Conway. Ron told me more about the IBD Championship in New Zealand.

The International Bowls for the Disabled, (IBD) originated from the family of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) which is one of the largest sporting organisations in the World and the main international body governing sport for athletes with a disability.

Para-Bowls was formerly on the programme of the Paralympic Games. However, Bowls was excluded from the Paralympic Games in 1996. Two reasons contributed to the outcome, they had insufficient nations participating in the sport and Bowls was not feature on the calendar of Summer Olympic Games. While Para-Bowls has been included in Sporting events, i.e. Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, bowlers with disabilities have been excluded from major competitions.

The Scottish Para-Bowls squad and the coaches couldn’t begin the selection process for the players to be completing in the IBD Championship 2015 until after the Commonwealth Games. This has left them with a tight turnaround.

The IBD Championship in New Zealand will be challenging and the Scottish team will have to match the standard of 2011 performance of when they were second place in the World. South Africa are currently considered the best in the World.
Those who have been selected, haven’t been to New Zealand before and all efforts will on coaches to ensure that the players are settled and prepared for the competitions. These competitions will be highly competitive as players will be completing in Singles and Pairs competitions.

We look forward to hearing how the Scottish Para-Lawn Bowls team progress in the IBD Championship 2015.

In 2015, I will start to explore the women inequality in bowls and in particular among women with disabilities; coaching people with disabilities in bowls and having a level playing field for those bowlers who have a disabilities and have to financial funds themselves to play for their countries. These are some of the issues I will explore and address in the New Year.
In meantime, I look forward to introducing James, (Jim) Irwin, my coach in my next instalment. Thanks to a coach who transformed me into bowler.

Taylor Bowls Partnership

I am delighted to be partnering up with Taylor Bowl, the manufacturers of bowls to energized the
mSONY DSComentum to propel Para-Lawn Bowls here in Scotland and around the World and look forward to equally sharing my Lawn Bowls journey with you all. I am delighted with this appointment and look forward to the vision ahead.

It was two years ago when I started to explore the five Para-Sports that would be integrated into the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The five were Lawn Bowls, Swimming, Cycling and Power-Lifting.

One of my first Para-Sport that I was sent out to try on behalf of Glasgow Evening Times and Glasgow 2014 was Lawn Bowls. I remembered that day visibly when I met Ron McArthur who was a Director for one of the Visually Impaired player at the Commonwealth Games, Robert Conway; Anne Dunwoodie who is a Scottish Internationalist and works for Taylor Bowls and Garry Brown is a Scottish Para-Bowler.

During the last two years, I have remained in contacts with many of the people I have met along the way on this ParaSports journey and in particular, Anne Dunwoodie who kept me abreast and involved in some of the Bowls events that took place in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games.

However, following the success of Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer, I knew the momentum has to continue in some capacity. I began to explore what sport I would start to galvanized first and it was no surprise, Lawn Bowls was on the card.

Two years ago, when I tried Lawn Bowls I particularly found it difficult because the nature of my Cerebral Palsy affect my co-ordination, balance and manual dexterity so this was going to be a challenge to take on in any capacity. The second issue I was up against, finding a coach within my local area who would teach me how to play bowls. There are 500 coaches in Scotland but very few have experience of coaching people with disabilities.

While taking time out to recover from the Commonwealth Games, I kept in touch with James Irwin. I was incredibly fortunate to meet James who was an Umpire at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. James, (Jim) is also a Bowls Coach and he talked me into taking up Bowls. Jim was inspired by Robert Love who is an English Para-Bowler and wanted to relish the opportunity of coaching myself.

Reflecting back on that sunny day in September when I met with Jim to capture his bowls story, it was also about to open the next chapter of my Para-Sports journey. I gave Jim the opportunity to coach me how to play bowls. It was no mean feat when my physical disability is complex however eight weeks into the journey, Jim finally got me bowling within a remarkable timescale. It has been down to the utter determination and analysis Jim carried out with me. Therefore, I look forward to introducing Jim in many of my future blog’s entries.

More importantly, I realize that there is a sport for everyone in the community and regardless of your disability, sports has the power to adapt witSONY DSCh your needs. This was very evident when my partnership was initiated with Jim.

Within an incredible turnaround when I was introduced to Bowls two years ago in the build-up to Glasgow 2014, I couldn’t have foreseen I would go on to have partnership with Taylor Bowls. I relish the challenge that awaits me as I set out to cover Para-Bowls alongside helming my bowling journey with the presence of Taylor Bowls.

Thank you for reading and look forward to sharing the journey with you.

TS-Sport – Scottish Indoor Bowls Development

It was privileged to cover Para-Lawn Bowls at the Scottish Indoor Bowls Development day on Saturday 27th September for TS-Sport as my contract creases at the end of September 2014.

It was only two month ago since I introduced Ryan MacDonald, Project Leader of Trendspotters who manages TS-Sport to Ron McArthur who is Assistant Head Coach for SDS and former national coach for the Visually Impaired and Blind Bowlers. Ron is probably better known for his success at this year’s XX Commonwealth Games, (Glasgow 2014). He was one of the Director for one of the Visually Impaired Bowler, Robert Conway at this year’s Commonwealth Games and they scooped Silver. Ron says speaking of his recent success “Without doubt, being a Commonwealth Games Silver Medallist.  Just shows nothing is impossible in life. Who could argue with that?  Satisfying result after years of working to improve the standard of VI bowling, However, I believe we could have done better and there is still a long way to go. It was a great honour to be selected to represent my country in such a prestigious event, especially in front of a home crowd.   I hope that Para Bowls will now become an established part of the Commonwealth Games”.

With Glasgow 2014 demonstrating the inclusivity at the heart of the Commonwealth Games, TS-Sport explored Para-Bowls in the series of Come and Try sessions to encourage people with disabilities to become involved in sports. Ryan says “as it received a lot of publicity during Glasgow 2014 so it made sense and thanks to Julie McElroy who was able to initiate the connection for us”.

Ron informed us when we met him in August this year, there would be a SIBA (Scottish Indoor Bowls Association) development week culminating in a demonstration of Bowling at the West of Scotland IBC. On Saturday 27th September, this was the line-up:
10am to 12.30pm
Green 1: Scottish Under 18 Squad vs Challenge Squad
Green 2: Demonstration of Scottish Disability Bowls

12.30pm to 2pm
Green 1: Celebrity Pro-Am Event
Green 2: Come and Try event

2pm to 6pm
Green 1: Scottish Gents League Select vs West Lothian
Green 2: Scottish Ladies League Select vs Auchinleck

Julie went along to cover this event for TS-Sport and caught up with Ron. On meeting Ron, he is regarded as a perfect gentlemen and is considered as the key person if you wish to take up bowls recreationally or competitively. Ron has over thirty years of bowling experience and he prefer to coach these days. It was his wife that was instrumental to introducing Bowls to him and since then Ron has impart it onto other through various pathways.

Over the years, Ron developed his bowling interests and soon found a niche. He is now committed and heavily involved in the Scottish Blinds and Visually Impaired Bowls. He says “I was asked to become an Umpire at the7th IBBA, (International Blind Bowls Association) World Championships, Girvan 2001.  The then Secretary Dora Crudge asked if I would become part of a team to draw up a new training Manual for SABB, (Scottish Association of Blind Bowls).  The Manual became part of the Scottish Bowls Coaching Manual in 2003. It was never part of the assessment to become a coach and to date is still the case.  In 2005, I was asked by SABB to produced a training program for Directors/Bowlers Assistants.  In 2007 I was asked to become the 1st National Coach, a position I held until I stepped down in early 2014.

It is clear that through Ron’s hard work, dedication and persistence has led him to become well respected by those who work alongside, the visually impaired bowlers can confide in him for guidance and objectivity. For the last seven years, Ron was the 1st National Coach and through this pathway, he was considered as a Director for a Scottish Blinds and Visually Impaired Bowler. A Director for Visually Impaired Bowler, their role is to ensure that the Visually Impaired Bowlers knows where to aim to i.e. the jack. Ron elaborating on his coaching involvement, says “As part of my duties as National Coach, I tried to move away from family/friends acting as Directors.  I wanted a more professional approach and introduced trained coaches.  I undertook to work with Eleanor Clark (B2) and proved the advantage of front coaching, I successfully directed Eleanor to UK singles champion in 2009. I have worked with various players since then.  Front directing is a contentious issue within SABB.  I have tried to demonstrate the advantages and how it is used very successfully in the rest of the World; however, there is strong resistance to it in Scotland and I have come against severe opposition”.

I went along to the West of Scotland Indoor Bowling Centre which is near Shawfield Greyhound Stadium, Rutherglen to see the Scottish Indoor Bowls Development and I was equally impressed with the venue. It was a warm and welcoming environment.  The fact that we play on a surface made of carpet, makes it an ideal training and playing surface. Carpet is a far easier medium to deliver a bowl than grass bowls.

We were also treated to a celebrity match by Anne Dunwoodie, Scottish Bowls Internationalist; Lindceleb_bowl_playersa Brennan who is also a former Scottish Bowls Internationalist and played in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne; Johnathan Ross, a Northern Ireland Bowler who now represent Scotland and the man of the Match was Darren Burnett who was a Gold Medallist at this year’s Commonwealth Games. He won the Men Single’s at Glasgow 2014 helping Scotland’s Gold Medal Tally.

Ron emphasised that the day was an opportunity to become part of a sport that caters for all generations. A sport that is playable by most Physically Disabled, Visually Impaired, Learning Difficulties and mainstream bowlers. A genuine family sport, regardless of age and disability.  The real beauty of the sport, a gentle exercise, sport that can be played at any level and at your own pace. You decide whether you want to play purely for fun, or get competitive.  The competitive level will depend ability.

There was a range of people with disabilities who already play bowls were on stand-by to give a demonstration on of disability bowls and it became apparent that the sport speaks for itself. This is a sport that can be played by any age group.  It is a gentle exercise sport that can be played by most people. Each person can decide how far they want to progress in the sport, it can be for purely pleasure.  Anyone competitively minded can take it to the highest level. Bowls is an all-inclusive and very social sport.To take up bowls and the same could applied for all sports in order to advance, require commitment, perseverance and precision with bowls. Generally, the ability to hold a bowl, if you can do that, we should be able to help you play bowls. Ron reiterate that “Bowls is a simple game complicated by people. The purpose of bowls is enjoyment.  The object is to win. The better you do something, the more you enjoy it. Our job is to help people achieve their best possible level of attainment”.

It was also highlighted that there are a range of aids can be used by a disabled bowler. It could be, specially adapted wheelchairs, walking sticks,bowls and jack lifting aids.  It also could be, no additional equipment would be needed.  In the 1st instance, anyone interested, should just turn up and try.  Once a player decides to take the game up with any degree of competiveness, they can see if any additional aids could benefit their game.
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Currently there is a big push to recruit new Para-Bowlers who either have a visually impairment or physical impairment to take up the sport. If you are interested, there are loads of contabe followed up.ct points. Local Clubs, Scottish Disability Sports, Bowls Scotland, Scottish Indoor Bowling Association, Scottish Association of Blind Bowls and local sports councils. If considering the competitive edge of bowls, the (Physical Disability) PD’s  are directed to either Scottish Disability Bowls or Bowls Scotland, the (Visually Impaired) VI’s to Scottish Association of Blind Bowls  and depending on where they live will depend on if it can

It has been nearly two months since Glasgow 2014 and everything is being done to capitalise on the success of the XX Commonwealth Games. Ron believed that the Games helped make people aware, that being disabled does not mean being excluded. The fact that we were fully integrated with the mainstream showed, we were there on merit and equal standing. We have to keep that uppermost in people’s minds.  However, when it comes to ensuring that people with disabilities continue to be inspired by London 2012 and Glasgow 2014, Ron conceded that this will only have any value if there is a concerted effort to get people along to the sports and supplement it with follow up sessions. Anything we can do to make the sport easier, accessible and more enjoyable can only be to the good.

TS-Sport has so far explored Angling and Para-Bowls. Ryan believed that it is going very well, we have created some good links with groups that provide activities and are continuing this work. We also know we have introduced people into new sports that they are continuing to participate in.  We are currently in talks with a water sports provider and also a wheelchair basketball group about providing taster sessions over the next couple of months.

 

 

TS-Sport Tries Out Angling

Social Care Ideas Factory runs an initiative called TS-Sport. Its aim is to promote disability sports opportunities and raise awareness of impact disability sports can have for those who have disabilities.

As part of series of taster sessions being drawn up by TS-Sport to allows those with disabilities to try out sports that they may not have otherwise considered pursuing recreationally or competitively due to a collective decisions that need to be considered.

The first partnership for TS-Sport got underway with the Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling, (SFCA) on Thursday 4th September 2014. Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling is the Scottish national governing body for the sport of Coarse Angling.  The federation was formed in 1960s and was set up with a founding commitment to protect the Coarse fishing stocks in Scotland. Moreover, the Angling Development Board was set up to encourage all members of society to give angling a try and hopefully through the Club Angling programme to take up the sport on a more regular basis.

personal_tssportIn July this year with inputs from Julie McElroy, TS-Sport explored what opportunities Angling can offer for people with disabilities. Ryan MacDonald, the Project leader for TS-Sport met with John Rae who is the Development Officer for Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling. Commenting on the initial partnership with Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling on behalf of TS-Sport, Ryan said “I met with John to discuss the possibilities of establishing opportunities for people with disabilities to try out Coarse Angling.  John’s enthusiasm made me think we could do something in partnership in an attempt to get more disabled people involved in coarse angling and as we’re always on the lookout for new taster sessions and this made sense”.

Angling is considered by many the largest participatory sport and recreational opportunity in the world. Angling by nature is reflected upon as a therapeutic sporting activity too as it enable anglers to take up the sport as a hobby rather than competitively. There are many commercial fishery were people can do Coarse fishing and along the River Clyde canal route and the Falkirk and Edinburgh’s canal offers the same opportunities to do Coarse fishing too. The sport of Angling open doors in many ways as John put it to me, it is also a relaxation sport which allows you to escape the busy domestic life and come and do some angling in an environment which offers peace and tranquillity.

Eight participants signed up for TS-Sport’s Angling session which is a credit to how many of them were keen to try out Angling. Many of whom were experiencing Angling for the first time. The session took place at a commercial fishery, Springwater Fishery in Dalrymple in Ayrshire. This is Ayrshire’s first commercial fishery for Coarse fishing which comprises of three lochs within a total area of twenty acres. The team were incredibly fortunate with a glorious sunny day which made the fishing venture all worthwhile.

Each fishery has its own jurisdiction. Coarse, Game and Sea fish stocks are handled differently by national and local regulatory bodies.

Springwater Fishery is viewed to be an accessible venue and John is keen to encourage more wheelchairs users to access Angling. The more people who use these facilities, the more there is a case to be heard to allows SFCA to improve its accessibility strand for people with disabilities.

As the group session got underway, there was a sense of competitive spirit starting to emerge between the boys and girls. It has to be said, the closer you are to the shallow end of the loch, the higher the chances of catching lots of Coarse fishes! Towards the end of the day, John reckoned the group has caught sixty Coarse fishes.

John was pleased with how the session went as he said “The first session was excellent as we were delivering to an adult group and because of this we as coaches felt more relaxed, we had a talk as always to see how we felt the session had gone and other than the rather poor fishing in some areas we as coaches had enjoyed the session. The owner of Springwater also had a chat with us and sees no reason why over the winter he cannot upgrade all the road side stances to suit wheelchair access, and would be willing to set aside these stances if any disabled person booked them”.  He went on to say how enjoyable it was working with TS-Sport, “I personally enjoyed my day, usually as the co-ordinator the best part of an event is after it is over and everything has passed uneventfully, but with the group I enjoyed my day more than usually”.

TS_Sport_Angling040914 (38)

The success of the session was further echoed by Martin McClaren who is also a coach said  “I have never found a group so enthusiastic and obviously keen to learn. As I tried to explain there are so many different methods and techniques, to try and incorporate any number at the start would not only confuse but could also deter someone new to angling”.

Reflecting on a very successful session for TS-Sport, Ryan praised the work of John Rae, John Jnr and Martin, saying “They were a credit to the SFCA. The advice, instructions and expertise from the team on the day was superb. Throughout the day the three men covered a fair distance up and down the side of the fishery, making sure everyone had the support they needed to have the best fishing experience possible. There was quite a bit of toing and froing involved in organising the event, and in the weeks leading up to it John was always available to answer any questions we had. He was only too willing to do anything he could to make the organisation of the event as smooth as possible”.

Looking towards the future of how Angling could be evolved around for people with disabilities, John and his team are hoping to work with TS-Sport in future to look at two avenues of work. Firstly, to look at creating a Scottish National disabled angling team that can one day compete internationally. Many who attended the event are keen to look at this.

So it looks like this is just the start of a very promising partnership for Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling and TS-Sport.

Evening Times’s ParaCommonwealth Reflection

It is hard to believe that it was two years ago when this ParaSports journey began, thanks to the editorial team at the Evening Times. They approached me and left me to lead it with guidance of my acquaintances, Matty Sutton, Simon Buckland, Gavin Sturgeon, Stacey Mullen, Helen Smith and more frequently my new co-pilot, Rachel Loxton.

Over the past two years, it is hard to look back on what I have accomplished on this journey for the Glasgow Evening Times, championing awareness of ParaSports as part of the Glasgow 2014 movement and embedding ‘Evening Times’ outcomes along with personal outcomes too.

TeamScotland_Parade150814 (4)The whole ethos of ‘leadership’ challenged and pushed me beyond my capabilities to produce the quality to a high professional standards. Given time, I quickly grew and acclimatised to the new vision of realisation of a different kind of leadership. I was able to take on three ‘jobs’. One, writing for the Evening Times, secondly, assigned tasks by Glasgow 2014 and thirdly, manned my PhD and my ParaSports Research Fellow post too.

During the last two years, I was incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Matty Sutton, (reporter for the Evening Times). She has chartered my journey since I came back from India 2011 and then unknown to both of us, we were on this ParaSports journey. Matty was there throughout my journey of trying out all the ParaSports which were cherished with fun, laughter and tears. 

When my fortnightly column was published routinely, I was placed under the watchful eye of Helen Smith, (News Editor for the Evening Times). Through her guidance, I mastered my own journalism style. (A far cry for a girl like me who left Special Needs education with very few qualifications and here I am ten years later writing articles.) More latterly, Rachel Loxton, (reporter for the Evening Times) took over from Matty to become my co-pilot in highlighting ParaSports stories. We had gelled well and that a bonus as teamwork is paramount in an editorial team.

Working with Glasgow 2014 was incredible and to witnessed the mobilisation of a huge workforce was tremendous. To work with Simon Buckland and Gavin Sturgeon was a privileged as they were involved in the front line of media stories.

Through the wave of engagements, I have engaged with so many interesting people within the whole 2014 adventure, looking at media, culture and sports. This had involved me going out to meet various people in different environments. These experiences, had undoubtedly stand me in good stead for the future.

Thankyou also to David Grevemberg, CEO of Glasgow 2014 for being part of the journey too and demonstrating what can be achieved with the power of championing ParaSports.

Also, thanks to Professor Gayle McPherson of the University of the West of Scotland for letting me be part of an international research team with Dr. Laura Misener,  Professor David Legg,  Professor David McGillivray and Kyle Rich, PhD student, to investigate the first comparative study of the social legacy of major sporting events, examining the impact of parasport being integrated into a mainstream sporting event before, during and after the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Finally, thankyou for the Evening Times for an amazing two years, you’ve tested me on my leadership and I have reap the benefits.  There is no doubts this journey will signalled a new chapter after the ParaSports quest finishes. 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Sir Philip Craven

I recently had the opportunity to interview Sir Philip Craven who is the President of the International Paralympics Committee (IPC). He was in Glasgow for the 20th Commonwealth Games.

Sir Philip Craven has had a distinguished sporting career. He is five-time Paralympian having represented Great Britain in wheelchair basketball at all Paralympic Games from 1972-1988. Following his retirement from the sport, he moved into sports administration, first as chairman of the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association and then founding President of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation. Since 2001, he has been President of the International Paralympic Committee, the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.

Glasgow 2014 celebrated with praised as it provided the biggest ever ParaSports programme. Sir Philip said he was delighted with how successful the Glasgow 2014 para-sport programme was. They had more events than ever before and the five ParaSports helped raise further the profile of the Paralympic Movement.

It has to be said, the Commonwealth Games is one of the few major sporting events where it is logical and possible to integrate para-sport. Integrating para-sport into the Commonwealth Games helps provide high level competition opportunities for many athletes from countries who normally would not get the chance to take part in such an event. By participating it helps raise the profile and develop the Paralympic Movement further in many Commonwealth countries.

It has been twelve years since ParaSports was first entrenched into the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002 and when looking back on it momentous journey, Sir Philip Craven has highlighted how the media coverage and crowd reaction to the para-sport events was achieved in Glasgow to see the value they bring to the Commonwealth Games. They featured high performance medal events featuring some of the world’s best athletes.

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was billed as the most accessible Games and it endeavour to make it an inclusive experience for all. Sir Philip Craven agreed as Glasgow did an excellent job in making the Games accessible and inclusive for all. He attended the opening ceremony and the first days of competition and found it a very pleasant and accommodating experience.

With Glasgow 2014 behind and many organisations who work with the Para-athletes slowly coming back after being on a high, the attention is now focussed on Rio 2016, PyeongChang 2018 and Tokyo 2020, it is vital that we get more athletes from more countries involved, continue to grow the global TV audience and have sold-out capacity crowds.
Sir Philip Craven believed by continuing to grow a global audience and encourage more para-athletes who will continue to inspire and excite the world, the Paralympic Games will act as a driver to changing attitudes and perceptions, making for a more inclusive society. He reckon in ten years time, the Paralympic Movement will continue to thrive and the Paralympic Games will continue to grow in size and stature.