With the start of the new football season almost upon us (please don't stop reading you don't have to like football to continue), how many of you have actually heard of powerchair football? How many of you are thinking 'how can you play football in a powerchair?' Well you can and not only can you but there is a national league where you can challenge teams from other areas... and it rocks.
One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was a founder and first chairman of Swindon Rockets Powerchair Football Club. Not surprisingly I wasn't working with Roman Abramovich type budgets, in fact we had next to nothing, but what we did have was passion and determination to start something good. Thankfully we had the support of our county FA who bought into the idea and helped us, and the support of The Wheelchair Football Association (yes there is one) who were delighted to help another team develop, (there were about 8 clubs around at the time in England).
I stood down as chairman of the club in 2008 having put the structure in place to confident the club was sustainable and I had the pleasure of watching them take part in a tournament against a team from Cornwall a few weeks back, they all had their powerchairs that have been designed to play the game (I've tried driving one and they are fantastic, 0-12 mph at the flick of a wrist), they had their proper kits and everything they needed .. they were a football club, even though they lost by a single goal to one of the top clubs in the country, I was proud because the players had taken ownership of the club, from 10 year old players to 50 year old players. last season was the Rockets first season playing in the national league and they finished 3rd in division 3, and they have high hopes for next season. The game of powerchair football is also growing extremely quickly with teams popping up all over the country, but if there isn't one near you, try setting one up, its not easy but its worth it.
I am now director of Music Alive, a Wiltshire based charity that provides access to music and music technology for people with disabilities. The music industry is extremely difficult to crack but can be extremely rewarding once you do. We have managed to unearth some major potential recently with a couple of guys who write and perform their own stuff, some of it full of the heartfelt angst we all feel from time to time, some of it a catchy musical cheese-fest but all of it original.
I had the pleasure of being the compere at a concert at Swindon Arts Centre a few weeks ago where some of our singer-songwriters did their stuff and I was extremely proud to be stood in the wings watching an audience of 200 people enjoy what they did. Videos of the performance can be found on Youtube if you look for Music Alive Big Hat Cabaret.
Now I haven't written this to say how great I am (but if I could write my own reviews I would), no, the reason for me writing this is simple. Nor am I saying we should all start playing powerchair football or writing songs. We, as a disabled community are often pigeon-holed and on the back of that assumptions are made on what we can and can't do, which brings me back to my first point about feeling the need to defend myself during the welfare reform.
My message is, try not to let the system grind you down, be aware of your disabilities without forgetting your abilities and be aware of your physical limitations but don't be afraid to challenge them from time to time, and not because a health assessor wants to see if you can, do it for your own benefit, who knows what you might find yourself doing.