DSActive are celebrating a significant milestone this week, having supported 1000 people with Down’s syndrome into their sessions across England and Wales! To celebrate their achievements, we’re shining the spotlight on Hawkinge Hurricanes, one of our affiliate clubs who have set-up sessions for people with Down’s Syndrome.
For the first of our ‘5 minutes with’ features, England Athletics Inclusion Manager, Liz Purbrick, caught up with Hawkinge Hurricanes coach, Sam Miller, to find out more about the clubs DSActive sessions. Specialist sessions they have introduced for people with Down’s syndrome, with the support of DSActive and a grant from England Athletics Satellite Club programme.
Liz’s questions and Sam’s answers on a postcard below…
How did you get in to running?
‘I started running initially to lose weight and be a more fun mum with a young family.’
What made you want to launch Hawkinge Hurricanes?
‘I had been running for a while and was in a running club, but it just didn’t fit with me (super competitive). I wanted to create a relaxed, fun environment where everyone was welcome and all abilities were supported; with more of a social atmosphere.’
What made you decide to launch a specific session for people with Down’s syndrome?
‘To be honest, I read an article about disability in sport and felt humbled by the enthusiasm and determination of various athletes. England Athletics had a post about linking with the DSActive programme and supporting amazing athletes, and I just knew it was something I wanted to get involved in. I discussed it with my amazing team of volunteers, and we all thought ‘bring on the challenge’ and the RunAbility Group was formed.’
Did you have any preconceptions before you launched the session and have they changed now?
‘Not sure about preconceptions but certainly some nerves. It was a whole new challenge and I really wanted to do things right and make them a success. A few adaptations in drills and skills and we had something fun and fresh.
‘The sessions with our athletes have been so much more engaging and rewarding then I could ever have dreamed. We have really formed something to be proud of, there’s always smiles all-round!’
What help did you receive in setting up the session?
‘Doug from DSActive was a brilliant support, we chatted regularly, and I felt reassured with DSActive behind us we could make things work. We received training from Doug which was super helpful and gave us all a chance to talk openly and answer our queries and concerns. We received a grant from England Athletics Satellite Club programme to launch the project, which we have used for new kit and equipment for sessions and hall hire for chillier months. We’ve even got some branded t-shirts for the athletes, so they can really get that club belonging feel.’
Why do you think running is so beneficial for people with Down’s syndrome?
‘Helping improve health, fitness and having fun has been our main goal, but it has become so much more. We are seeing friendships being formed between the athletes and their families, and having a social setting has really helped build confidence in our athletes – everyone leaves with a smile. Alongside our running and athletics drills we have lots of fun and games. Improving balance, coordination, agility and confidence. In August we held a RunAbilty picnic post session to get to know everyone a little better too.’
What advice would you give to anyone else wanting to launch a specific session for people with Down’s syndrome?
‘My advice would be if you have a great team behind you then nothing should hold you back. Just a little bit of time, effort and enthusiasm can make a world of difference.’
Funding and support for DSActive sessions
England Athletics have supported DSActive to set up groups at 5 clubs to date – Exeter Harriers, Newham and Essex Beagles, Stafford and Cannock AC, Hawkinge Hurricanes and Bungay Blackdog – and have funding available to support clubs interested in setting-up and offering sessions. If you and your club would like to find out more about the sessions and funding available, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
DSActive are celebrating a significant milestone this week having supported 1000 people with Down’s syndrome into their sessions across England and Wales! Given that they are only a small team, this is a huge achievement and one they are very proud of, as we are too. DSActive work across many different sports, alongside sporting bodies and stakeholders; training coaches and organising festivals and events for people with Down’s syndrome to get involved in.