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Chris’ Chats- Sports in Aspire

April 23rd, 2024

Watch online here or read the transcript:

CC: Hello welcome to Chris’ Chats and todays special guest is Mr Ian! Welcome Ian!

I: Hiya Chris

CC: Hi

I: Thank you for having me!

CC: You’re welcome! How are you feeling?

I: A little bit nervous, you know that I’m not keen on cameras, but we’ll see how we get on. 

CC: Yeah, course we will. You’ll be fine.

I: So I’m the Sports and Wellbeing Co-Ordinator with Aspire, which I’ve been doing for just over 2 years. Yeah, um, before that I was a support worker for about 15 years before that working in the east of the city. So I only really met you once I started doing this job, didn’t I?

CC: You did!

I: Yeah, I came over to the West and if I remember rightly, the first thing you said to me was “You got any jobs going?”

CC: That’s correct. I did!

I: You did, you did. And, as I can see, you’re doing well with these podcasts.

CC: I am.

I: I’ve heard it’s going really well, yeah! So the Sports and Wellbeing Co-Ordinator job, it’s the first time it’s been done within Aspire. So I um, I haven’t got any shoes to fill, which is good. Although, in a way I was filling Tim’s when I first started; which are big shoes to fill, Tim Snell, so a lot of the stuff that I do now are the things that he was leading on, like the Football Tournament, things like that. But obviously it’s a citywide role, so I’m all over! I literally am all over the city. So I’m doing tennis sessions in Rothwell, rugby sessions in Kirkstall, yeah, making myself useful wherever I can. 

CC: So, Ian, what is your favourite sports? 

I: Um, well I guess, I’m into all kinds of sports, as anyone who watches the Sports Roundup will see that cause I’m pulling up all kinds of things. At the moment, this time of year I always like to show the winter sports, you know, it’s not just skiing. I used to love Skiing Sunday on a Sunday afternoon. I’m big into football, well not as much as I used to be. Football at the top level isn’t quite as interesting as it used to be to me but um, Junior Football or local football, things like that, I love getting involved in them.

CC: So, Ian, are you a sports kinda guy? Is there anything you do like that?

I: Well, I play a little bit, not at a particularly high level, but you know it’s all about enthusiasm, it’s all about keeping fit. 

CC: Mhmm

I: I mean, what about you? Do you have a favourite sport?

CC: I love wr- yeah, I like a bit of wrestling.

I: Oh yeah? 

CC: Yeah! I really like wrestling. I watch them over the pay per views so, like, quite regularly I do watch them. 

I: Right, they’re usually quite late at night aren’t they the pay per views? 

CC: Yeah, they are

I: Yeah. Do you have a favourite wrestler?

CC: Yeah so there are some, there are quite a few wrestlers that I like.

I: Right. Yeah, I mean, I see some of the wrestling and I know loads of people that are big wrestling fans, but to me wrestling is still Saturday afternoon on Big World of Sport, with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks.

CC: Mhmm

I: And my favourite, Cyanide Sid Cooper. He always had the skull and crossbones on his wristbands

CC: Mm

I: But yeah, I mean I’m, I watch all kinds of sport. I mean, it literally depends on what time of year it is. When the Olympics comes round, anyone who’s worked with me when the Olympics is on knows that I’m always “Let’s get it on! Let’s watch it! Let’s get the flags up on the wall!”. The Paralympics- I mean, I’ve been watching the Paralympics for years! My favourite athletes, when it comes to things like that, are I love the way Britain have got this way of bringing out athletes who look like you could push them over, like a decent gust of wind would blow them over. But they’re absolute winners, look at the Brownlea brothers-

CC: Amazing!

I: You’d think someone would take their dinner money off them at school every day, but look at all they do!

CC: Yeah, one’s retired.

I: Um, one of my absolute favourites when it comes to looking like butter wouldn’t melt but being absolute killer instinct sportsman is Sophie Hahn. Paralympian. She’s got Cerebral Palsy, she looks- you know she’s tiny, she’s skinny, but she’s got this look in her eye that says, “I am gonna win”, and for the last 10 years she’s won on absolutely everything. She’s one of my favourites. But yeah, all sorts! Hannah Cockroft in the wheelchair racing, um, what else? Boxing! Always watch boxing, used to watch boxing with my dad when I was a kid and I still watch a lot of boxing now. So yeah, if there’s a sport, chances are I’ve watched it! My mum was big into tennis and athletics, so tennis and athletics have always been big for me. 

CC: Mhmm

I: So yeah, I keep an eye on- I keep an eye on lots of sports. And they don’t always get on the tele but, you know, on my Sports Roundup on a Monday morning they get on!

CC: Ian, why is sports so important to people with learning disabilities. 

I: I mean, for the same reason it’s important to everybody else I would have said. We keep fit, we’re socialising. That’s always a- I mean, as much as keeping fit and getting better at your sport, spending time with people, especially if it’s a team sport, and you get that kind of club atmosphere, you know. Um, yeah, sport it’s important for all kinds of things, it’s good for your mental health as well as your physical health. You know, good exercise will do that for you, especially when it’s one of those days where you just feel like you can’t be bothered, sometimes if you can just force yourself to get up, go for a run-

CC: Mhmmm

I: You can just do a little bit of exercise- um, cause there’s all kind of- all kinds of different things. You don’t have to be able to run around a room to do sport, to do exercise. One of the things I did was, that when I was first working with disabilities, we used to do a- cause I worked in a physical disabilities centre, which is closed now, when I first started, and we used to a chair based exercise group. And a guy used to come in and do Tai-Chi with us. Do you know Tai-Chi? 

CC: A little bit!

I: Yeah, it’s like very very very  slow martial art, it’s just my speed really! Um, and that’s fantastic, it’s really good, you don’t realise that you’re doing the exercise. You just feel like you’re moving your arms slightly, and then as it goes on you can feel the heat building up your legs and you’re getting more and more exercise. So even if you’re not capable, you’re not able to run for miles, you can still do some kind of sport. 

CC: How can people with disabilities be seen to get involved in sports?

I: Well yeah, that’s a good point! Have you heard that phrase “you need to see it to be it?”

CC: I think I have

I: Yeah, yeah so, people who, maybe they’re interested in something and it’s not just sport, but unless they can see someone like them, who’s already done it, so that’s where people like Tanni Grey-Thompson come in, you know, wheelchair races from many many years ago. But yeah, there’s quite a lot more to it than that, it’s just making it more visible all over really. I mean, if you don’t, the Olympics is on every 4 years-

CC: It is yeah

I: But the Paralympics being on, that’s quite a new thing. So you get like inspirational people you see, all the time. Um, I mean I’ve met people who wouldn’t have really had that opportunity and I think once you see it, you can be it! So, yeah, there’s lots of that. One of the things, one of the people that we’ve worked with a little bit, is usually a group called “International Mixed Ability Sport”, now it’s not always easy to get this sorted out, but one of the things they really like to do is have local clubs, rather than having to start a disability sports club, is have local clubs to have a disability section, where people can all work together. So, we’ve been doing some racketball sessions down at Chapel Allerton Tennis Club, just round the corner. Yeah, oh it’s fantastic, it’s good to be able to get together with other people, play a bit of sport, um, and you’ll find that not necessarily, you don’t have to have segregated sports. Um, like I say, I started playing football, off the back of these sessions that we used to do on a Friday morning, and we all used to play together. And some of the guys that used to turn up, some of the adults with learning disabilities, that, let’s be honest, they’re better footballers than I am.

CC: Wow

I: I’m not a great footballer, I just do it for the enthusiasm, you don’t have to be absolutely brilliant to do something, you just have to take part. And, I suppose, the more people that see that happening, the more people that there’s opportunities to do it, the more likely it is to happen. 

CC:  What else do we work for?

I: Well, I mean, we work with lots of different groups, um, obviously Leeds Rhinos Foundations a big one, um, that we have the most input- um, do the most work with. We have a uh- a Tag Rugby Tournament, which we had at Headingley through the Summer. We’re hoping to make that an annual event again. But there’s also, like I say, that Learning Disability Super League team, which play every week, but they don’t just train every week, they have festivals and then some guys from Aspire have played as far as Manchester, Newcastle, Hull, all this year. So going to some of the festivals that we do. Um I mean, who else? So, Leeds Rhinos, Leeds United Foundation, we have a little bit of involvement with them, but we’re desperately trying to get a football session sorted out with them again, as we used to have. But, in the meantime, they get us all the tickets for the football, which makes a lot of people very happy. And encourages some people to take part as well. I think once they’ve watched it played. Um, who else do we work with sport-wise? Yeah, Chapel Allerton Tennis Club, like I say, International Mixed Ability Sport um… cause my job is Sports and Wellbeing it’s not just sport, so there’s other people, there’s other ways of getting involved in exercise, because a lot of people don’t really like sport, but there’s other things that will get them up on their feet. Dance is one of those. I know you’re a bit of a keen dancer at times aren’t you. 

CC: Oh! You’ve got me!

I: Yeah, I’ve seen you, I’ve seen you cutting a rug, yeah.  

So yeah, we work with Yorkshire Dance, and that’s got lots of people getting involved in some really good physical exercise. Um, we work with some drama groups as well, and drama has that same effect of getting people up and getting involved. Um, yeah, I mean um, yeah, I’m trying to think of more now. Because yeah, there’s quite a lot. Um, we went to the Yorkshire Dales with- I suppose it’s not something we’ve done directly with Aspire yet, but we’re hoping that over the Summer, as we’ve made a link with a group that provide a bit of funding to get transport out there, cause that’s a bit of a problem sometimes with going out for walks in the countryside. We’ve got some nice countryside around Leeds, but it tends to me quite small- I say small, smaller parks, smaller in scale than the Dales, or they themselves are quite hilly. But there’s places in the Dales where you can go and there’s accessible walks and hopefully, I’ll be able to find some, get some more information, on how we can maybe get some funding on some transport to get there and just go up there and enjoy the countryside. Which, again, is really good exercise. You know, you don’t realise it’s exercise when you’re doing it. It’s only when you stop and you look around and see how wonderful all the scenery is-

CC: Yeah

I: And then you realise you’re hearts going a bit faster cause you’ve had to walk up a hill to see it. Yeah.

CC: Yeah. So is there any sessions that we do with Aspire? 

I: Well yeah, we’ve got a couple since the online started, we have a couple that, let’s be honest, I can’t claim the credit for, because they’ve been running for a long time, although there’s more and more of them now, which is sports groups that people do at their own bases. Um, I mean, you go up to the local leisure centre I believe, every Thursday for Zumba? 

CC: I do

I: And is it doing you the world of good? 

CC: Yeah, it’s a bit tiring, but it seems to be going really good, really good. 

I: Tiring and good exercise is how it should be. And we have all kinds of groups all over the city doing things like swimming, doing Boccia, um, trampolining, I know there’s a few places that go trampolining. Now that is really good, but it’s hard work! I find that hard work but it’s good exercise! We have tennis sessions, which I run in various places around the city, the group at Rothwell, it’s quite a small group but you know, everyone’s really keen. The group at Crossgates that I do, we’ve worked out that it’s actually quite a good way, when you’re getting a big group together and you can work in pairs, for people who are recovering from illness maybe, or some kind of physical condition that’s been holding them back a little bit. Once it starts to recover, sport’s a really good way of promoting that recovery and improving it.

Um, but yeah, anything’s sport- anything active is sport. You know whether it’s, even if it’s just rolling a ball from one end to the other over a table, you know, if you’ve got a, if you’ve got like a profound physical disabilities as well, anything that’s going to help those motor skills and things like that is going to be good. That’s something that I’m hoping to work to in the future, but we’ve got um, it’s not really a sporting thing but, have you heard of The Happiness Programme? 

CC: No

I: So the Happiness Programme is a projector, which if we set it up over this table it would put a picture on the table and it would interact with your movements and that’s really good for getting the motor skills going. It’s really good to get people playing games on that so people can get quite competitive and suddenly people are reaching out over a table and, you know, it promotes physical activity, it promotes mental wellbeing as well. 

CC: So Ian, can you tell me a little more about your Sports Round-up?

I: So the sports roundup, I’ve been doing since, oh about January February last year (2022), but it’s something that Ian Pearson over at Hillside started when lockdown was on and then I took over the role of Sports and Wellbeing and when he didn’t have the time to do it anymore when centres opened back up, so I took over that. And we show all the Leeds sport that we can and we show sports from all over the world! We show, we try to show if anyone from Aspire does anything I try and show that, so when we’ve had Learning Disability Super League, all those pictures will go up. Becci’s always recorded the Football Tournament, so we’ve been able to show highlights from the football tournament. I know the guys over at Pudsey who won the Football Tournament this year really enjoyed watching their highlights cause they all joined us together with their trophy the week after when we watched the final. Yeah, it was really good! So the Sports Roundup kind of covers everything really. There’s certain things I show every week; I’ll always show the Rhinos, I’ll always show Leeds Utd but then it’s kind of filling it in with what people ask me about. So if somebody mentions a particular sport (darts and snooker get mentioned quite a lot) or sometimes I’ll show a sport and people will tell me how much they enjoyed it. I showed, when the Olympics last were on they had a thing called Speed Climbing, where 2 people and there’s a button at the top they’ve got to hit.

CC: I saw that!

I: Did you see that?

CC: Yes, it was fantastic! 

I: Yeah!

CC: Yeah it was!

I: Well because that’s a new sport, whenever that gets bigger in the Olympics I’ll show that. And people did really enjoy that. I think people mentioned they really like the winter sports because there’s some fantastic stunts that they do in some of these events. But yeah, I’ll show pretty much anything really, if it’s interesting. There’s other parts of sport that we sometimes show, like today, I showed some of the Unsung Heroes that are up for Sports Personality of the Year Awards, which is what people who coach disability sports around the country, we I made a little video about those. 

But yeah the Sports Roundup covers quite a wide variety of stuff, and then there’s people that come on it as well, sometimes they want to talk about what they’ve been doing, or if someone’s been to the football using the football tickets that we get I’ll get them to talk about it. The guys from LDSL have been on and they talked about what they do at the rugby and how much they’ve enjoyed it. 

Yeah it’s really good, we’ve got regular people that come on every week to watch the Sports Roundup and it’s all part of one big – I don’t like to call it a meeting really, it’s more of a social thing. And sometimes people get excited to see friends they haven’t seen all week. But the Sports Roundup will always show as much sport as we can. Sometimes we go over time a little bit, but you know, that’s because people are enjoying it! 

CC: So Ian, can you tell us more about the events that we run?

I: Yeah absolutely!

The big day of the year for me, (although it’s such a shame that it didn’t happen this year because of the weather) is the Aspire Athletics. It’s fantastic, I’ve always been involved in those events, so I used to help run the team for the East, when the East used to do that. I think one year we managed to get 80 different people, just from the East taking part!

CC: Wow!

I: Oh it was brilliant! But that’s one of the things we try to make it as inclusive as we can. So we have wheelchair races, running races, throwing races. We try to make it so the races are staggered so that people have got a good chance of winning their competition. As much as it’s all about taking part, people like to win! People like a medal! So I try to make it so as many people as possible can take part in the sports and we’re going to try do that a bit earlier next year as well, so if the weather is bad we’ve got more and more chances of getting it up and running because when it works it’s brilliant. I mean, have you been to that? Have you been to the John Charles Centre?

CC: Yeah, I’ve been there quite a few times and I took part in a few! 

I: And it’s fun isn’t it?

CC: It is! Loads of fun!

I: And it’s great it’s one of those social events where everybody comes together, sometimes families come down to cheer people on, sometimes people just cheer on their friends, sometimes people want to beat their friends! Because let’s be honest, it can be a little bit competitive! 

Football Tournament ‘s the same thing, I remember when that started, I got involved in that just from the team of where I was working. So I’ve done it enough times to know how the football should be running. We managed to get some really good teams to come and join us this year! We got Leeds Rhinos, even though it’s not their sport they sent a team down, Bradford City disability team, they sent a team down, People Matters who always win, they won anyway, so we’re trying to get teams that can give them a good game! But we’re trying to make it so that everyone can have a go. 

CC: Is there any events you would like to see more of?

I: Sorry?

CC: Is there any events you would like to see more of in the Athletics?

I: Is there anything more I’d like to see in the Athletics? 

CC: So is there an event in the Athletics that in particular you like to see more than the others? 

I:  So an event I like to see more than the others?

CC: Mm!

I: Um, ooh! You know that’s a very good question!

CC: Thank you!

I: You know what I missed this year, just because of how many people really love to take part? And it’s a very traditional Yorkshire event, is the welly-wanging! I get a list of names as long as my arm of people that want to do the welly-wanging! I have to get enough people in to do a race sometimes! But for me it’s not particular events, it’s the people that surprise you when they get involved. So some people will come along and they’ll only come along to watch saying “I’m not going to do that! No I’m not ready for that. I’m not fit enough for that” but then you know, we’ve been there a couple of hours and everyone’s cheering people on and maybe they’ve seen a friend get a medal, you know and they’ll come up so we’ll say “Look we’re one short in this assisted walking race or one short in this wheelchair race, would you like to take part?” and then they’re down there on the start line. And yeah I’ve got some pictures that I really like from some of the sports events and it’s not just necessarily the people that win, although I’m impressed with the people that win every year or at least come close to winning. But it’s the people that who you went you didn’t think they’d take part and there they are with their medal on the track at the end! 

And it’s all about making it more inclusive and a lot of these ideas, they don’t come from me, they come from the people we support, they come from staff as well. A lot of people have said some good things about this accessible podium we have made this year, which we’ve not actually had a chance to use but it’s going to be there for next year, it’s fantastic. It means wheelchairs can use it, people with walking frames can use it, nobody has to worry about getting up on a step and it looks gold silver and bronze. It looks fantastic! That was all down to the staff here at Potternewton!

CC: Aw!

I: They wanted to us to know there were people missing out on the podium and was there any way we can do it? So we sat down and I worked out a way we could do it. So yeah, all these big events, as much as I might be the one who sends out the emails, everybody in Aspire takes part in that; Marie might come down and shout “Go!” at the starting line, Carol Benson’s always down at the end waiting to write down the winners, Declan from Leeds Rhinos Learning Disability Super League team he’s the captain of the Rhinos and he takes his responsibilities very seriously and he offered to come down and support us. He was going to be our special guest awarding the medals at the end. 

CC: Wow!

I: Yeah I mean, I couldn’t do it on my own. I could try, but it would be an absolute disaster!

CC: It would be difficult!

I: I need a team around me. I need people like Tracey and Felicia, Jodie going around with her camera, taking all the fabulous photos. 

CC: We all need any help!

I: Or if it’s the staff from the bases, because you know, I need to know who’s in on those days and need to know who’s going to take part. One of the things I did change, as much as it’s all about taking part, but you watch the Olympics and people like to see that chest full of medals don’t they?

CC: Mhmm

I: 2 golds a silver and a bronze or whatever. So if people are in different events we’ve made sure that everybody get’s a medal for taking part- that’s the one medal we always we used to do. But everyone gets a big bronze, silver or gold medal if they do particularly well. 

CC: So Ian, thank you very much for joining me as my special guest. It’s not as nervous as you think. Is there anything else you need to add on? 

I: Well, thank you very much for inviting me, Chris. It’s been a pleasure actually, I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Yeah, I suppose a couple of things we’ve got- when LDSL starts again this year it would be great to have even more people from Aspire taking part. And it’s open to absolutely everyone. We’ve got a few women playing in the team and they’d love to have more women come down and join in. And the other thing as well is that football tickets are always available, we get 20 tickets for every Leeds home game, we get them for wheelchair users, ambulant disabled tickets. So if you’ve got any problems about getting to football we’ve got round that. These tickets are there for as many people to go as possible. 

CC: That’s it for Chris’ Chats for this episode. Join us next month for more exclusive chats. Thank you, goodbye!