It’s difficult not to sense an uneasiness in our country at the moment. Against a background of bigoted rhetoric and negativity, many ordinary people feel disempowered and down-hearted; their voices seemingly unheard and their hopes and aspirations in the hands, and at the mercy, of others. It is easy for us to be dragged down by things we are just unable to influence, and I admit that I have my black moments when I feel this deeply. So I am making a conscious effort to focus on the things which energise me and make me happy rather than dwell on those things which worry me and which I cannot do anything about.
Firstly I realise that I am blessed with a loving family and great friends, that I live in Cornwall, the most beautiful of places, and that I am fortunate to work with so many positive individuals who look beyond the challenges they may have and who focus on the things they can do and can influence. Tilly Robinson from West Country Hawks, who is aged just 17, is just such a person. This week I had immense pleasure in seeing her recognised with a Devon Sports Award for her power to challenge perceptions about disability. Tilly commented,
“Love and support is a BIG part not only in sport but also in everyday life! If you have the right mindset and support you can achieve many things, nothing is impossible you have to believe in yourself and use the support from others”.
I remember when Tilly started to play wheelchair rugby at my local club in Plymouth – she has journeyed so far since then and it’s such a joy to see her brimming with optimism. It is also fantastic to see her now as a young student doing so well at St Luke’s Sports and Science College in Exeter. Her cheerful, youthful confidence is hugely uplifting and she is an inspiration to other young women coming into our sport.
Last week also saw the Invictus Games trials in Sheffield. To hear some of the comments of those taking part on the positive impact our sport has had on their physical, mental and social recovery, makes me proud of the part we played to introduce them to wheelchair rugby at Headley Court and at the Help For Heroes Personnel Recovery Centres. GBWR also led in creating the Invictus version of our game, Jenks continues to coach the UK Invictus team, and many former service personnel now play WR5s – so lots for us to feel good about.
I was in Japan for just three days last week in order to finalise the GB training camp in Kitakyushu and to meet up with the organising committee of the World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge which takes place in October. To be honest it’s been an exhausting trip and it’s a long way to go for three days’ work, but just like my previous visit, all of those I met could not have been more welcoming, more helpful or more excited about hosting our training camps over the next eighteen months. Again I was humbled by the courtesy and generosity I experienced from all the Japanese I met, and I reflected uneasily on the messages our country seems to be sending to our fellow human beings around the globe. When we are positive, cheerful and thoughtful it’s so much easier for others to feel and to act the same; it helps us to foster inclusive, supportive communities which enrich our daily lives and the lives of others. So thank you to my family and friends, to Tilly, to the Invictus warriors, to our Kitakyushu friends and to the many individuals in our sport who help me to shut out the noise and gloom of much of what is going on in our country and on our planet, and instead allow me to focus on the many good things which come from being part of our wheelchair rugby community.