On Sunday October 29, YMCA in partnership with the City of Darebin, hosted a one-of-a-kind wheelchair sports Open Day at Darebin Community Sports Stadium.
Over 50 people of all ages and abilities participated in wheelchair sport clinics including basketball, badminton, AFL, handball and tennis and also receive professional coaching.
The day was more than just about sport, it is about meeting a community and social need.
8,774 people or 6.0% of the population in the City of Darebin in 2016, reported needing help in their day-to-day lives due to disability or impairment. This is higher than Greater Melbourne which is 4.9%.
It is this population who have the lowest rates of physical activity and often higher rates of mental health issues and isolation. While accessibility is a major factor, awareness of what’s available and self-confidence also come into play.
Friends and enthusiastic wheelchair badminton players Duke Trench-Thiedeman and Kon Kiryakudya play at the centre multiple times a week and encouraged all to come to the open day with an open mind.
“Anyone can start, it’s so inclusive. Whether you’re able-bodied, short-statured or in a wheelchair. I love the speed, the techniques you use in a wheelchair and having fun.
“One new player was shy to start, but now he’s a machine and like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He felt less depressed, part of a community, and while playing, he felt normal,” said Preston local Kon.
Kon was born with cerebral palsy and has 16 operations on his legs to walk better. He credits wheelchair sports to giving him confidence, strength and the opportunity to compete overseas at an international level, including wheelchair fencing, handball and badminton.
At 64 years old, age or ability isn’t slowing Macleod-local Duke down who is representing Australia for wheelchair badminton in November in Korea.
“People with impairments think they are destined to be spectators, rather than participate. But we still have potential and ambition, we just don’t have the mobility.”
Darebin Community Sports Stadium is hoping to add wheelchair sports as a permanent fixture in 2018.
YMCA Programs Team Leader, Luke De Vincentis, said the exhibition was the first of its kind to run at the stadium.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to participate in sport and be active whether they are able-bodied or not. Darebin Community Sports Stadium is ideal for this event and we’ve been overwhelmed with the support we have received so far,” he said.
The day raised money for YMCA Open Days which helps marginalised and disadvantaged members of community have better access to getting active.