Over the past year, the students at Sense Centre Cambridge have been taking part in an exciting new sports project funded by Sport England’s Small Grants programme.
The project; designed to give students access to regular participation in high quality sports sessions; took place at Cambourne Fitness and Sports Centre. Following a consultation afternoon with the students, where they gave their views on which sports they wanted to try, students took part in 6 week blocks of Boccia, Basketball and Cricket; all delivered by qualified sports coaches. Although students may have taken part in these activities previously, they had never before had access to specialist coaching- something which the staff at the centre felt inspired the pupils to engage with their competitive side:
“It was interesting working with the different coaches from each sport, and their different styles of coaching. The cricket coaches were particularly competitive. They encouraged competition and the students loved it. They kept scores and gave medals at the end most runs scored and for fielding. This for the first time introduced an aspect of competition to the students, and we were taken aback by how competitive they were and how much each of them wanted to be on the winning team”
Lisa H- Sense Centre Cambridge
As well as improving the students’ health and fitness, staff were impressed with the wider outcomes that were achieved as a result of taking part in the sports sessions. A key theme which seemed to develop throughout the project was communication, and staff described how the students’ communication skills flourished within the sports environment:
“We have a greeting game to start each session. Jack* can get easily distracted, and he often repeats the same phrases a lot. We play parachute games to warm up, and over the course of the sessions, he has learnt to go around the circle naming each person without loss of focus. This is an amazing achievement”
“Sally* communicates using BSL. Previously, she was not confident to share her views and would turn away. She now is relaxed in using BSL to the group and is able to express her views without staff prompting her when it’s her turn”.
Being part of a team every week has also supported students to develop new skills including cooperation, fairness and leadership. Working in a big group is exciting and dynamic, and the students have responded to this energy. It has also created some new friendships within the centre, as students have been able to work together as a team for the first time:
“Students are keen to captain their team and to choose their teams. Daniel* always wanted to be team captain and when he was not picked would respond with ’No, No, No’. By sharing a captain role throughout the programme with other students, he now values being part of a team and now does not always ask to be team captain. He has gained an understanding of everyone being equal, taking turns, fairness and patience”.
Playing sports is also a great way for our students to try new experiences within a safe framework. Some students need a strong and consistent routine to help them make sense of what is happening in their day. Having regular sports sessions at the same time and day each week provides this, but the sports sessions also have lots of elements of change, such as meeting new people, adapting to different sports and using different parts of the body for different actions e.g. using hands for Boccia or playing wheelchair football using feet. This all enables the students to develop their coordination skills as well as their adaptability to new situations.