FOR the second year, Celtic FC Foundation and Scottish Disability Sport’s ‘Inspiring Sport’ project is working in partnership to increase opportunities for children, young players and adults with a disability in the West of Scotland to access sport.
Through the project the partnership has made a huge impact and the first year was a great success with a number of different sporting opportunities arising.
Once again, one of the largest events within this partnership is the running of the sixth Scottish Disability Sport West of Scotland Para-Sport Festival, which took place on Tuesday of this week.
The festival was held at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell and was open to pupils with a Physical Disability or Visual Impairment from mainstream secondary schools from across the West of Scotland.
A total of 141 children from 13 local authorities attended the event and were provided with the opportunity to participate in the sports of Badminton, Basketball, Boccia, Bowls, Athletics, Cycling, Football, Judo, Tennis, Table Tennis and Rowing.
SDS is also working in partnership with Tennis Scotland, Basketball Scotland, Scottish Athletics, Table Tennis Scotland, the Scottish Football Association, Scottish Rowing, Judo Scotland, Bowls Scotland, Cycling Scotland and Glasgow Life to ensure that the children benefited from highly experienced and qualified coaches leading the sports on the day.
Coaches from Celtic FC Foundation were also involved in delivering the football coaching and students from Ayrshire College also volunteered on the day.
One of the aims of the event is to identify talented athletes and players, and direct them towards an appropriate sporting pathway which will allow the pupils to reach their full potential.
Speaking about the event Gavin MacLeod, CEO for Scottish Disability Sports, said: “We have the biggest number of children we have ever had at the Parasport West event. We’ve got children from right across the West of Scotland and most of the local authorities are represented.
“We’ve got great support from the local governing bodies of sport to help us and provide us with their time and coaches for this event.
“The support from Celtic FC Foundation has been fantastic, it gives security that the event is going to happen, having the name of the football club linked with an event like this has raised our profile greatly, and also to see Callum McGregor come along and show his support for this as well.
“We’ve got some Paralympians here but it is also great to see someone here from mainstream sport as well.
“The support is invaluable and the ethos of Celtic FC Foundation and our ethos of trying to support people and breakdown barriers and get people involved in sport and physical activity has been absolutely fantastic.”
Tony Hamilton, CEO of Celtic FC Foundation, who attended the event added: “This is effectively a day to showcase what SDS do and how we partner them.
“It’s great for us to have the partnership with SDS and the amount of sports that they deliver. We had a big fundraising dinner last Thursday – our Annual Sporting Dinner – which has allowed us to expand that partnership and delivery across Scotland into 13 centres.
“Creating opportunity for children and young people who live with disabilities is very important for us. These young people want to be engaged and motivated and some want to be athletes.
“They need an opportunity and I think our function in working with SDS is how we provide that opportunity. Creating opportunities where none exist is our aim here. The partnership with SDS is one that we want to develop and expand and take it from 13 centres to as many places as possible in the future.
“There are young people in this group who have the potential to be future athletes, and that is something for the others to strive towards, they become an exemplar if you like.
“There is a young guy who plays table tennis called Martin Perry who came through Drumchapel Table Tennis Club and only last weekend became Scottish Champion.
“Martin worked really closely with SDS and he is hoping to make it to the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016, and that’s a guy who is 20, has had very limited experience playing table tennis before meeting SDS and now he has a real chance of further progression, despite the fact he lives with complex disabilities.”
After taking a tour of all the different sports on offer and meeting several of the young athletes, Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor shared the sentiments of a fantastic festival.
Callum told the official Celtic website: “It’s been an excellent day for the kids. They are really enjoying themselves, there is a big variety of sports for them here as well and they all have a smile on their face and enjoying the activities that they can do, it’s brilliant.
“I liked the look of boccia, never seen that before, everybody seems to be enjoying themselves and obviously the Celtic coaches are here working with the kids and hopefully they enjoyed themselves as well.
“It is fantastic work that Celtic FC Foundation have done with SDS and in general. I was at their Annual Sporting Dinner last week and you can see how much work they do.
“It means an awful lot for the kids and people are trying to give stuff back and it is great to see them buying into it. Everyone looks really happy with the end product.”