Disability sports keep growing. More and more sports are being adapted, and recent Paralympic and Winter Paralympic games drew more coverage and attention than ever.
Athletes with disabilities are finally starting gain recognition as exactly that: as an athlete, first and foremost, who happens to have a disability. And that is going to break down a lot of barriers for future athletes and inclusive sports.
But it’s not just on the field where people with disabilities are really starting to shine. They’re taking their place on the touchlines too.
Here are two young coaches leading the way and showing that disabilities don’t need to prevent participation in sport.
Sohail Rehman – the world’s first disabled football coach for able-bodied players
At only 21 years old, Sohail Rehman is the world’s first wheelchair-bound, fully-qualified football coach in the world.
Sohail was born with spinal muscular atrophy, but played football with his friends until the age of 13. It was around that time doctors told Sohail that he would be wheelchair-bound within a year.
He described that moment when he realised that he would never play football again as “the worst conversation of my life.”
Determined to stay in touch with the sport he loved, Sohail went on to study sports technology and eventually gained his Football Association coaching badges.
He has now set a precedent for other coaches with disabilities or special needs to participate in the sports they love.
Bart Szymczyk – up and coming boxing coach with cerebral palsy
Bart, 21, was born prematurely, weighing just under 1lb, and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Since he started volunteering to coach children at a local boxing club, his strength and balance has improved so much that he now no longer needs to use his wheelchair.
Bart now plans to take his coaching to the next level by studying for official coaching qualifications and even plans to start his own boxing club for boxers with disabilities.
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