On Friday my Wife drove my kids and I to Tedworth House, for those who do not know what this place is, it is a recovery centre for injured service personnel and is funded by Help for Heroes. This is one of the many things that your kind donations funds and what a place it is. We went for a day of trying different sports under the watchful eyes and guidance of, Olympic team members and coaches. There were many different sports on offer to try, some of which I was really interested in and others that I wanted to have a go at just to try it. We were put in to groups which we would go to the different sports with which would make it so that the sports were not overcrowded and would give everyone the chance to have a good try at each event. There was a minibus to ferry the various injured personnel who had taken advantage of the days events around to the two different locations or you could drive yourself if it was easier. As per usual, nothing was too much trouble and the staff were eager to help.
We left Tedworth and went to the Tidworth oval, which is the sports area in Tidworth. It is of course a running track, javelin and shot put areas as well as an indoor sports area and swimming pool. The group which I was part of started inside the sports hall, and our first sport would be Goal ball. This was a sport which is predominantly for the visually impaired, the ball which is the size of a football but harder, has bells inside it so that the players know where it is. The person in the middle of the `goal` has to call to the two outside players whether the ball is going left, right or centre and the people have to block the path of the ball with their bodies. For me this was a no go game, so while the players donned blind folds, I was left to throw the ball in order for them to stop it, which they did very well to be fair, the unfortunate thing for them was that occasionally they would block the ball with the private areas of their bodies which I would imagine was not comfortable! Paddy suffered some grazing on the knees and legs but I think that everyone enjoyed it. With the twenty minutes or so that had been allocated for the game finished, we headed off to Fencing.
Fencing is done in the wheelchair which is strapped down, and with the gear on, the opponents have to score in different ways. We were taught the scoring and also the techniques of using the different foils (I think that is what they were called) and it was explained to us why the scoring works the way it does, which was interesting and made complete sense which was nice. We were than paired up and we had a couple of goes at each other. It is actually quite a difficult sport and is extremely quick, it was explained that it is much like rock, paper scissors in so much as you have to decide if you will attack or defend before you attack or defend. Get this right and there is more chance of winning the point. I have to admit that I struggled to see through the face and head protector and to focus so I don’t think it was right for me but I know that there were a couple of the guys who were interested. With this now finished I thanked the staff for the time they had taken to allow us to have a go and we headed off to another sport.
The next thing we tried was wheelchair tennis, this was going to be interesting.
Now I was shite at tennis when I was able bodied, the main difference now that I am in the chair is that I actually managed to hit the ball back to the other person and not launch it in to space, the coaches told us how the best way to move the chair and hit the ball was and then we had a go at forehand, back hands and then rallies. It was good to play actually, but a bit weird trying to propel yourself in the chair with the racket in your hand, I think I may well have a go at playing a few games of tennis with my Daughter now that she has a new racket just to see if I can get the hang of it. Guys who did not need wheelchairs still had to use them obviously, and I believe they had a great time trying it out as well. I got talking to a guy called Jack who was a triple amputee, a really nice bloke who I would have loved to have chatted to for for longer but unfortunately time did not allow, and so to the next sport to try….wheelchair rugby!
I had to get in to the rugby chair which I did ok which pleased me, the others got in to chairs and we were explained the rules, then we did some moving around in the chairs which was very different to how I was used to my chair, I think it was the camber of the wheels but anyway, we cracked on and after a while we were playing a little game of 3 on 3…until one of the lads got more than a little hurt due to a collision which badly jarred his back. He was removed and headed back to Tedworth and so it was myself, an amputee and the two players, one of each on each team.
We played for around another ten minutes and then, when I was sweating and suitably knackered, it was time to swap back in to my chair. This was not as bad as I thought and with being helped it made it quite a problem free transition. I spent a good while afterwards talking to the two players about not just the game but also transferring and other spinal related stuff. I also told them of the “SCI owners club” on Facebook which is a page which myself and a guy I was in hospital with have set up for people with spinal injuries to join and chat, ask questions to, give advice to and share experiences with others with a spinal cord injury (SCI). It has proven quite successful so far and is specifically so that people can ask for help, have a moan or a bitch and know that you will not get any “You have done so well, you are such an inspiration” etc. They will get people who have or are experiencing the same things join in with the bitching or give advice of how it can be easier if you try… I am really pleased that one of the players has joined the group, and I hope that many more will. Anyway, back to it, from here it was off to the athletics track.
I had become a little separated from my group who were trying out the racing wheelchairs, which I had tried in Yeovil if you remember, resulting in me on my back with the front wheel in the air like a bloody monument, needless to say I was not too worried about trying it again. They had also been trying the lay down hand cycles which I would love to have a go at but have no idea how I would get back out and in to my chair and so I did not. Instead I had a go at the shot put. This was ok but I had to use my left arm to pull myself up and across for me to then push my arm out to thrust the ball in to the air and forward to throw the shot put. This was ok, except for the fact that I then could not stop myself from continuing to follow the shot put and nearly fall sideways from my chair. Now the chairs are admittedly strapped down for the actual throwing but I was still unable to stop myself from falling and following the shot put and so this was not really for me. I did enjoy having a try though and so I thanked the gentleman and moved off. I was not wanting to try any other of the throwing games as I did not want top be falling from my chair and so instead we headed back to Tedworth House.
We arrived back at Tedworth House and headed for a coffee at the cafe, the kids had a drink as did my Wife and we sat and talked about the sports so far. It was not long before we headed back to the sports and gym building of the site and I looked at the board which told you which sports there were and which sport you could or could not do with your injury or disability. After only a couple of minutes a gentleman spoke to me and asked if I had ever thought about sailing. I told him I had not and we got in to a conversation about it, the long and short of it is that he told me that my injury or disability would classify me as two points. This would mean that he would be able to have two almost able bodied people in the boat with me making the team of fourteen points. He asked me if I would be interested in having a go and so I am now waiting for an e mail from him for me to go and try sailing in the hope that it goes well and I may have a chance at training in a team, result. The people in the sailing corner, coaches and team members were fantastic and involved my kids, they spoke to them and answered their questions and kept the kids amused with the postcards and magazines, the kids loved it, said their goodbyes and we headed off to the main House. I am really looking forward to the chance of a bit of sailing now although it may be something I hate, time will tell. Rest assured though that if I do go sailing, you will see any pictures and get to read all about it.
We went out to the gardens to have a go at archery, that’s right, I had a go with a bow and arrow, and….
Frankly I was shite. I struggled to balance. I had tried archery before my accident when I could stand and was not too bad at it but I could not get it right in the chair, too high, too low or overbalance and feel as if I were going to fall. The coach helped with words of advice and then a guy who was using a full on competition type bow came and explained that he too had the same problems when he started and how he had progressed. He was really interesting to talk to and again, I wish I had more time to speak with him but I wanted to go and look at some shooting and so to that end we had to leave the gardens and head in to the house. We found the shooting room but it was really full and so we headed to another sport, Bocia.
Now Bocia, (I think it is spelt that way although the red line under it tells me different), is kind of like bowls but with balls filled with beans, or plastic balls or something, anyway they are like bean bags. The idea is to throw the `Jack` and then the players have to get as many of their colour ball things closest to the `Jack`. I played the game with my Son as my partner, 3 balls each and my two Daughters on the other team again each with three balls. I was frankly shite at this also, the balls roll a lot better than you would give them credit and as a result mine were out of play a lot of the time. After losing twice to my Daughters we thanked the staff and headed back to the shooting.
The people who had been shooting had headed off to canoeing and as I struggle with balance in a chair on solid ground I did not fancy my chances in the canoe and therefore gave it a miss, instead we had a go at the shooting. I tried the pistol to start with, a very different style as we are used to two hands when firing, with one hand under the other as a support. In this environment it was one hand with arm outstretched and, although apparently there were two pressures on the trigger, I think if a had farted hard enough the air movement alone would have been enough to fire the action of the pistol. This took some getting used to but the hardest thing was the grip. The grip had been custom made for someone’s hand and this meant that my hand did not fit around the grip properly. That said though, I was on target, not fantastic scoring but on target none the less. I then moved across to the rifle which my eldest Daughter had been trying. I spoke to the lady who was with the rifle and after a couple of minutes I, (with help due to balance issues), picked up and took control of the rifle. I fired three shots and the lady told me that she did not need for me to fire any more, she has asked me to go to a classification session. This I am excited about as the lady was an Olympic shooter and coach, as I am unable to reach out to the side without falling over the classification sounds like it would be good for them, I was resting my elbows on the table to shoot as I have no strength to hold a rifle in the sitting position, I am really looking forward to going to the classification and to see where, if anywhere, this leads.
We left the shooting and headed off to thank all of the relevant staff for the time they had taken to show us the different sports. I know that they are there to show us anyway but I do believe that a “Thank you” costs nothing and shows that you appreciate any and all effort that has been made by the staff. From here we loaded in to the “Chucklebus” and made our way home having had an extremely full day at Tedworth and the Oval, having met some more great injured personnel and some fantastic athletes. Oh and not forgetting my friend Paddy who my Wife and I met when we went to the Supacat day, we have kept in touch and intend to continue to do so. He really is a great bloke who does make me smile, and he is a bit of a dark horse too, he seems to be a bit good in a wheelchair despite not needing one! Great to see him and look forward to seeing him and hopefully his girlfriend really soon.
The sun was out as it had been all day, the temperature was hot, and the kids were tired after their full day out. In no time at all they were asleep and, as we joined the A303 for our journey home…..it was at a stand still, hoo-bloody-ray.
It took a good couple of hours to get home but it had been such a brilliant day it did not matter. I am glad that we went on the Friday and not the Saturday as the rain on Saturday was horrendous. I hope that the sports still went ahead, I would hate for people to have missed out because of the weather. So that was our day at Tedworth House. A really good day with an amazing out come. Now I just wait for the e mails for the sailing and the shooting, again, when I know, so will you.