From education to employment

Students Learn from Invictus Games Star and Elite Coach

Sports students from Leigh College enjoyed a brilliant coaching session with former British Olympic javelin thrower turned Coach Shelley Holroyd.

The British Athletics coach and Paralympic Pathway Co-ordinator for the North and East talked to students about her role in searching for and identifying potential disabled athletes. Shelley provided a great insight into the state of play of Paralympics and compared it to how it was over 20 years ago.

Equality and inclusivity were high on the agenda too and an added bonus came when Dave Watson, fresh off the back of his double gold medal winning performance at the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia came.

The triple amputee won gold in the Men’s IF6 Discus and shot put at the event and also scooped two silver medals in rowing.

The former Guardsman joined the Army in 2008, aged 20, following a life-long ambition to serve in the Scots Guards.

During his first tour of Afghanistan in 2010, Dave stood on an Improvised Explosive Device while out on patrol. As a result of the explosion he lost both legs as well as his right arm, and had to be brought back to life whilst being air-lifted to safety.

The athlete, who originally hails from Walton-le-Dale, now lives in Birmingham but travels up to Leigh Sports Village twice a week to train with his coach Shelley.

This provided a unique opportunity for the College’s Centre of Excellence in Sport to arrange a practical workshop for the sports students to have a go at coaching and working with an athlete that has a lot of restrictions.

Dave for example used to be right handed, but after losing his arm had to learn how to throw with his left hand, which learners had to bear in mind when instructing him how to hold and throw the discus.

Shelley Holroyd said: “The session helped to get the students to think a bit more and you could see their thought process change. Giving students the opportunity to speak in this environment allows them to process the information well and they can see what they have learnt and put that into practice.

“I believe that the positive effect that it can have on them can also help to change mind sets to not always view disability as a negative.”

The students were hands on in learning how to adapt the session to suit the individual needs of the athlete and generate a culture of not assuming he/she can do certain things automatically.

Sports Lecturer and Quality Co-ordinator, Rebecca Armstrong said: “We’d like to thank Shelley and Dave for providing our learners with a fantastic workshop.  It’s important that our students, who may go on to become future coaches, learn how to adapt sessions for all participants.

“They gained an exclusive insight from a professional coach and athlete which was an extremely positive experience that will enhance their learning.”

This session was the latest in a series of guest speakers visiting the College sports students with former Olympic 800m runner, Jenny Meadows from Wigan soon to attend.

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