November Club of the Month!
Dundee Dragons are no strangers to spreading their wings when it comes to the variety of sporting opportunities they provide.
Having started life as a wheelchair rugby league team in 2013, the club quickly expanded to incorporate a wide range of wheelchair sports and continue to transform the lives of young disabled people across Tayside.
With an ethos of ‘All About Ability’, the club welcomes anyone, whether they use a powerchair full time, a manual wheelchair part time or are non-disabled.
Dragons aid budding Paralympians in striving towards their dreams and provide a whole host of grassroots opportunities for social players across a range of activities including wheelchair basketball, tennis, badminton, rugby and curling.
Chairperson Elizabeth Ferris founded the club, who are celebrating being named Parasport UK’s Club of the Month for November, after sustaining a spinal cord injury as a student and ‘realising there was nowhere in my area to play.’
She has since been humbled by its ongoing impact in the community and hopes to keep making a difference.
“I thought ‘there has to be people in the area who want to play, not just me’,” she said. “The demand has always been there.
“We gave wheelchair rugby league a go and that’s how every sport has been added – a taster session that evolves.
“It’s a rare model, not many clubs are multi-sport, but to me it made sense. If you go to a school, someone who plays rugby and someone who plays chess wear the same crest.
“Our club is similar – badminton and curling are very different sports but they’re all Dragons. It’s wonderful they all get to have the same banner they play under and family they’re part of.
“I never envisaged it would grow to the size it is now or that it would have helped as many people as it has. I just wanted to play sport with other people. Then it grew and became clear it was a real vehicle for change for people.
“I wanted to make sure we could develop talent but also just develop people’s confidence and give them an outlet to have fun. That’s always been the driver.”
Gemma Lumsdaine was one of those present at the Dragons’ original taster day and credits the club with playing an integral role in her sporting journey.
The 24-year-old from Monifeith represents the GB Wheelchair Rugby Talent Squad and has ambitions to compete at the highest level, which would have been unthinkable in those early days.
“When Dragons started, I was a really shy young girl with no confidence,” she said.
“I didn’t really accept my disability and I was really struggling to find my way in the world.
“But seeing other people with disabilities achieving and being part of a different community really pushed me to get involved.
“I don’t know where I would be without Dundee Dragons and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without the club.
“It’s a real family environment, it’s a place where we support and develop people’s confidence and independence and it’s so much more than the sport itself.”
Lumsdaine is heavily involved in the coaching set-up at Dragons and sits on the Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board, while she was named the COV Awards coach of the year in 2018.
“I’m really grateful that I’ve been involved in the club so long and now I can give back and help young people who I see myself in,” she said.
“I can’t put into words how rewarding it is to see people I work with week in, week out develop their skills and confidence.
“We have quite a few people come through the doors who are really shy and aren’t confident in themselves – to see them become leaders feels amazing.”
Among the next generation of Dragons developing their leadership skills is 15-year-old wheelchair basketball player Shayne Humphries, part of ‘Project 21’ – a Dundee-based initiative set up by Scottish Disability Sport, along with Dundee City Disability Sport, in partnership with Sported, which empowers young people with disabilities to be involved in sport.
“Coming to Dragons has really improved my confidence,” Humphries said.
“It’s just the sense of normality. Growing up, I was the only person in PE at school who had a physical disability so it was a bit like ‘how can I join in with other people?’. I thought I couldn’t compete at the same levels.
“Going to Dragons kept me active and pushed me to do a lot more.”
Gregor Anderson, also 15 and a promising wheelchair tennis and badminton player, agrees.
“I wouldn’t have even thought about sports if it wasn’t for the Dragons,” he said.
“I never really felt I had a chance in sport until I started playing here. It was very welcoming and it’s always a good laugh – it always has been.
“It has played a very big role in my life so far – it’s somewhere I can go to be myself and have fun.”