October Club of the Month!

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Stratford upon Avon Boat Club's message is clear: if there's a will, there's usually a way to get people rowing no matter their circumstances. 

The West Midlands club launched their adaptive section in 2015 with two rowers and now have six or seven different boats serving a squad of more than ten. 

The secret to their success is simple - a 'listen first' mentality - and embracing a people-centred approach to physical and coaching issues. 

"What makes us work is that we're always learning from our athletes - we listen!" said Mark Dewdney, Adaptive Head Coach and driving force behind the programme. 

"Necessity means the rowers have often come up with clever ways of overcoming their particular issues. We take something from every person who comes to us - something that we have not thought of that help us improve what we do with others 

"We're at our best when it comes to finding different ways to teach people to move a boat; that's different for every single person we get, whatever their ability. That is what makes it so interesting to be an adaptive coach

It is this inspiring ethos that makes them a deserving winner of the Parasport Club of the Month award for October. 

One of the two rowers who joined the club in 2015 - Kingsley Ijomah - is African champion and will represent his native Nigeria at the 2021 Paralympics. Stratford have started to coach another athlete on the GB Paralympic Development Pathway in 2020. 

These successes signify an exceptional environment but Mark's coaching philosophy is rooted in inclusivity rather than high performance. 

"If we can do it, if it's safe, we will have a go with anybody," Mark said.
"We don't select on the basis of how good anyone's going to be, we just look at how we can make it work for that particular individual. 

"As long as you plan effectively, you can cope with people who just want to paddle, enjoy the social side, be independent, all the way up to the top end."

Stratford's rowers have wide-ranging needs, including participants with spinal cord injuries, hemiplegia, visual impairment and autism, working with a coaching team of four. 

Mark would encourage rowing clubs up and down the country considering launching an adaptive section to embrace the possible. 

"Accommodating adaptive rowing is not as difficult as you think!" he said.

"There are plenty of us who are happy to provide as much knowledge we can.
"We're very collaborative in the adaptive community, we're all interested in increasing numbers and improving competition.

"People get scared about it being time consuming or labour intensive, it's often not the case. 

"A club might may not be able to take every type of disability, but virtually every club will be able to take someone given their particular environment.

So, if you’re interested in trying something new, getting outdoors on the water and seeing what’s possible, search your postcode to see where your nearest rowing club is.

If you’re lucky enough to live in the Stratford upon Avon area, get in touch with Mark to get involved!