Importance of disability sports by: Olivia Weckerle
The benefits of sports are endless; they provide good blood circulation, strong muscles, better coordination and a balanced body.
Not only are there physical benefits, but the mental benefits are enormous. These benefits are inclusive of those with disabilities.
For people who were not born with a disability and instead were later injured or fell sick- a long and intensive rehabilitation plan helps them adapt to life in a different way.
One of the most beneficial activities that can improve the health and well-being of any person with a disability is sport.
Kirra Benfer, daughter of Tony Benfer who has mastered a wide range of disability sports, says her dad is an inspiration to her and she has never doubted his abilities for a second.
“I look up to him and he is my hero. Without him I’d be nothing,” Ms Benfer said.
In 2010, Tony Benfer left his home in Ipswich to go to work on his motorbike, like every other morning, but was then hit by a car that ran a red light.
The crash resulted in Mr Benfer losing his right leg, a pinkie and damage to his elbow.
“I usually woke up early to say goodbye to him, but that morning I slept in,” she said. “I woke up to these massive loud bangs at the front door and was confused and got up to check out who was there, I opened the door and saw about 5 police officers at the door who told me and my Mum that my Dad was in terrible crash and was in a lot of pain.”
Ms Benfer was not allowed to see her father for three weeks following the accident.
“When I finally got to see my Dad, he showed me his leg, I was young so I still didn’t understand and didn’t want to touch his leg or go to close in case I hurt him,” she said. “Every night I’d sit in the back of the car on the way home and wait until I couldn’t see the hospital at all and then cry because I felt like dad could still see me and I wanted to be brave for him.”
Mr Benfer has since competed in various sports all around the globe including; wheelchair basketball, rugby, swimming and rowing. He has obtained many medals as a result of his endeavours and is a physical health trainer in the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force).
The former Australian Air Force pilot is competing at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada.
The Invictus Games is an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event, created by Prince Harry. It showcases armed services personnel and veterans who have been wounded, injured or sick.
Ms Benfer said she is extremely proud of her dad and everything he has achieved in his life.
Through training for sport, it allows people to challenge themselves, learn new skills, develop a sense of discipline and gain more responsibility over their own health and well- being.
Rob Bailey, who started playing wheelchair basketball in 2007, was born with spina bifida.
This resulted in Mr Bailey needing constant use of his wheelchair.
Mr Bailey says that wheelchair basketball is one of his favourite things to do and he has made some great friends through playing over the years.
Wheelchair basketball is not only an option for men and women with disabilities, but it also includes non-disabled people on the court.
This system works through a classification scheme where a person receives a sport class based on their impairment and the extent to which it impacts sport performance. Classifications are necessary to level out the playing field so each player can get the best out of each game.
“It gives non-disabled people the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be in a wheelchair and play a disabled sport,” Mr Bailey said.
“In wheelchair basketball players are classified from 1 all the way up to 4.5 depending on their range of movement, for example, I am classified as a 1 pointer because my range of motion is very limited.
“This means that my main role in the game is to stop the opposition from shooting, where as any non-disabled person would automatically be classed as 4.5 and I would be looking at them to pass the ball to so they can shoot.”
Mr Bailey plays for Gold Coast Rollerblaze and is excited to get back to playing as he has recently had surgery and has been recovering from a broken leg.
“I am so excited to get back in to playing,” he said. “I go and watch the games every week and wish I was on the court with my team. I am going to get back in to it as soon as I am able to, but it sucks to have had months off.”
Sport becomes a routine for many people and when the balance of playing every week changes, many miss the competitive side of the sport and the friendships formed on and off the court.
Physical activity is imperative for everyone if they want to have optimum mental and physical health.
There many sporting options available for both disabled and non-disabled members of the community.
It is key to find what works for each person so it allows them to crave the endorphins, challenges and added strength that goes hand in hand with taking up a sport.
Sport is not only imperative to optimum health but also brings people together and creates friendships, which results in better overall wellbeing.