Wheelchair Rugby, the social side...
All sports have a social side and that's obviously increased in team sports. To progress in a team sport you have to be sociable, willing to teach and learn from each other. This is ever present in Wheelchair Rugby, being a tactical game every player has to be on the same page and there's something special about a team playing as one. The best way to achieve this connection is to know your team. Everyone's individual and will do the same action slightly differently, especially with different function involved. Learning what your teammates can and can't do is imperative. This is all reference to playing wheelchair rugby, the social side of this sport continues after the final buzzer.
Before my injury and before I knew wheelchair rugby even existed, I was pretty social at school, still very much into sports. Our school was a cliché in terms of forming groups so I'd have to say I was in with the jocks. Nothing mattered much apart from sports, having a laugh, possible female attention and your position on the social ladder. Not the best mind-set but hey, I was a teenage boy.
Then my accident and well, a lot changed. Almost a year in hospital and changing schools meant I lost contact with a lot of people. I also spent time with adults, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and all kinds of specialists.
It was a drastic change for me but everyone around me was so supportive that everything became normal very quick. I also think my aged helped, being young I hadn't settled into anything yet. Aged 14 my new way of life had dramatically changed my mind-set. I naturally stopped thinking about what others thought of me. When you roll around using roughly twenty percent of your body, people are gonna stare. Over a decade later and I now rarely notice people staring, then when reminded suddenly realise everyone has at least a look as you roll by. I'm in my own world, choosing what I see and hear and I like it that way. Thinking about rugby, work, life in general. Having that work/social life gives me the similarity of everyone else, yes I'm obviously still different and I like that too.
Just a year of playing wheelchair rugby and being part of LondonWRC I met so many people with disabilities, all far from any stereotype. I'd learnt so many life lessons, as I said we're all different but I found it relieving just to talk with people who incur similar issues and finding solutions. I've also learnt I'm influenced by the people I'm around. In school it wasn't such a positive trait but here I was thriving. That feeling continues to this day. I've met some seemingly timid people and they're almost a different person on court. The willpower and self-motivation to do what you can, the best you can, with the goal being self improvement. Some of these people were/are at the top of their game, representing their country at the highest possible level. To be surrounded by these characters is infectious. Each unique in their own way but all sharing the love of this sport, wheelchair rugby.
That will power to turn up, train and compete in a team sport is admirable but to share your life story, be accepted and become part of a family, that's special, that's wheelchair rugby, the social side.