People believed I could do it, so I believed in myself
By Nicole Flynn, Associate Consultant
As a person who has Down syndrome, I believe inclusive sport has grounded me with a strong foundation in life, allowing me to gain my goals over my lifetime. It has always been my philosophy to take small steps to reach the greater goal and to do a little bit everyday. Eventually, you will reach whatever goal you set for yourself. This is something I learned when I was growing up as a high-performance athlete. People who identify with disability have a wide spectrum of ability. Inclusive sport is about looking at a person’s ability and providing opportunities to participate.
Sport that includes people of all abilities improves lives. Not only is there a health benefit from the fitness but a change in perspective that affects the way people deal with challenges in life. When I was younger, I had a terrible, difficult time with transitions. Training in synchro swimming aka (artistic swimming) involved many transitions such as from the gym to the locker room to the pool for swimming lengths, figures, then working on the routine. I needed assistance opening the right file in my brain, and had to learn what do to when a coach gave me instructions. I’d hear, “Flynn, left toes!” and I’d have to fix the way my toes were pointing. This took time to learn, but it has helped me in other parts of life, like education and employment.
The feedback of team members and coaches from within inclusive sports helps develop employment skills. Coaches may appear to be strict and pushing too hard, but that is because they see the ability and how far the athlete can go in life.
In a typical sports atmosphere or anywhere, language is important because some words may be construed differently and past biases may surface without even realizing it. The…bad attitudes, decisions, inherited habits, and actions of some people from the past has perpetuated as if it in a continuum loop.
In order to change the mindset from “This can’t be done” to “Let’s figure out how this can be done” the negative attitude towards people who identify as disabled, should change. Individuals are often held back in their ability to succeed.Providing accommodations, whether in a sport, education, or employment, means looking beyond the challenges and finding the ability.
Individuals, of all abilities, should be permitted the dignity of risk to have the freedom to participate in any activity they choose. Many times, people with a disability are mislead into thinking they have “choice” but are really only given one option to chose, which is an illusion of choice. Having the opportunity to participate in whatever sport you want to chose provides a freedom and control over ones decision-making capacity.
For example, a person who is sailing may not have the use of their legs or arms, but has the ability to breathe. The skipper who uses a sip-and-puff accessible device on a sailboat has the power to think and make decisions for him or herself. Providing accommodations could be as simple as using a wheelchair for curling, a sledge for hockey, or a sit ski for alpine skiing. It could also mean putting a bright visible colour on a goal net.
I have had a lot of experience participating in inclusive sport. My skills didn’t develop over night, I had to work for them. Coaches and teammates encouraged me and I was persistent. People believed I could do it, so I began to believe in myself. Sport has been the leader in how people are able to be included. Now that we know inclusion works and benefits all people, let’s apply this mindset to education and employment. Let’s ensure all people are included in life.
Nicole Flynn is from the rural area of Centre Hastings, Ontario. She is a graduate of the Loyalist College General Arts and Science diploma program (not modified). Nicole is an entrepreneur, an Associate Consultant with People Minded Business Inc. (PMB), and an international medalist in three sports. She is a global citizen who believes in freedom, power, and prosperity for everyone.
Nicole’s goal is to experience and learn more about what is happening around the world and to share her knowledge with others. It is her hope that by reading Nicole’s Notes, people will broaden their perspective, re-evaluate their assumptions and attitudes, and bring their creative ideas and inputs to the table.