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NCSEM-EM academic working with Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club to help children with disabilities engage in sport

Loughborough University’s Dr Robert Townsend has been working with Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club (NCCC) to develop a programme for coaches working with children with disabilities.

Many coaches are not trained in the specifics of coaching disabled children and this can act as a significant barrier to inclusion with coaches often lacking the skills, knowledge and confidence to work with disabled children, describing a ‘fear of the unknown’.

Based on his research in disability sport, Dr Townsend has developed the InPlay programme specifically for coaches working with disabled children in special educational needs settings. The outcome is a six-week, linked and progressive multi-sport programme designed to introduce the fundamental skills required to play cricket.

The InPlay programme was developed as a resource to improve coaches’ confidence and knowledge in designing, delivering and adapting sports sessions to the needs of disabled children. The emphasis is on making sessions inclusive and understanding how to adapt to individual needs to create fun and safe learning environments.

The programme was commissioned by Nottinghamshire Cricket Board as a means of enabling and encouraging progression into local disability sport opportunities for participants, leaders, volunteers and coaches.

Furthermore, Dr Townsend recently delivered training to 10 NCCC community coaches to introduce the programme and develop their confidence to coach children with disabilities. NCCC are now trialling the programme with local schools with a view to rolling the programme out in the summer.

Dr Townsend, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University, said: “The InPlay programme is built around a reflective model where coaches are challenged to consider their assumptions about ‘disability’. Coaching sessions that don’t meet the needs of children with a disability or coaches’ negative attitudes and preconceptions can often make it difficult for children with a disability to participate in sport and we want to help coaches overcome this.

“I am very grateful to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club for giving me the opportunity to work with them to apply my research in this way.”

Graham Redfern, Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, said: “The idea for the programme was to expand and progress our community disability sport provision while at the same time upskilling our community coaching workforce. I needed the expertise of Dr Rob Townsend to structure the content of the programme and tasked him with a free hand to base this around his research and thoughts. I am incredibly proud of it and would like to thank Rob and Loughborough University for their support.”

This activity links in to recent work within the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences to disseminate disability coaching research, building on a recent research showcase and leading into the upcoming Loughborough InCoach workshop being held at the NCSEM-EM this June.