‘TEAM ethos and determination’ has earned Stratford Boat Club a brand new award.
The club, which has an adaptive squad, won Parasport Club of the Year – Toyota’s first Club of the Year award developed in partnership with Paralympics GB.
The group was chosen among 12 contestants, all who received Club of the Month awards throughout last year.
It aims to shine a light on inclusive opportunities to get active in the UK, and to encourage other clubs to improve their own range of inclusive offerings.
Adaptive Head Coach Mark Dewdney is the driving force behind the section’s growth from two rowers in 2015 to seven different boats serving a squad of more than ten today. He believes Stratford’s success is down to their team ethos and determination to make anything work.
He said: “Everyone’s very proud to win the award, and I’m proud of them. Given it’s a public vote, it’s very special.
“The whole team have been campaigning for votes and really getting behind the effort, and I think that shows what we’re all about. Winning this award shows that together we are more than the sum of our parts. Any team with that ethos is going places. A club’s only as strong as what the members are prepared to contribute to it. We’ve got a strong team that works together.
“We were genuinely surprised to win. All the clubs we were up against – you could read every one of their stories and be mightily impressed with what they do. If any of them had won instead they would have been thoroughly deserving. It’s a privilege to be associated with all those other clubs, they are doing great work for disability sport. There is no selection criteria for joining. If we can make it safe and you are willing to give it a go, we will try to make it work for you.”
However while Covid-19 has delayed the club’s ability to celebrate the award, Mark hopes that the Club of the Year award can inspire other clubs to develop their adaptive offering.
He added: “One of the biggest benefits of being Parasport Club of the Year will, hopefully, be more funding and sponsorship.
“I think it’ll also be good for adaptive rowing. The numbers are generally still small and it’ll help us spread the message. What I would like to end up seeing is that it becomes an everyday thing, that every club has one or two – or however many – adaptive rowers. Disabled people should have the same opportunities as everybody else.”
Stratford’s adaptive rowers have wide-ranging needs, including participants with spinal cord injuries, hemiplegia, visual impairment and autism. They are supported by five qualified coaches plus a large number of volunteers who provide safety, launch driving and much else besides.
Visit www.stratford-rowing.co.uk for more information.