TASS deliver Para Camp 2 for athletes on their journey to performance

TASS are delivering the 20-32 Programme, developed by UK Sport, for individuals on their journey to performance in para sport. This programme implements the principles of the Para Performance Strategic Framework and aims to develop para-athletes’ knowledge and understanding within key areas, helping them on their journey as an athlete and person. It’s a year-long programme, comprising 4 x face-to-face camps based at Loughborough University and 6 x online education sessions.

Our aim for Camp 2 was to consolidate the learning from the first camp in February, and explore more areas for psychosocial development.

More athletes were welcomed to this camp, with representatives from Boccia England, British Canoeing Badminton England British Triathlon, British Powerlifting, British Rowing, British Wheelchair Basketball and GB Wheelchair Rugby and British Curling. The camp took place on 15-17th March.

We were pleased to be able to share with athletes a more thorough overview of the British Paralympic Framework as the content has recently been evolved by Loughborough University.

Creating your autobiography with Camp Lead Jane Holden

The aim of the autobiography workshop was for athletes to explore their own stories. At camp one we discussed different narratives in elite para sport including the performance, discovery and relational narrative. We also looked at Paralympic Games stories over the last 20 years. 

We asked the athletes to create their own narratives using their experiences. Considering three chapters of their lives the group used peer coaching to develop these areas:

1. Early sporting career

2. Current situation

3. Future career

Our group had full control of what they shared – they decided how to tell their story, what to include and what to keep private.

That evening, athletes shared their stories with the group. We heard the details – the athlete who as a child was not allowed to do school sport as it was deemed too dangerous, and yet later sport was the place they felt included. For many growing up, their sporting life was the time they didn’t feel different anymore.

We heard about the athletes’ varied routes into sports, how some athletes have moved sports and what their sporting aims are now. Many of the group talked about giving back to give their sports in the future, either by coaching or by encouraging participation.

This was a powerful exercise and the athletes did a great job of communicating their stories and their thoughts on the common narrative within and outside of sport. We discussed some helpful and unhelpful storylines in para sport and within wider society. We reflected on the ‘superhuman’ advertising campaign for the 2012 Games. Whilst it raised the profile of para sport, some athletes find this messaging unhelpful, patronising even. The athletes shared their thoughts on this:

‘People say I’m amazing for just getting out of bed each day and into my chair, I don’t think it’s amazing, I just have to work harder at the basics’

‘Sometimes the messaging of being superhuman and strong is unhelpful. This belief overlooks the real challenges we face and ignores our right to experience emotions like anyone else. My dad passed last year, I’ve never experienced a loss before, it was devastating and hard and I certainly didn’t feel superhuman.’

Sports Psychology with Jelani Robertson, Performance Psychologist, UKSI

Many athletes expressed an interest in Performance Psychology.

This workshop focused on Goalsetting – why it’s important and how we do it? We looked at three different types of goals:

  1. Outcome – what do I want to achieve?
  2. Performance – is there a specific time/distance I want to reach?
  3. Process – what do I need to do daily/weekly in order to achieve this?

We also explored the importance of psychology in the pre-performance routine asking:

‘How would you like to feel going into the competition?’ and ‘How would you achieve that feeling?’.

Finally, an interactive discussion considered how we are affected by new and changing situations. How do we deal with pressure? How do we prevent the overthinking that could affect us negatively? A good reminder to control the controllables.

The day was complete after a yoga session which incorporated a range of breathing exercises and relaxation.

Ethics in action with Camp Lead Jane Holden

Our final workshop covered some of the ethical challenges in para sport. We explored classification, equipment and prosthetics.

Anti-doping with James Hooper, England Boxing Anti-Doping Lead

An important area of interest within the group is anti-doping and James Hooper delivered a workshop that demystified the testing process, highlighted the 11 anti-doping rule violations, and reminded athletes of the importance of their support network. Athletes were also signposted to apps and resources which will help them to check any medication for banned substances.

Athlete success

A couple of our camp-mates couldn’t manage a couple of days without celebrating an athletic success. Reminding us what we’re all about, Doaa Shayea travelled to Birmingham to compete in the BWL Para Powerlifting Open and won, with an 85kg lift.

Para-triathlete Jack Green was racing in the Podium Festival in Leicester where he smashed his PB in a time of 17:10.

Following Camp 2, we are connecting athletes with the TASS network and are planning  a series of online workshops over the summer. We wish all the athletes a successful summer and look forward to seeing them for our final two camps in the autumn.