“What if the tables were turned?”

I borrowed this title from Joan’s Facebook post. Joan’s a visually impaired athlete and the top scorer for the women’s national Goalball team. She was reflecting on a 1 v 3 modified Goalball game where she competed and won against three sighted athletes. This happened just before the circuit breaker.

She was pondering about who would be considered “disabled” should the tables be turned – in a context where the sighted athletes had to operate in a “blind” environment instead. You can read about her thoughts and watch the game here. While you are at it, do send her a friend request!

“Is disability a result of one’s condition, or the result of the physical and social environment?”

I thought that Joan’s sharing connected really strongly with the Social Model of Disability and there is an important message here to be shared with my fellow coaches and the public.

What is the Social Model of Disability (SMD)?

The SMD views disability as a relational concept, specifically, the amount of actual disability experienced by a person, will depend on the nature of the environment which the person lives in. The environment can either facilitate or restrict one’s functional activities.

For example, a social environment where public spaces can be accessed by ramps and tactile indicators, and where the general public has a good understanding about how to interact with Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), will be considered enabling rather than disabling.

“From perspective of the social model of disability, disability is not so much a medical problem as it is a socially contrived one. Society has created an environment for individuals with disabilities filled with both physical and attitudinal barriers.”

People with Disability Australia (PWDA), 2018. ‘Social Model of Disability’. Retrieved from https://pwd.org.au/resources/disability-info/social-model-of-disability/

In contrast to the SMD, the more deterministic medical model of disability does not differentiate between pathology and disability. It also excludes the consideration of the environment.

What do you think is the dominant perception of disability here in Singapore? Does it lean towards the social or medical model? More specifically, do we perceive that the negative effects of disability are due to an individual’s condition rather than environmental factors?

A Reflective Tool…

I am not proposing that the SMD is more relevant than the MMD. The SMD does have it’s own shortcomings. For example, it does not address the evident reality of illness, bodily pain and dysfunction that prevents PwDs from not only taking part in sport, but to find a job too (Martin, 2013). I do think that the SMD is a particularly useful reflective tool to help identify the barriers and constraints that both athletes with impairments and disability sport coaches face, and how we can overcome them.

Research points to disability sports coaches having to manage numerous constraints such as limited financial support, support staff and a much smaller talent pool (Taylor et al. 2014). In addition, the coach often has to communicate more often with the athlete’s families, caregivers and social support workers. Despite having more responsibilities, they are often compensated less.

The SMD can help policy makers and coaches to reflect on coaching in such a way
that considers the athlete and the coaching environment in relation to
exclusion (Townsend et.al. 2018) . The focus is then on the coach and coaching – not the ‘problem’ of impairment.

The Inclusive Coach

Most coaches adopt an inclusive approach to coaching which is strongly aligned with the SMD. For example, they would modify and adapt the environment (rather than exclude participants based on their abilities) to enable participants of different skill levels to take part in sport together.

Ironically, coaches typically practice this only with able-bodied participants. When asked to coach someone with a disability, most coaches are apprehensive and would be reluctant to include the PwD in his or her session. This is even though there are very few disabilities or conditions that completely preclude participation in sport.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of various government organizations, socially-driven enterprises and individuals, things are beginning to change for the better. More coaches are beginning to realise that they already possess the skills and knowledge required to coach persons with a disability. The only piece missing in their coaching “toolkit” is a basic understanding of a few key aspects that are unique to PwDs.

To help you with this, here’s a link to a “toolkit” developed by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS). It provides you with the basic information, guidelines, and tips to interact with PwDs. You can also check out this link to learn how the TREE model can assist you in creating conditions for effective participation and inclusion.

In a nutshell….

  1. As demonstrated by Joan’s game against the three sighted athletes, in an enabling environment, PwDs may not necessary be less capable than their able-bodied peers.
  1. The Social Model of Disability serves as an reflective tool for removing physical and attitudinal barriers faced by PwDs and their coaches.

  1. Most coaches already possess the necessary technical skills and knowledge to coach PwDs.

Coach Hansen

References:

People with Disability Australia (PWDA), 2018. ‘Social Model of Disability’. Retrieved from https://pwd.org.au/resources/disability-info/social-model-of-disability/

Martin, J.J. (2013) Benefits and barriers to physical activity for individuals with disabilities: a social-relational model of disability perspective, Disability and Rehabilitation, 35:24, 2030-2037

Shakespeare, T. (2006). Disability rights and wrongs. Abingdon: Routledge.

Taylor, S. L., Werthner, P., & Culver, D. M. (2014). A Case Study of a Parasport Coach and a
Life of Learning. International Sport Coaching Journal, 1, 127-38.

Townsend, Robert & Cushion, Christopher. (2018). Athlete-centred coaching in disability sport: A critical perspective.

The Problem with “Motivation”

‘Control your Controllables’ (CYC) is a resilience program facilitated by the blind and experienced through the Paralympic game of Goalball. Earlier this week, my team conducted the program for a group of junior college students who did not manage to progress on to Year 2.

During the session, the students were asked to reflect on possible barriers that could stop them from putting in the necessary effort to pass their exams. Many of them alluded to some version of the same problem – the lack of motivation.

Does the problem really lie with the lack of motivation?

I asked the students if they were disappointed that they did not pass their exams, and why they wanted to progress on to Year 2. Indeed, these may seem like redundant questions but I was trying to get them to understand that they do not lack strong reasons nor motivation to strive for better results.

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.” Steven Pressfield

The problem here isn’t about the lack of motivation. The problem lies with the ability to direct their motivation towards the goal of passing their exams. The problem has to do with procrastination, specifically, they were motivated to do something else rather than to study.

Continue reading “The Problem with “Motivation””

Goalball Exchange with World Youth Champions from Australia

AUSXSG_1
Australian Brodie Smith In Action

Thanks to the Singapore Disability Sport Council (SDSC), we had the opportunity to have a world champ coach and team help us improve our game recently (11th to 13th of Feb).

Over the short span of three days, Coach Murray and his team have helped me see potential in the team beyond what I could imagine. This was clearly demonstrated by our women team’s progress between the two friendly games on the first and last day of the program.

“Having a mentor coach is perhaps one of the most powerful way for a coach to develop and improve.”

In Goalball, the game is ended as soon as one team wins by a ten goal margin. The SG women’s team lost 0-10 even before the first half on the first day. On the last day, our team lost 1-10, but managed to hold the Australian team up to the end of regulation time.

This was no easy feat for a Southeast Asian team, especially since the last time the women had a chance to compete in a friendly game was in 2016 (drew 10-10) against Malaysia, and they were up against a very disciplined team that recently beat Russia to win the world youth championship  (view link).

Key Takeaways from the Exchange Program  

Continue reading “Goalball Exchange with World Youth Champions from Australia”