In a world where many disabilities are still not adequately catered to, particularly in terms of mobility and general access to facilities, it can be particularly difficult for children and young adults to access sports clubs and activities that most of us take for granted.
So an ice rink is probably not where you’d expect to find 120 children and young people with disabilities and special needs learning to ice skate! But that’s exactly what you’ll find every Sunday morning at Slough Ice Arena in Berkshire from 11am – 12.45pm.
But they don’t just teach them how to skate … oh no, these kids are treated like their able bodied counterparts and actively encouraged to get involved in the synchronised skating team and / or the ice hockey as well.
Each year, the synchronised skating team, Team Spice, are invited to attend the British Championships in Nottingham to do an exhibition skate which gives them a flavour of what its like to go to competitions. Their routines are always well received and finish with a standing ovation from all competitors, parents and officials in recognition of the effort and determination that the team put into their skating. Synchronised skating is a difficult sport at the best of times so the fact that these kids are skating their routines whilst dealing with issues such as Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome and partial sightedness is testament to their grit and willingness to work at something which doesn’t come easily to them – an attitude which we could all benefit from having!
Spice Jets is the hockey team and attends the Special Hockey International Tournament in Canada every other year. This event gives the hockey skaters the opportunity to skate in a series of games and progress through the competitive stages in exactly the same way as able bodied teams do. No skater is turned away from the team – if they want to play hockey then they’re kitted up and put to work regardless of the severity of their disability. Of course, getting the team to Canada is no mean feat either – most planes are equipped to deal with a small number of disabled passengers, but getting an entire team, their parents and all their hockey kit onto the plane can be a huge challenge, especially when the flight is 10 hours long.
As a club they receive no funding from local or central government so the club runs on donations and fundraising with a good deal of volunteer support from parents and other skaters at the rink. When you consider that ice skating is one of the most expensive sports out there, this again is a huge achievement and our hats go off to all involved in keeping this club running year round.
Have a look at the video to see what the club gets up to on a typical Sunday morning