WheelPower, the National Charity for Wheelchair Sport are hosting their annual National Junior Games (NJG) 2019 from 30 September – 3 October at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement. The primary focus of the National Junior Games is to encourage the disabled children who take part in the Games to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle, which improves their mental and physical wellbeing.
In addition to giving the participants a chance to play and enjoy sport, the Games provide a platform for those with sporting talent (12-18 years old) to be identified and nurtured along the Paralympic pathway.
The 2019 National Junior Games coincides with the 50th anniversary year since Stoke Mandeville Stadium was first opened by HRH The Queen in 1969. The Stadium has hosted many events for young disabled people inspiring them to be active, play and compete in sport at all levels. The national event is an opportunity for participants from various backgrounds to gain confidence in their abilities, meet new friends, and inspire each other with a new healthier and happier way of life through sharing life experiences and real-life stories. Ultimately, the National Junior Games is a key catalyst behind noticeably improving the quality of the lives of the disabled children.
Martin McElhatton, Chief Executive of WheelPower says, ‘WheelPower’s National Junior Games provide a wonderful opportunity for young disabled people to achieve their personal best, find a sport they love and inspire them to continue playing sport and being active throughout their lives.’
Previous National Junior Games participant, Alex Towns-Phill from the Village School in Kingsbury, London comments: ‘It’s been different, usually when you go on trips they don’t give you as much freedom to do what you want, but here they let you try different types of sports. I’ve tried shooting, archery, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair cricket, I’ve tried a multitude of different sports so I’m happy that I took the opportunity to come.’
WheelPower Head of Sport, Pasan Kularatne comments, ‘The National Junior Games are a fantastic way in which disabled children can experience and engage with sport and physical activity. The key aim of the National Junior Games is about supporting the young people in achieving a healthier lifestyle. Some will aspire to compete in sport and maybe reach the Paralympics, however, the main objective of the whole event is to ensure that all participants are encouraged to try something new. The Games also provide a platform for the sharing of ideas and experiences between participants, teachers, parents, carers and guardians.
‘WheelPower is thoroughly excited to run the Games this year and we are looking forward to welcoming participants both new and those returning again.’
The flagship event, aimed at disabled children aged 12-18 years old, provides a superb opportunity to take time out of the classroom and discover sport and physical activity in a safe, welcoming and friendly environment. This year some 125 participants from across the country are expected to attend.
The Games will combine have-a-go sessions with coaching from some of the country’s leading disability sports professionals, and competitions in a range of different age groups and sports. The sports and activities include archery, athletics, wheelchair basketball, boccia, wheelchair fencing, golf, handcycling, polybat, powerlifting, wheelchair rugby, swimming, table games, table tennis, tennis and zone hockey.
The initiative is all in line with WheelPower’s strategy, ‘Pushing Forward’ which aims to transform lives through sport and physical activity, and enable more disabled people to lead healthy and active lives.
Further previous participants cannot recommend the National Junior Games highly enough.
Jessica Green from Colchester, Essex attended last year’s Games and her mum states: ‘It’s been incredible fun, it’s an experience that you can’t get anywhere else, especially the breadth of accessible sports available to try.’
Sam Joyce from Ashford, Kent comments on his experience of the National Junior Games: ‘It means that I can come along and try out a variety of different sports that usually wouldn’t be accessible to me. It’s a lot of fun as well. You don’t really think about it, but then you have all these doors opening up to you. It’s incredible.’
Parents, guardians, personal assistants, and teachers will be involved in supporting participants during activities to ensure that they get the best experience possible throughout the event. All sports coaches are qualified, have DBS checks and have lots of experience of delivering activity to disabled people.