Being confident about one’s physical skills is one component of physical literacy. When you want to try a new sport, it helps to know that you have the abilities to succeed. Knowledge and mastery of basic skills help build confidence. But how can we maintain this confidence when we have a functional limitation and we keep experiencing failures in sport?
Replacing “‘I can't do it’ with "TRIES!”
Definitely the phrase that my physiotherapist Louise repeated to me the most often. When I was younger, before trying anything even just a little bit physical, I would exclaim: "But I can't do it!" Lack of adapted equipment and repeated failures had convinced me that I could not do it. I did not want to be disappointed again. Louise saw things differently, and for her it was important that I try to do something before giving up.
The importance of persevering must be underlined, and in bold, when working with people with a disability. You may have to try several times before you achieve something. And in some cases, the movement may never be perfect. It is therefore important to adjust our expectations and take small steps.
Try kayaking; discover a passion
As a teenager I tended to exclude myself from physical activities. I would not want to fail in front of my classmates, for the proud girl I was (and still am today!). We went a few times with my school to a vacation camp in Ontario where we would take part in several sports and leisure activities, including kayak trips. On that occasion, I returned to my familiar "I'm not able", and I was allowed to stay reading on the water's edge.
Arriving in adulthood, I met a colleague at my job at AlterGo (hello Patricia!), where we talked about kayaking. She asked me if I liked it and, I answered her with (you will guess it perhaps): "I’m not able to do this!" Patricia did not understand why I was not able . . . after all, my disability is in the legs and my balance is more or less good when I am standing and okay when I’m sitting. Plus, a kayak should be stable enough and I have enough power in my arms to paddle. She asked me: "Have you ever tried?" Truly ashamed, I replied that I hadn’t. So, she planned a kayak trip for the following summer. We stayed in a fairly comfortable area, used a double kayak and paddled through very quiet water . . . and I did it! I did not fall in the water and I managed to paddle. Not only did I succeed, but I liked it! Since then, I have been enjoying this summer activity. I even did a great ride in Honduras last summer. I can never thank Patricia enough for the pat on the back that I needed!
Be someone’s pat on the back!
The most important message I want to pass along is to be persistent and encourage young people! Motivate them – in successes as in failures. Encourage them to give extra effort to try, over and over again, and gradually, to expand their physical abilities. Be to someone else the Louise and Patricia who made a difference for me!
Next month, you will be given resources that can help youth to move in recreational, summer activities, which are great opportunities to have fun and get your kids to succeed! Be sure to visit our Facebook page about inclusive physical literacy!