A Chesterfield boccia player will be among four Special Olympics Derbyshire athletes competing at this summer’s Special Olympics GB National Games.
Mark Pearson, 26, will take part in the country’s largest multi-sports event for athletes with intellectual disabilities at Sheffield between August 7 and 12.
He is among the people in Chesterfield who have taken up sport through the SO Derbyshire network, which provides regular training and competition for people with a learning disability.
A number of those have taken inspiration from last summer’s Rio Paralympic and Olympic Games, where Derbyshire swimmer Lewis White took a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle S9.
Explaining why he enjoys playing, Mark said: “It’s always good to meet up with my friends, play games and chat with them.
“Now that we are part of Special Olympics Derbyshire there will be more opportunities for competition and training so we can all get better boccia skills and meet other teams from around the region.”
The SO Derbyshire network has been growing since it started 18 months ago and now has 80 people aged between 15 and 60 playing sport on a weekly basis.
Volunteers have played a key part in its success, with more than 30 people having been involved in helping at events, clubs and behind the scenes work.
SO Derbyshire volunteers come from all over the county including Glossop, Chesterfield, Matlock, Long Eaton and South Derbyshire.
Jacob Meaton, SO Derbyshire Basketball coach and volunteer, said: “It’s great to get people playing basketball at all levels and seeing that enjoyment and being able to provide players with access to competitions that many have never experienced before.”
With more disabled people getting active through SO Derbyshire, the network is helping address the imbalance between disabled and non-disabled people’s inactivity rates, something which Sport England’s recent Active Lives survey highlights.
Active Lives shows that 34 per cent of people with one impairment are inactive, meaning they are doing less than 30 minutes of activity a week. The network is also helping Derbyshire Sport achieve their target of getting 50,000 more Active Lives by 2021.
In 2017, SO Derbyshire are aiming to get more people playing as well as encouraging existing local sports clubs to register to their network and get involved themselves.
As part of that, the network will be hosting a regional boccia competition at Queen’s Park Sport Centre in Chesterfield on March 26.
People are invited to come along as part of a team, or have a go for the first time in an inclusive sport that involves throwing balls at a target from a seated position.
To find out more information about SO Derbyshire, including where you can take part and how you can volunteer, visit www.derbyshiresport.co.uk/special-olympics-derbyshire, or contact Rachael Dyer on 07807 089845 or by emailing email@example.com