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SA’s Sports Mash Up kicks on into the future

Sport is a great way for people with disabilities to connect with each other and their communities. So when an opportunity came to sponsor the Multi-Sports Mash Up program,
Feros Care jumped in!

All-abilities sport looks set to become a permanent presence on Adelaide’s northern plains, with the pioneering Feros Care-sponsored Multi-Sports Mash Up program proving a hit with young people living with
disability in local communities.

The free program ran over 10 weeks from 20 April to 22 June 2021 at The Farm Centre sports facility in the small town of Freeling, providing an opportunity for people to try their hand at a variety of modified sports in a safe, inclusive and accessible space.

Sports on offer included AFL footy, netball, tennis, athletics and hockey, with dedicated coaching staff experienced in all-abilities sport on hand to support participants.

Every goal a winner

“There wasn’t one moment where we celebrated success, it was more an ongoing series of small celebrations where a ball went into a net or through the goalposts and everyone high-fived,” Farm Centre manager Ross Sharer says.

“You can’t measure that, you can’t put a number on it but the feeling was incredible.”

The Sports Mash Up concept came together after Ross reached out to local Feros Care Community Development Coordinator Carly Hennessy to get some advice on establishing an inclusive sports program at The Farm, which is part of the privately-owned Belgravia Leisure Group.

‘Brilliant gateway project’

Carly describes Sports Mash Up as “a brilliant gateway project”.

“The whole area beyond Adelaide’s northern suburban fringe is relatively thinly populated and there aren’t many opportunities for people with disabilities to try their hand at sport, so after some community consultation and forums we came up with the program,” Carly says.

“There are also barriers to participation in community activities such as limited public transport and lack of financial resources.

“Our key challenges were to provide a free program and make it as accessible as possible – and $5,000 in sponsorship from Feros Care made this happen.”

Strong support

With strong support from sporting bodies SANFL (South Australian National Football League), Netball SA, Tennis SA, Athletics SA and the Barossa Valley Hockey Association,
the program offered each sport for two weeks on a Tuesday evening. All sporting equipment was supplied and refreshments were provided to participants at the end of each session.

“Footy was probably the most popular sport but we had a good solid core of people who tried their hand at everything,” Ross says. “For some of them it was the first time they’d
had the chance or the confidence to have a go, while for others there was the opportunity to build experience in a sport they already enjoyed.

“Several participants have since been referred onto specific sports associations to pursue their passions.”

Everyone welcome to join in

Carly says everyone, no matter their ability or age, was welcome to join in “although most of our participants were in the younger age range”.

“Plenty of our Feros Care Local Area Coordinators (LACs) came along and joined in the fun, while parents and carers were able to kick back and enjoy the activities from
the sidelines,” Carly says.

“There were so many positive stories that came out of Mash Up but one that stands out for me was a participant’s father who ended up bringing his teenage
son every week along with his two younger children.

“All the siblings joined in because it was modified sports and that meant everyone was able to have a go. By the end of the program the dad – a single
parent – was able to take time out to attend the centre gym, knowing all of his kids were involved and literally having a ball!”

New program coming

Planning is now well advanced for ongoing all-abilities sports activities at The Farm Centre, with a new program set to begin in August.

“We’re still working out what it will look like and what sports will be offered but we’ve already identified lawn bowls and basketball as two of the activities,”
Ross says.

“We’ll also continue working with the local community to keep our inclusive sports activities accessible to everyone and build a self-sustaining program for
the long term. I’m already talking to some of our other Belgravia centres about setting up similar programs.

“Whatever we do, here at The Farm we’ll keep working with Feros Care and their wonderful LACs – none of this would have happened without their amazing donation of funding and time.”

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