In 2015 I suffered a cycling accident whilst training for a triathlon which nearly killed me. Luckily I survived but my accident left me paralysed from the hips down. It was whilst recovering at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and learning to use a wheelchair that I first discovered table tennis. When I finally came home I focused on getting my life back into some order to and being a mum again for my 4 children. An old school friend introduced me to the sport 6 years later when he invited me to go for a knock. I immediately fell in love with the sport and never looked back as it gave me such a feeling of empowerment and helped me to switch off from my disability and all its challenges. It was actually quite unbelievable how amazing whacking a little plastic ball round a table made me feel.
I attend Worthing Table Tennis Club every week and belong to their League too. I also have regular 121 sessions with their 2 top coaches and I am now a Level 2 coach myself.
I work as a District Councillor for Arun District Council and table tennis helps me switch off from that and I go into schools giving motivational talks and I am able to tell the children how table tennis has had a massive positive impact on my life
I would love to become a Level 3 table tennis coach one day as I love being able to pass my passion for the sport onto others and one day I would absolutely love playing in the paralympics for my country. I always feel it is good to set goals and go out of your comfort zone as it helps to make you a stronger and more resilient person and setting goals in table tennis also helps me conquer my disability and pushes me to achieve things I didn’t think I could do.
I have so much support from people within the table tennis community to help me achieve my goals and I think that is one of the great things about table tennis that it helps bring people together. It’s pushed boundaries for me and encourages me to travel round the country with table tennis friends but also on my own in order to play in tournaments and to take my level 1 and 2 coaching courses.
I was extremely privledged to win a Table Tennis award from Table Tennis England for Inspiring story and it was one of my proudest moments receiving the award with my table tennis friends there with me.
Table tennis is so inclusive as anyone can come p to a table and give it a go and I find at Worthing TTC it is non judgemental and no one is made to feel out of place. I tell everyone I meet how much I love the sport and encourage them all to give it a go. I think that sadly it is an Under estimated sport and sometimes until you actually give it a go you don’t realise how good it is. I have finally persuaded my 21 year old daughter to come and play and she is hooked. She has only been playing for a couple of months but she has already started umpiring at our local league . She suffers with mental health and confidence issues and table tennis is forming a massive support for her in both these areas.
Sadly I feel there are not enough women or wheelchair users in table tennis which really needs to change. I have been very fortunate and never felt excluded because of my gender or disability but I know this is not always the case. Often classes are very heavy dominated by men and this can be quote off-putting for women. I teach an all girl group on a Monday afternoon and I think starting with all girl groups is a good introduction into table tennis as it builds up confidence skill and self belief to enable to adapt to a male enviroment a bit easier. It is always a real buzz to see girls giving boys a good thrashing at the game and I think this is the same for me being a wheelchair user. Playing local league I play alot of male players which can be quite nerve racking but as my game improves and I get better I am able to give them a bit of a run for their money . I don’t actually win but I take quite a few points off them and it earns me alot of respect which is brilliant as it closes the barrier between ability and disability.
Venues can sometimes be tricky but an awful amount of effort is made to accommodate me and my wheelchair. Ramps are provided and the table I play at is always close to the entrance so I don’t have to try and wheel past all the barriers. I have also yet to play where there isn’t an accessible toilet which is great news too. When I coach I always have someone to put tables up for me even if they just come along to do just that. It really shows that there are always ways around situations to include people and quite often it is just lack of knowledge that prevents things from happening and I am more than happy to work with people to educate them and make things happen.