The Natspec Games is a national sports competition that aims to provide inclusive sporting opportunities for young people with SEND. It is run in partnership with AoC Sport and is supported by Sport England. 2019 marks the fourth time the Natspec Games has run, this time in five different locations.
South West Games
Thursday 16 May 2019 marked the launch of the first annual South West Natspec Games, hosted by ROC College, Totnes (part of United Response) and held in Torbay Leisure Centre, Paignton. Students travelling from across the south west regions gathered together to participate in an exciting day of indoor and outdoor activities including football, cycling and tennis along with a few less familiar events such as Boccia and Taiko drumming.
Seven Natspec member colleges throughout the south west regions attended on the day including: Fairfield Farm College, WESC, ROC College, Farleigh FE College, Eat That Frog, Exeter Deaf Academy and Foxes Academy. On hand to assist in the smooth running of events were an enthusiastic team of Sport Coaching & Development student volunteers from the neighbouring South Devon College in Torquay. James Heseltine-Carr and Aiden Lethbridge, two of the young volunteers, were keen to communicate how much of a privilege it was for them to be able to attend and help in the success of the day. They stressed that volunteering would help them broaden their understanding and skill base and in turn, gain a wider knowledge when working with special needs and disabled students to take them forward into their future careers.
The opening ceremony went off with a bang as Rebecca Quantrill, Education, Skill Training and Work 2 Work Manager for ROC College warmly welcomed the students to Paignton and outlined the days itinerary. All participants were invited to simply ‘have a go and try any of the activities on offer’. The emphasis was clearly placed on enjoyment and participation rather than competition. The ceremony concluded with an amazing cacophony of fun, excitement, noise, dance and colour as a group of students from ROC Creative performed an improvised music and dance extravaganza. Hard not to be motivated and moved by the enthusiasm displayed by the students involved, and in turn, the vibrant spectacle lead rapturously into the commencement of the day’s proceedings.
Seven very different activities were on offer along with a detailed itinerary of which colleges should be where and when at any given time. The itinerary was aimed at creating a framework to focus the day and ensure everyone had a turn at each event. In the words of the ROC College Principal Therese Timberlake “each student and college will be able to roll with the day at their own pace. The overarching aim is to maintain a calm, fun and exciting atmosphere” and this aim was clearly achieved and evident in the faces of all the individual participants without exception.
Taiko Drumming, an outside pursuit due to the noise, was a great success and very popular amongst all the students. Led by Lucy and Hannah, the mini-workshop introduced the students to Japanese drums and drumming, and in Lucy’s own words, “It’s uniquely accessible, challenging and fun for all.” She evidently wasn’t wrong.
Other outdoor activities available included dance, football and cycling, and it was clear throughout the day that the warm weather, excellent facilities , and enthusiasm of all involved, ensured that ‘rolling with the day’ was certainly achieved in full measure and by all involved.
Shannon Howarth, Disability Development Officer from the Association of Colleges (AoC) Sports played a huge part in the planning of the events overall. She remarked on how well the day had gone, and stressed the importance of offering a safe environment for students to freely engage with one another, and hoped to engage all the same colleges and more next year to ensure the games go on to be bigger, better and more inclusive year on year. “The aim is that everyone finds something they enjoy doing and are compelled to continue it outside of today. In turn, this can lead to a healthy and active lifestyle going forward”.
A day out in Torbay is exciting enough, but include Bobby Singh, Team Leader for ROC Active, based in Torbay Leisure centre, and the excitement is raised to another level. With 16 years of experience and a solid gold team of committed and focussed individuals, it’s little wonder that the first Natspec Games held in the South West were a rip roaring success.
The day ended with many a big thank you, most notably, to the team at ROC College for their amazing planning, creative thinking and sheer determination in ensuring 2019 was a year to remember.