Basketball, badminton, football, cycling, yoga, martial arts, tennis, zumba, swimming, running… These are only some of the activities Sports Buddies chose to do every week together. The good news is that being a Sports Buddy is completely flexible: you can do whatever sport you like at the time that suits you best.
The process is quite simple: we pair up a volunteer with a person with learning disabilities and/or autism according to their sports preferences, location and availability. Together, they decide what activity they want to do, when and where. And then, the magic starts.
People join the project for many reasons: in certain cases, they lack the motivation to do sport on their own; in others, they feel more confident if they exercise with another person; and sometimes, they want to meet new people and socialise. In any case, they sign up for Sports Buddies with two main goals: staying active and making friends. We interview them so that we get to know them better and do our best to find them a great buddy.
The meetup can be weekly or fortnightly, and after having a great time exercising, buddies may go for a coffee, to the cinema or even bowling. It’s about doing sport and staying healthy but it’s also much more than that. Since I started working as a coordinator, I’ve seen how buddies gain confidence and feel empowered throughout their meetups. I’ve seen them accepting new challenges, such as signing up for a swim race, buying an ebike or joining a cricket team. But mostly, I’ve seen them having a great time together and becoming good friends.
So just remember, no exercise is too big or too small. Jason and Iain have been Sports Buddies for almost two years. For Jason, going for walks with Iain has been hugely helpful: “I used to feel isolated before, and Iain has played a close-friend role for me. It’s really good to know that he is there for me; it’s a safe space where I can be who I am. He helped me unlock the joy of walking and doing exercise. Now I really enjoy it!”
Besides this one-to-one regular meeting, buddies can also join the socials we organise every other month. We try different activities: cricket, croquet, badminton, TRX, walking football – even bowling! Because feeling part of a community while doing sports and making friends is always a good idea.
– Feli, Sports Buddies Coordinator