THE first inclusive grassroots disability hockey festival took place in Birmingham ahead of the Commonwealth Games this summer with disabled and non-disabled participants playing together recreationally.
The festival was delivered by Midland Mencap, one of the West Midlands leading learning disability charities, in partnership with Access Sport and England Hockey.
And more than 100 participants took part in the latest Flyerz festival with the aim of the programme to make the sport more accessible and inclusive for all.
The festival took place at King Edward VI Five Ways School, with the game unchanged although sessions and equipment are adapted where needed to ensure inclusivity of any disability or long-term health condition.
Running in the West Midlands since 2015, the Flyerz programme is a disability-inclusive approach to hockey which enables disabled and non-disabled players to play together, allowing the whole family to join in and be physically active.
With more than 50 clubs across the country currently running the programme, England Hockey believes the festival can set a strong example of inclusive practice and will encourage more clubs from the local area to set up their own Flyerz programmes and further disability inclusion in club hockey.
Midland Mencap Coordinator, Steve Bradley said: “The West Midlands Flyerz Festival has been fantastic for anyone who wants to participate in accessible and inclusive sport.
“Whether you have a long-term health condition, a disability, whether you have played before or not, and events like this are fantastic for participants and volunteers to celebrate how well they’re doing.
“It shows everyone that participating in sport regardless of any additional needs, with a focus on grassroots participation and no pressure to play at a competitive level.
“We’re delighted to have enjoyed such a successful session with many new players trying out for the first time, and look forward to continuing our inclusive practice and inspiring more people to stay in sport.”
One of Harborne Hockey club’s long-standing disabled players, Oliver Clayton added: “I really enjoyed this chance to play hockey with all my friends, although my favourite thing is still scoring goals!
“All of the Flyerz volunteers are brilliant, and the programme is great for me and others to play sport and have fun.”
Changing Sports Manager, Access Sport, Adam Bone said: “It’s been fantastic to celebrate and showcase Flyerz hockey with Midland Mencap and England Hockey in the lead up to this year’s Commonwealth Games.
“We want all sports to be inclusive as it very much should be a full representation of society, and you can see how positive sessions like this are for participants.
“Sport gives so many benefits beyond physical fitness – it improves confidence and mental wellbeing, so an inclusive approach is essential because it shows that sport is for everyone.
“Events like this are here to show that it’s fun and rewarding for everyone involved, and we’re keen to support any hockey club or national governing body to provide more inclusive opportunities for all.”
To find your local Flyerz session, search Flyerz hockey