My name is Natasha Coates and I do gymnastics. To be more specific, I do disability gymnastics as I have a rare condition called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS).
MCAS in my case causes a multitude of life-threatening symptoms and means that I no feeling from my elbows and knees down when exercising. Having been a gymnast from the age of 8 I had grown up in the sport, however when I developed my disability at the age of 18 I was no longer able to keep up with mainstream sport. Since switching to disability gymnastics in 2014 I have won 22 British titles, but more importantly I have made amazing friends, had fantastic opportunities and achieved things I was told my body would never be able to do!
Last summer my family and I moved 100 miles from where I had lived my entire life to be nearer my specialists in Nottingham. This meant leaving my gymnastics club and I was faced with having to find a new one. This was my first taste of trying to find an accessible leisure activity. Here’s what I did to find what I needed to be able to take part in the sport that I loved:
- I was honest. I ended up creating a 3-page word document all about me, my disability and the adaptations I required. I think this may have scared a few people but I wanted to surround myself with people that understood and the only way we can get rid of the fear and stigma is to educate. So, my 3-page document became the base of that education.
- Explain your normal. As I said above the word document helped because it showed what my normal was. For example, I can faint during exercise. Now to a non-disabled person fainting is a scary thing but for me it’s a part of my weekly life and I needed a plan in place so I didn’t end up in an ambulance every time just for a faint.
- Shop around. If the first place you look isn’t right then keep looking. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you aren’t human and you shouldn’t have to settle for less than you need.
- Go with friends. If you’re like me and get nervous in new situations, arrange to go with a friend or family member to make the transition easier.
Remember, sport is for everyone! Try not to worry about taking or doing the right thing, even Paralympians were once beginners!
Do you take part in any sports, or are there any that you have been wanting to try? It would be great to hear what you think!