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Intro: Choice and Control, a podcast celebrating people with disability. In this season we're talking about access, inclusion, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This podcast series is brought to you by Carers Queensland, NDIS Local Area Coordination Partner in the Community.
00:23 Taryn Forster: Hi, I'm Taryn Forster. What comes to mind when you think about iconic Queensland sports? State of Origin, beach cricket, maybe surfing? You're probably not thinking of ice hockey, but the sport has a Queensland following. And today we're taking a break from the heat and getting some ice time. I dropped in at Para Ice Hockey Queensland's recent training session at Ice World skating rink at Boondall to meet the team and have a go myself.
Today we'll hear from a coach about the benefits of the sport, as well as the head of Ice World about how the accessible sessions have brought new players to the facility. But first I caught up with a couple of players to find out more about the sport itself.
00:59 Cecilia: Hi, I'm Cecelia. I am a mother, I am a para ice hockey participant. I was introduced to the sport by one of the members of the para ice hockey team. He heard my story about how before my stroke I was into a lot of extreme sports and he came and spoke to me at the end and said, ‘you can still do a sport. Have you ever heard of sledge hockey?' I said, ‘I have not'. I didn't even think I could do it because I only have the one working arm. So I'm picturing myself out of any sport that requires two arms, which is really hard for me because I just wanted to be involved in sport again.
So I took up his offer to come and give it a go, which meant I needed a pusher. – my sledge has a handlebar for an able-bodied skater to push me around on – and that's how I can be involved in the sport. And it was very exciting for me. I think that first few sessions, I was over excited to say the least. And now it's, the journey has been calming down of that excitement and learning the rules and skills that come along with that. Obviously handling the puck with one stick requires some interesting techniques that I need to get used to.
02:28 Taryn: Cecilia you mentioned you were able to bring some family along. You had your son join you, is that right?
02:31 Cecilia: Yeah. My son came to a come and try day and he was super excited. I just didn't think I'd be participating in sports with my son, for some strange reason. So, para ice hockey has just opened that door and he was very excited, he wants to have his birthday party on para ice hockey equipment. So yeah, I would love to have him come along a few more times.
03:05 Taryn: Tony Doevandans is another para ice hockey player. So Tony, how does it compare to the mainstream version?
03:14 Tony: The game is very similar to able-bodied ice hockey in that you have five skaters on the ice and one goalie per team.
Positionally, you play the same. The protective equipment is all the same. You just have the difference of sitting on a sledge with a
couple of skates underneath you. You're propelling yourself with two hockey sticks instead of one, with picks in the butt end of each stick so that they can grip the ice and propel you forward. The other end of the stick, of course, you use for shooting or passing, handling the puck.
03:54 Taryn: So if you could tell me then, how did you get into para ice hockey?
03:58 Tony: One of the other fellows, Andrew, told me about it. Word of mouth, that seems to be more successful.
04:06 Taryn: Where would you like to see the sport go?
04:09 Tony: Well, we still have sporadic numbers. We've only got the ice time at the moment mid-week in the mornings. And that doesn't suit everybody of course, because people work or go to school. Getting an opportunity to play outside of business hours would be good, so that we can attract more people. Once we get to 20 or so people on a regular basis, we can look at switching players in and out during a game situation or a simulation of a game, so that we can get used to the whole idea of substitutions. And then building up the numbers from there, we could possibly have two, preferably three teams of people in Brisbane alone. Just able to have a friendly little social competition.
05:00 Gregor: I'm Gregor Rosenberg, if there is an accent you can pick up it’s Swedish but I've been in Australia for what is now 13, 14 years. I play and coach ice hockey, able-bodied and sledge hockey. I've been doing that for most of my life more or less.
05:15 Taryn: Gregor, from a coaching perspective, what would you say are the highlights of para ice hockey?
05:22 Gregor: So as Tony mentioned, it is very similar structurally. The ice hockey is played as an aerobic sport. So you’re supposed to be out on the ice and then you change. And that maintains and makes sure that the speed is high. So you're actually, so the team overall, even though as Tony mentioned is only five skaters plus the goalie on the ice at any point in time per team, the team itself would actually be up to 15 or 20 skaters. But you're let out in shifts if you like without stopping the play. And that sort of maintains the speed and the intensity.
So when you watch a sledge or able-bodied hockey, you're wondering how these guys can do it for such a long (time), they don't. They only do it for 40 seconds at a time, every three, four minutes. But structurally, rule-wise, it’s very similar. There are a couple of small differences when it comes to penalties and things like that as you would expect. Then it's obviously a little bit harder to trip
somebody up when they are in the sled, but you could hook them or you could slash and things like that. So those penalty rules are very similar. So overall structurally and tactically, it is fairly similar.
06:44 Taryn: And Gregor in terms of taking the sport forward, obviously from a coaching perspective you would see some other
elements as well. What would you like to see?
06:55 Gregor: Sledge hockey is no different to able-bodied hockey in terms of numbers in Australia. It's a minority sport. Able-bodied I think is placed number 33 out of 37 countries. So that will tell you something. And partly the reason for that is number one, it's minority sport and many people don't know it exists. Secondly, ice time availability and resources in terms of ice rinks is obviously another reason.
But it’s also the distances: if you only have opportunity to play against interstate teams once or twice a year, then all you end up
with is competition within each city. And it's the same for Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane. Melbourne and Sydney are slightly different because they have two or three rinks, or four or five even. And so they are able to have a slightly more participation, which means you have a more healthy tournament and competition overall.
But as Tony mentioned for us to be able to bring this forward at all, we would need to increase the numbers. Not only in Brisbane to
around 25-30, but we'd need 25-30, or even more in Sydney, we would need for 30 people in Victoria, et cetera, et cetera. And then
we may be able to on a maybe quarterly basis have interstate tournaments and larger participation that way. Yes, you develop skills, yes, you develop the understanding of the overall game, but if you're never allowed to put it into practice, then you never really know how the game is really played on, in the heat of the moment, if you like. And without that we will never be able to have a competitive national team.
Para ice hockey is no different in terms of its challenges to able-bodied hockey. And in many ways, even though the rules are the same or the structure is the same, or the field is the same if you like, the rink is the same, it is two separate sports. So there's nothing stopping abled bodies to participate. But also the level of disability, because the group is very varied. So their level of disabilities range from lower limb amputees, to quadriplegic, and abled body full-stop. And all of them can participate on almost equal basis.
For example, in Cecilia’s case there is opportunity to have a pusher and off you go, and you’re still active and still participating in not only in the sport itself, but also in the social activity of playing a game. So again, I think there's opportunity for all abilities.
09:43 Taryn: So what would people expect if they turned up to a come and try session or a training session?
09:50 Tony: Probably they could expect to meet the ice a few times. You don't stay upright all the time in this game, much as you might try. But there's not a long way to fall. You just have to get used to your balance. You can get very impressed very quickly with how fast and how far the puck can travel when it's hit. Yeah, the speed of the game can really be up there when you're into it.
10:19 Taryn: Tony and Cecilia, you are both receiving NDIS funding. Is the NDIS supporting you in any way to take part in this sport?
10:28 Cecilia: Yes. I'm supported via the ability to get my pusher for the sled to attend with me. It's called social support, access to that part of the component through NDIS. So, I couldn't do this sport without it. I'm really grateful that NDIS has provided that kind of support.
10:55 Tony: I didn't need that side of things going. I can get myself to and from the rink okay and organise myself into my gear and my sled. But, I actually applied to receive the funding for my sled through the NDIS. They are supporting people who are wanting to
play sport and recreation for fun and for fitness and the social aspect of it quite well. That is a really good part of the NDIS.
11:29 Taryn: In each of your opinions what could sport do to be more inclusive of people with disability?
11:38 Cecilia: Thinking outside the box, for all abilities to be able to come and try sport in general. Another sport I've found particularly accessible is sailing, and quite open to looking at your needs and seeing what you need and what they could do to work with you. And if more sports in general started looking at it from that aspect, what they can do and what resources they have available for them to make it more accessible, then it doesn't matter your ability, it's all abilities welcome to come and try.
12:16 Tony: Certainly sports educators and coaches can have in mind that there's a disability community out there. Wonderful to
have people like Gregor come and be involved in the sport. And I know you said Gregor you don't see it as a disability sport as such.
12:37 Gregor: Sports, if they are run right, could be accessible to the broadest level of disabilities. And so anyone out there which feel ‘oh I can't do this, or this is scary’ or whatever, they should just try whatever they feel is convenient for them or closest. Whether it's basketball or swimming or ice hockey or whatever it may be, whatever's closest and most available.
There's massive social component. So winning, losing, and training and playing games, all of those sort of things are fine. The aspiration for playing in competitive teams, or even for Australia, that's a completely side issue here. I think the social component is way more important and just to get out there and having a go. So whenever there's a come and try for any sport, I think I would encourage anyone to try whatever and something will stick.
I think the sledge community has done really well in terms of both the support from both NDIS, and other grants, both state and
federal. So the equipment is available and that's probably the first thing people will notice when they come for come and try. There's a lot of gear that they need to put on, helmets, cages and gloves and things like that to stay safe. But all of that's available. So there's
nothing, there's no hurdles I feel – please correct me if I'm wrong.
Please keep in mind the social networking aspect of it. That's what I'm seeing as the biggest contribution.
14:07 Taryn: Keith Fullerton is the Chief Executive Officer of Ice Skating Queensland and Ice World Olympic Rinks in Acacia Ridge and Boondall, which is the home of para ice hockey in Queensland. Keith recently headed out onto the ice to have a go himself, taking a break from the interesting job of running an ice skating rink in the subtropics.
14:24 Keith: Managing ice rinks in Queensland is a difficult process, especially around weather. Summer, while we generate a significant income through summer, it's primarily based on the fact that it's thirty-five degrees outside and 10 degrees inside. So being able to keep that 10 degrees is a challenge. It's something we do all year round, but definitely harder through summer. And we try to make sure we accommodate everybody in that space.
14:54 Taryn: You recently took your first turn on the ice with Para Ice Hockey Queensland at a training session at Ice World Boondall. What was that like?
15:03 Keith: Oh, that was fantastic. Lot of fun, really easy to get a grasp of, everyone was welcoming. It was such an enjoyable
experience and they're actually on the ice as we speak. And I'm tempted to go down there and jump on again, but, you know, duty
calls and I have to do my job. But it was an amazing experience and would recommend it to anybody.
15:25 Taryn: Ice World have supported Para Ice Hockey Queensland in a number of ways. Can you tell me about that and why the
organisation stepped up?
15:34 Keith: Yeah, so Kelvin approached us about 18 months ago looking for an opportunity to be able to give access to the disabled community, to be able to have an activity that they could participate in on the ice. We give it to them at a significantly reduced rate. So it costs Ice World about $265 per hour for every hour that we're open to maintain the ice. We charge them a significantly reduced rate. They pay a per-head and it's very limited at $5 to enable people to access that without having the restrictions of the financial burden of being able to access an ice sport, because they are generally quite expensive.
16:16 Taryn: Now from your perspective as the CEO of Ice Skating Queensland and Ice World Olympic Rinks, where would you like to see para ice hockey in say three to five years' time? And what do you think it will take to get there?
16:33 Keith: From our perspective I think the biggest thing that we'd like to see is for it to develop and grow and be able to operate
as much as possible, like a mainstream sport. Hockey access a lot of ice, curling, speed (skating) all access a lot of ice, plus Ice Skating Queensland, which I'm the CEO of, and including the public. So with those sports accessing, the biggest challenge that we have moving forward is having enough ice available to be able to accommodate everyone and their ability to grow.
As it stands at the moment, most sports are restricted in their numbers, when it comes to being able to participate on the ice. For
us to be able to accommodate that better, we would really need to be looking at how we go about establishing another facility. And
ideally it would be a dual ice surface, so there'd be two surfaces in the one building. And that would enable us to be able to offer ice to those people requiring it at the time that they require it.
17:41 Taryn: From a business and sports administration perspective, what do you think sports can do to be more inclusive of people with disability?
17:50 Keith: Yeah, I suppose there's a number of things. I think the first thing is being welcoming and looking at being able to modify and adapt your programs, your sports, your activities to meet the needs of the people who are attending. And it's not just those people with disabilities, it's people from culturally different backgrounds, it's people who have different experiences and letting them bring those experiences in and modifying and adapting to make those people feel welcome and be able to participate in an activity.
You know, there's a lot of sports out there that are very focused on what they're trying to achieve and don't look outside of the square. And ultimately, there's a lot of ways in which you can tap into things. And it just means that you need to be a little bit less tringent with the way you operate and look at making the adjustments and modifications to meet the needs of that particular group.
Like we did with para hockey, we had to make some adjustments here, how people got on and off the ice, how access was granted to
the rink, the equipment that was being used on the rink, how we assisted in getting the place ready for them to be able to be here.
You know, there are a number of things that we had to look at and we accommodated that to be able to make sure that we could meet the needs of that group. And we try to do that, not just with the sports, but with everybody who comes in. That's what I'd be recommending to sports is there's plenty of ways to be able to do the one thing. The journey doesn't have to be set. You can change that journey to get to that point, depending on the challenges that arise. And I think especially in the current environment with COVID, it gives you an opportunity to understand that you need to operate differently. If you're trying to operate in the same way, then you're not going to be able to do what you want to do or achieve the goals you needed to achieve. And you just apply that same process to any sporting group or disability group or community group and fit in with those needs. And you'd be surprised at what you can achieve.
19:57 Taryn: Sounds to me like the way that you have been able to adapt to provide this opportunity is bringing you benefit as well. Is that, is that how you would see it?
20:07 Keith: Yeah definitely. The benefit to us is that we've got people utilising our facility at a time that was quiet for us. We don't
make money off it, it's not about the money. It's about making sure we're giving access to people who normally don't have access. And that's what we're trying to achieve, give everybody a good, positive, fun, friendly experience every time they come to the facility,
whether it be with an affiliated sport, a public session or any other visit that they may have.
Outro: Thanks for joining us at Choice and Control, a Carers Queensland podcast. For more information about Carers Queensland, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or the Local Area Coordination Program, please contact us online at www.carersqld.com.au.
Or you can catch up with us on Facebook, search for ‘Carers Queensland NDIS’.
This podcast is a place for people with disability to share experiences, stories, and achievements. If you have a story you think we should know about, please contact us through the Carers Queensland inquiries line on 1300 999 636, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, thanks for listening.