VX is a particularly inclusive sport. Played by males and females on a totally equal footing, it encourages participation, especially among less-sporty children. Equally important is its accessibility to players with a wide range of physical and cognitive impairments.
VX International filmed the session with Ian Crosby, CEO of VX England, and Philip at the Harrogate Squash Centre on behalf of VXTV. Afterwards we sat and chatted to Ian and Phil and got an insight into why VX is such an inclusive sport:
Paul: How did you get involved Phil?
Philip: I have to say first how proud I am to be invited to become a patron of this new burgeoning sport. I came across VX at Trinity University, Leeds. Helen asked me to participate in this new game that Iíd never seen before. The thing that attracted me to VX was that I could see parallels to the type of games Iíd used in my rehab and recovery from near fatal motorbike accident. Iíd used tennis & badminton as a way of developing balance, proprioception and movement skills and VX has all of those qualities but times 10, I think. And the great thing about it is that itís super fun aswell
Itís fast paced, itís really inclusive so boys play girls and I think itís really accessible to people with a real range of physical and cognitive impairments and I think itís a really useful way of engaging people in sport, aswell
Paul: what about you, Ian?
Ian: First can I say how much Iíve enjoyed playing VX here with our new patron, Philip Sheridan. Weíre pleased to welcome you on board, Phil. Weíre very proud to have you on board and I look forward to working closely with you.
OK, Iíve been involved in VX since 2007 when I was invited along to the inaugural World Cup and I was just absolutely staggered by the amount of movement and how everybody was getting involved. There was not one person still at all. And I could immediately see the application for a group of young people that I was working with in Salford where I was working with as Local Authority Sports Development Officer.
They had a range of learning disabilities across the spectrum from moderate learning disabilities right the way through the spectrum to quite severe learning disabilities.
It was the sheer pace of the game, the amount of fitness involved and the way there was something for everybody to get involved with. Thereís multiple balls going around - everyone was active throughout the entire game. The way that there was not one person standing still. And there was a whole range of movement and skills involved happening on the court in front of me, and it was just so impressive and when I learnt that Scotland had a National Governing Body and there wasnít one in England, thatís when VX England was established.
Since then weíve gone out and shown the sport and it is just the most universal sport Iíve ever seen. Boys and girls can play together. People of different ages can get involved together. People with a disability can play against people without a disability or with people with a completely different disability. Now with what Phil is proposing with looking at rehabilitation applications it is breaking down another barrier between physical therapy and occupational therapy. This is something I have experience of myself. I acquired a brain injury as a young teenager and I remember sitting in the gym nose over my toes, standing up, tuck your bum in, donít lock your knees out and it was just repetitive and boring and in the very next gym thereís young people with cystic fibrosis doing rebound therapy on the trampolines and I thought Ďthat looks so much more fun than what Iím doingí and I can totally empathise with what Phil was saying about engaging with people and doing something fun as part of rehabilitation and I can totally see how VX with its universal range of movements fits the bill. Youíre never still Ė youíre always twisting, bending, moving, stretching. I can certainly see how it can be applied.
Paul: So, Phil, you played today. What was it like?
Philip: It was great fun to play. I think, really a key part of the inclusiveness is that as an adult I got to play with both boys and girls, I got to play with Tom who is really good at VX and we all had great fun doing so. I never felt out of my depth at any point and I donít think anyone else did. No-one had any qualms about me coming on the court with my blade, running around. They didnít make any allowances either and that is the whole beauty of it. For me VX has some real strong core values at its heart and I think that is something really important to emphasise about that inclusivity, about the fair play because the onus is on you the player to hold your hand up when you have been hit. The ref may not see, the player who hit you with the ball may not see so it is down to you to act in a spirit of fair play as well so I think those are really useful core values that we could use right now and I think it is always a good reminder for young people as well as adults to remember that the way we participate with one another is based on some core values
Helen: Picking up on that, integrity is one of the keys for us - Honour, integrity and respect.
Philip: Picking up on something Ian said earlier - funnily enough, I joined a head injury group led by the coaching staff of Leeds United and that was a very informal 5-a-side football group in Leeds. Leeds united provided coaches free of charge to guys with range of head injuries and various ways in which that impacted them, but 5-a-side footy was kind of seen as a really important way of engaging these guys who, as you quite rightly said, donít necessarily want to spend their time engaged in repetitive physiotherapy or in a gym environment so I guess it is horses for courses. You are providing yet another avenue for rehab and recovery that gives people the opportunity to choose and make an informed decision about and it could just be that, yeah, I canít play football, or I didnít want to play football or I canít do netball but actually I can do VX.
Ian: Thatís kind of like anything. If there is only Fish and Chips on the menu Öyou canít have fillet steak can you? We are putting the fillet steak on the menu
Paul: you play, donít you Ian
Ian: I do.
Paul: Youíve got a hell of a shot
Helen: youíre very dynamic.
Ian: Phil was mentioning the tediousness of his rehabilitation and how the other people seemed to be having much more fun, but there is another side to it as well in that when you have a severe injury, you feel quite insular and you turn in on yourself and you donít want to be going out. For me I can see myself doing the training on my own because I wouldnít want to be seen and suddenly weíve got something that is a bit more social and the fun element of it and youíre actually playing against people and therefore a team game, even in V2 which is 1v1 youíve got the team element of it and support from the sidelines and stuff and it is not individual and I think that is a really big element of success in the rehabilitation thing. Itís getting people out of their houses, itís getting people meeting other people, joining clubs and the social side Ė you might go for a pint afterwards. The social side of that is a massive part of recovery to be going out to public places at a time when you are feeling vulnerable and insecure about how you might look or, if you are badly burnt or that sort of thing. If it is getting people out there, that is a massive thing. The biggest thing for me was on my Mumís birthday and taking her out and that was the first time I went out without a cap when Iíd lost all my hair and you can go back to things like that and feel, yeah, that was a turning point for me. This could just be a turning point for somebody somewhere that has struggled to get out of the house because of an injury or a scar or whatever.
Philip: I really agree with you because I think that body image is a very important issue and I think, as we take VX forward you should constantly hang on to that image of VX and consciously make sure that people know that VX is really inclusive so you have your elite players on there but they also need to know that people of various body types and images are all playing and enjoying this game alongside and with Ö I think that is important to hang on to because I think thatís an image issue right now. Both men and women are feeling the pressure of body image and I think VX could be a mitigating sport with the core values that it has and that is not to say that VX wonít have a premier league for want of an analogy but again Ė why canít anyone participate? As we just demonstrated now on that little squash court Ė that was quite a level playing field, wasnít it, between some small boys and girls playing with adults and playing with some elite players as well and yet everyone was able to do so and yet the points difference werenít all that dramatic were they, so I think thatís super-important that people see this.
Paul: the group of people we had here today really showed how inclusive it is
Philip: Yes, it did
Helen: As a PE teacher and Director for Sport for Ripon Schools my major part is trying to get girls involved in sport, all children in sport obviously, but I find girls tend to drop off at a certain age. Teenagers Ė itís not cool, donít get sweaty. The mass participation thing is something I work towards and strive towards in everything. I did the Great North Run once and on the back of my medal were 3 words: Participate, Enjoy, Succeed. And if you take any one of those, each leads to the next. If you participate you are likely to enjoy. If you enjoy it and participate you are likely to succeed. If you have success you are likely to participate more so you can go all the way round the triangle and at any point VX can be included in that and also at any level so if you are at your basic club level, come along, participate, youíll enjoy it and youíll have some success. If you are like Tom who is competing at a much higher level Ė heís World Champion, thatís his success. He enjoys it so he participates and so on. Any level, if you take those three words, that triangle of participate, enjoy, succeed then VX needs to be part of that and thatís what I strive to engender.
Philip: I think youíve always got to remember where you came from. I constantly remember my accident, not as a maudlin or melodramatic or, itís just thatís where Iím coming from now and I use that as I came back from near death to a point now where I can come here and play VX with you guys and with boys and girls and have a great time. For some people thatís good enough. So I think thatís really important as well that people feel they can join in and do so at any level.
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