It's often been said that sport is a powerful force for good whether it be building bridges between warring countries, bringing divided communities together or at a more micro level instilling a sense of confidence in youngsters. That's aside from the health benefits that accrue from playing sport.
Luton and Dunstable Squash and Rackets Club (LDS) has had it's own example of that recently in the shape of 7 year-old Oliver Hale-Brown.
Diane, his mother, said, "My husband and I noted from a very early age that Oliver appeared to be very heavy footed. He used to fall over all the time, found stairs very difficult and this was exacerbated due to the fact that he had in toeing of the right foot. Oliver has been seen by several Paediatricians and I think a diagnosis has been hard to formulate. He was seen in 2007 and Dyspraxia was suggested. Following this assessment he had his first block of physiotherapy and then was discharged.
"As he grew older we became concerned that Oliver was still
finding stairs difficult and some of his movements seemed very
ungainly. This was very frustrating and upsetting for Oliver
when other children started to comment on it. The school also
picked up on his inability to do certain movements during physical
education so we decided to have a second opinion. Oliver was seen
again by a different Paediatrician who felt that Oliver had in -co
-ordination and felt that more physiotherapy was required. Since
this second block of physiotherapy he has also been referred to the
orthotics who has issued insoles for Oliver to help with his foot
"This process has been very lengthy and frustrating as there is no quick fix and diagnosis has been very vague. My husband and I have questioned on many occasions whether or not we were doing enough to help Oliver.
"We have seen a significant improvement in Oliver's co -ordination since this second block of physiotherapy and the insoles have changed his foot placement dramatically.
"We have continually encouraged Oliver to do exercise without it seeming a chore; this was difficult at first as Oliver had no interest in any sport and used to shy away, especially from anything that placed pressure or goal setting on him. He showed no desire to win at anything sport related.
"I had been looking for an activity for Oliver to join that he would enjoy and that would not place to much pressure on him, my friend Liz mentioned squash and some of the activities seemed to mirror his physiotherapy programme and we have not looked back since!
"Oliver's confidence has increased dramatically since starting squash. The one to one aspect of coaching has allowed him to reach achievable goals at his pace.
Oliver, has now been discharged from physiotherapy, his physiotherapist was delighted that we had found a fun based sport for Oliver that reinforced so many aspects of physiotherapy.
"We are very proud of the way he has dealt with this situation
as he has worked very hard to achieve what he has to date, always
with a smile on his face. This new confidence has now
transferred across to other sports and he has become a very active
little boy who suddenly wants to win everything!
"When I asked Oliver what was his favourite thing about squash he said "I like using the racket to hit the ball against the wall, my favourite game is when Paul throws the blue ball and everyone has to try and catch it! I did not realise that could hit a ball with a racket until I started squash and now I am really good at it".
Paul Main, Level 2 coach at LDS, said, "When I started coaching Oliver at the end of last year it was clear he had confidence issues, but he stuck at it and week by week, the smile has grown broader and the ability has improved beyond all recognition. Recently I remarked to Diane that I had seen the improvement and that is when she told me about the success of squash in improving not just his confidence, but also his overall level of physical ability. It's successes like this that make coaching so worthwhile."