Episode 21:

From Idea to Reality—Sports Ability in North Queensland

Published: February 2012: Updated: June 2013, August 2017

Partners: Amanda Pascall

Amanda Pascall lives in north Queensland in Australia and has been instrumental in establishing Sports Ability, an inclusive games program in her region. She developed a competition format with local community organisations and then, importantly, looked at how this can be sustainable for years to come. Some valuable lesson to be learnt here.

The Inclusion Club—Episode21 Amanda Pascall HeadshotAbout three years ago I met a lady called Amanda Pascall. Amanda works for a disability support agency called UnitingCare Community in North Queensland, Australia. I was introduced to her by my friends from Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association (remember we profiled them in an earlier episode).

Over the years my friends at Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association have proven to be pretty fine judges of character. At the time we were all working to ‘join the gaps’ between sporting clubs and associations and agencies in the disability sector. It was clear to me very quickly why Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association were so keen to get Amanda involved. Not that she needed much encouragement!

Anyway, in a short space of time Amanda has driven some real change in her corner of the world and I’d like to introduce you to a little bit of that change in this episode.

First of all though, let me give you an idea of where, geographically speaking, Amanda works.

The Sports Ability Games took place late last year in Townsville. It was the result of training and work that had taken place over the course of one year in the towns of Burdekin, Charters Towers and Bowen.

It doesn’t look that far on the map but these are good distances to travel.

The Sports Ability Games are based on the inclusive games program of the same name—Sports Ability. We will do a lengthy episode on Sports Ability in the future but it essentially comprises of a set of inclusive games, many of which are recognised sports.

The core Sports Ability Games used in Australia are Table Cricket, Sitting Volleyball, Boccia, Goalball and Polybat. There are these games and a number of development activities for each game.

What Amanda did was take the concept of Sports Ability and turn it into a tournament, with teams and competitions.

Now, you may be thinking that you’ve seen this kind of organised activities before. But, before I try to explain some of the key characteristics of this particular event, of which I think there are some important learnings, let’s hear from Amanda herself and see some of the Sports Ability Games in action.


Looks like they had a lot of fun eh!

I asked Amanda a few questions about the Games.

Q. Can you briefly describe how the program started?

The weekly sport program started by identifying the need in Townsville for an opportunity for adults with an intellectual disability to be involved in sport.

We then applied for a small grant from the local council to initially fund the program. Also, finding the right people with a passion for sport and experience in working with people with disabilities to run the program.

Q. What are some of the key success factors in what has been achieved?

Really, the key factor has been the personality of the person running the program. A real interest in sport is essential, especially when communicating with and engaging development officers in mainstream sports to be involved int he program. An accessible friendly venue also helps a great deal.

Q. What are three ‘lessons learned’ so far?

  1. Always ensure support workers get involved.
  2. Start the program the same way each week, routine really works!
  3. Don’t be afraid to approach mainstream sports and ask them to get involved. Often, the coaches comment after a workshop how it’s the first time they have coached people with disabilities and how great the experience was.

Q. What was your single biggest challenge in setting up this program?

Securing ongoing funding.

Q. What do you think will be it’s legacy?

Sport is now part of people’s lives.

In addition to the above I think there are some other hallmarks of this event that are worth considering.

Key Learnings

There were a few distinctive hallmarks about what Amanda and her colleagues did in north Queensland that are worth considering.

  • Preliminary training
    Prior to the main Sports Ability Games UnitedCare held training and mini-competitions in towns in the region to build up awareness and skills. This led to much more awareness and understanding about what the Games were about. People were comfortable with the format and knew what to expect.
  • Professional recording
    This is something that many organisers forget but is important in terms of sustainability. They budgeted for a professional recording of the event. The videos you see here were done by a professional. Why is this important? Well, in years to come UnitedCare want to expand the program into other areas—this could mean there is a need for increased funding. What better way to convince future funding bodies of the value of something like these Games than to show them a professional recording of the program. Of course, this is also great general promotion, too.
  • Partnerships
    It’s difficult to do justice here to the number of partnerships it took to make this happen. Partnerships don’t happen by accident. Amanda and her colleagues formed multiple partnerships throughout the course of the year—everyone from the volunteers on the day, the caterers, the funding bodies, local sports organisations, the centre managers, etc, etc etc.Each team were responsible for getting sponsorship from their local community to pay for their team shirts thus creating support from local businesses and the community.
  • Realistic budgeting and planning
    Rather than rush into something like this there was adequate time, planning and budgeting allowed for to give an event such as this the best possible chance of success. They secured funding from the Queensland Government Active Inclusion Program. This would have taken time and considerable planning.
  • Organisation on the day
    You can see from the video that the Games day itself was very well organised. There was a planned schedule of activities, a presentation session, medals, transport, equipment …As this was the first event of its kind in the region it was important that it was a success and that participants and volunteers left wanting to come back next year.
  • Focus on fun
    It almost goes without saying but it’s not always so easy to achieve. The focus of this event was on ‘fun’. Sometimes, some people, take sport far too seriously. Clearly, the organisers and instructors and officials at this event were of the same mind set—that participants must have a lot of fun on the day.Yes, like most of us, people like to win. But the fun approach here was planned for and well executed. Some teams won, but all teams were acknowledged and awarded medals at the end.

These are a good set of principles to go with when organising an event such as this.

To conclude this little snapshot of the North Queensland Sports Ability Games below you’ll see a poem spoken and written by one of the participants, Tania Reid, at the end of the event that just about sums up what these Games were all about. It’s called ‘Fly Like An Eagle.’

Pretty good, eh!

Until next time.

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About the author: Peter Downs

About the author: Peter Downs

Founding Director - The Inclusion Club

Peter is Founding Director of The Inclusion Club and Manager of Play by the Rules – a national initiative to promote safe, fair and inclusive sport. Peter has worked for over 25 years in the field of inclusive sport, disability sport and physical activity including 17 years managing the Australian Sports Commission’s Disability Sport Unit.  In 2013 Peter was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill Fellowship to study models of best practice in inclusive sport and physical activity.