Episode 49:

Play and Train from Spain

Date released: September 2013. Updated September 2017

Partners: Sylvana Mestre and Marions Mademont

Play and Train are a not-for-profit organisation from Spain that is really pushing the boundaries of inclusion. Driven by a very strong commitment and passion of Sylvana Mestre and Mariona Mademont. They are a great example of what can be achieved—in a relatively short time—when you have these key ingredients. Here, we look at their work and hear from Mariona directly.

It’s always a great pleasure at The Inclusion Club to bring to you the great work of organisations around the world who are pushing the boundaries of inclusion. Today we are off to Spain to look at the amazing progress of an organisation called Play and Train.

The Inclusion Club—Play & Train Logo

These type of organisations often come about as the result of the passion and commitment of a handful of people. Play and Train is the shared passion of two people—Mariona Mademont and Sylvana Mestre.

As well as passion and commitment, they have a wealth of experience. This experience has payed dividends for individuals engaged in Play and Train activities. The activities are exciting and inclusive and, importantly, lead to lifelong education and employment options for people with disability? How do they do it? Well, in a broad sense, they do it with a fundamental set of values that shine through when you meet Mariona and Sylvana. You will see in the interview with Mariona below but it is worthwhile sharing their values, since they are so important in what they do:

  • Passion for what we do
  • Responsibility and commitment
  • Professionalism
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Teamwork, we are all important
  • Innovation, we develop solutions

You will see in the interview with Mariona all of these values shining through. Play and Train also like a challenge. They run both winter and summer programs and do not take the easy option—with their flagship sports being skiing in the winter and surfing in the summer. First, to understand a bit more about Play and Train it’s best to watch the interview with Mariona so she can explain in her own words.

As you see Play and Train conduct many of their activities in often challenging environments – the snow and the water! This is really one of the hallmarks of what they do. Speaking of which, we have picked out 5 hallmarks of their work that we think are worth discussing here for your benefit.

Challenge, innovate and problem solve

Mariona and Sylvana talk a lot about innovation. It’s one of their core values. This is a good space to be in. As we have previously discussed, adapting and modifying is often a creative and innovative process. Inclusion can depend on it. In the environments that they work in they must be innovative and they must be good problem solvers! It goes with the territory! You can see how this builds their expertise and leads to opportunities that were perhaps hidden in the beginning.

Thinking about ‘what happens next’?

What Play and Train do is more than running activities. They provide an important link between the programs that they operate and the possibilities for education and employment beyond sport. This is really where the huge value of inclusion and programs such as the ones that Play and Train operate is seen. It’s creating sustainable inclusion in the community and giving people a real sense of personal achievement.

Play and Train Website

Thanks to Mariona and Sylvana from Play and Train and keep up the great work.

If you have any comments on this episode we’d love to hear from you.

Being a catalyst for inclusion

Again, we have talked about this before. You cannot be a gatekeeper of inclusion. Inclusion cannot work that way. Play and Train understand this and have developed approaches that empower others to take responsibility for inclusion. For example, they provide ski instructors with education around inclusion through the Disability Sport Education Program; they provide guidelines on inclusive sports facilities; they provide advice on the use of adaptive equipment.

Continuous improvement

Mariona talked about this in our interview. Despite their many years of experience they are continually looking for ways to improve, to innovate and to learn about their work. For example, they are involved in research projects with the University of Barcelona; they are involved with a ‘Hospisport’ program—a program for hospitals and healthcare providers; they participate in International Development camps with the International Paralympic Committee and manage an adapted sport centre in La Molina.

Understanding pathways

Finally, another hallmark of Play and Train is that they understand very well, that for some of their participants, it’s important to have pathways to higher levels of performance and competition. Not everyone is interested in moving onto higher levels of performance. Many people are happy doing what they do. But, for those people that want to improve in their chosen activity and who want to participate in higher levels of competition then they should have the opportunity to do so. Play and Train do this by linking programs to existing coaches and programs and building relationships with external providers. This leads to new opportunities and performance pathways.

At the time of writing Play and Train were re-vamping their website—playandtrain.org. We will update this link as soon as they are ready so please visit them and lend your support. You can also ‘Like’ them on Facebook to keep up-to-date—go and say hola!


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.