Inspirational teen sets up para club

A strong belief that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy sport has led one Tadcaster Grammar School student to follow her dream.

Saturday, 21st May 2016, 12:01 am

With determination and a passion to help others, 15-year-old Jemima Browning has started Stingrays at Tadcaster Swimming Pool, a new swimming squad for young people with disabilities.

What grew from a seed of thought is now a reality for the Year 10 student and her 13-year-old brother Will who has Down’s Syndrome and also attends Tadcaster Grammar School.

“I have always loved swimming and strongly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy sport,” said Jemima.

“I have a brother with Down’s Syndrome, who is developing his swimming skills and hoping to compete in the future.

“He has enriched my life and taught me so much about what it means to be disabled and how we should never put limits on what we think individuals can achieve.”

Jemima has been swimming all her life and been a member of Tadcaster Swim Squad for five years.

She competes at local, County and Regional competitions and volunteers as an in-pool assistant during swimming lessons at Tadcaster Swimming Pool.

“Some time ago, I approached Fiona Garnett, the Swimming Development Manager at Tadcaster pool and asked her about starting up a swimming squad for young people with disabilities, something I have always had a passion to do,” said Jemima.

“Fiona felt similarly and we have worked together on this project,” she added. “I decided on a name and designed a logo for the squad, and although we have had to go through a long process to secure funding, obtain backing from North Yorkshire and find a qualified coach, Tadcaster Stingrays started four weeks ago and we have now been recognised by the ASA North East and feature on their website.”

Fiona Garnett has nothing but praise for Jemima’s efforts and said: “For many months Jemima has helped with our Junior Fit Club for older children and has pestered in a very nice way to start a more advanced group for children with disabilities, in the hope that we can eventually form a competitive club for these children. She is so enthusiastic and has gone that extra mile to encourage new members.”

Tadcaster Stingrays is open to young people aged between 11 and 18 with learning and physical disabilities who can already swim unaided without armbands for at least 25 metres.

Jemima explained that the club is all about inclusion and promoting sport for all.

It is an opportunity for the young people to gain a sense of belonging and to be proud members of a group.

“I see this as extremely important, as some young people with a disability can feel so isolated and different,” said Jemima.

“I want to stop every child or young person feeling this way, whilst keeping fit and having fun swimming,” she added.

“As a group we pride ourselves on training together as a team.”

Jemima’s parents Ben and Samantha Browning are justly proud of their daughter’s achievements.

“Having a son with Down’s Syndrome has changed our lives but purely in a positive way and we embrace being a little bit different as a family,” said Mrs Browning.

“Will is adored by Jemima and our other daughter Tabitha and they both seem to have developed a subtle, inbuilt radar for anyone who may need a bit of extra help and we frequently learn lessons from their approach to disability,” she added.

“Tadcaster Grammar School has been hugely supportive of our children and we would also like to thank Fiona Garnett at Tadcaster Pool for her proactive support.

“Jemima’s unending enthusiasm and focussed drive to improve the lives of people with learning and physical disability never ceases to amaze and humble us in equal measures.

“We are extremely proud of her and wish the Tadcaster Stingrays all the success it deserves.”

Jemima added: “I am so happy to have Tadcaster Stingrays up and running and feel enormously privileged to be the in-pool assistant, experiencing first-hand the amazing steps the young people make and how much fun they have together.

“In order for the squad to be the success it has the potential to be, we need more members to join and benefit from the training sessions and everything they offer, which includes improved fitness, better swimming technique, friendship, support and perhaps the possibility of taking part in galas one day.

“Who knows, there may be a future Special or Para Olympian amongst us!”

For further information please contact Tadcaster Swimming Pool on 01937 833001 or email Fiona Garnett on [email protected]