Panathlon has ignited not only a deep love for sport, but a profound change of mindset and self-esteem in 16-year-old Freddie Fairbrass from Kent.
Freddie has dyspraxia hypermobility and generalised ligamentous laxity, his movement is restricted and he is unable to sit on the floor. He wears special supportive shoes and finds walking and running uncomfortable.
Freddie has a rare chromosomal abnormality, global developmental delay, autism, asthma and epilepsy. He has significant visuospatial problems for which he wears reactalite glasses.
For all these reasons, Freddie, who attends the Beacon School, Folkestone, struggled to access mainstream sports with and against his peers. But since first attending a Panathlon event three years ago, Freddie’s attitude to sport changed and as a result sport went on to have a hugely positive impact on Freddie’s overall wellbeing.
Through Panathlon, Freddie has developed a passion for sport, and boccia in particular. He was a big part of the Shepway team that won gold in the boccia at a Panathlon event this year.
Ben Walker, PE Coordinator and Leader of Learning at Beacon School, said: “Freddie executed some incredible shots, which honestly left the umpires and me speechless. He was in a different class.”
The youngster has gone on to represent Kent at the South East regional Boccia finals and then played for the South East at the Lord’s Taverners National Boccia Schools Finals. At Panathlons, he also enjoys the relay running races, the javelin and New Age Kurling.
It’s why Freddie was awarded the 2018/19 Outstanding Achievement Award for Kent at the Kent Multisport Final in Canterbury on June 25.
More than just the sporting and physical activity benefits, Panathlon has brought a positive psychological change in Freddie, giving him self-belief and confidence.
His teacher, Mr Walker, said: “Freddie used to find it hard to relate to his peers, which led to him being quite insular and mainly engaging with adults at school. During the previous academic year, Freddie was on the brink of leaving the school altogether due to his ongoing difficulties with peer relationships.
“Sport, though, has brought out the best in Freddie. He has developed his social skills through competition and has been able to make new friends. The rise in his self-esteem and confidence through sporting success has led to him seeing himself positively and, as a result, he actually praises and encourages others where in the past he may have chosen not to do so.
“I have literally seen a huge transformation first hand, from witnessing his occasional unkindness towards peers, to now over-hearing him say really encouraging things both during, following and outside of the competition setting.”
“I have never met a more enthusiastic and willing competitor. He is not only incredibly highly motivated to take part in sport but he has grown into a leader, captain and encourager. His attitude encapsulates all the best values in any sportsperson.
“He is both determined and resilient, he is competitive and seeks to achieve to the best of his ability, but he is also gracious in defeat and respectful towards his rivals.
“He forms good relationships with his competitors almost immediately, by wishing them good luck before a game, having a laugh and a joke where he can and praising the other team when they execute a good shot. Freddie is always the first to go over and shake his competitors’ hand and say well done.”
Best of all, Freddie is now sharing his knowledge and experience across the school by leading a lunchtime Disability Sport club for Key Stage 3 students. The club includes boccia coaching but also New Age Kurling and other activities.