By LAWRENCE MACHADO
For dedicated rugby league coach, Keith Thompson, seeing the smiles on the faces of his players means the world to him. New Zealand-born Thompson is taking adults with disabilities outside their comfort zone and providing them skills and enjoyment they never thought possible.
He is using some of the remarkable skills and mindset of the mighty All Blacks rugby union team to motivate and empower those attending the Afford Windsor Day Program.
“With love and patience, those with disabilities can do anything we can do,” is Thompson’s simple message.
“We began the Afford Windsor Day Program a few months ago and no one knew anything about rugby league,” he said.
“And the response has been overwhelming and just to see them catch the ball makes them so happy.
“It may not seem much to others, but to them catching the ball makes our work so worthwhile.
“We are paid by their smiles.” The Afford Windsor Day Program is designed to help people with disabilities engage stay active, develop skills, and enjoy social interaction for health and wellbeing during COVID-19.
Thompson, a lifestyle assistant at Afford’s Windsor Day program, and his team recently helped Kieran, Daniel, Scott, Luke, Kyle and Keilan learn rugby league and improve their fitness and football skills.
Penrith Panthers’ player Reece Alderton then made their day by presenting them with their jerseys, in recognition of their hard work and enthusiasm.
“The special part of sports is that it makes you cope better in life,” said Thompson, who has been coaching rugby league for 13 years.
“I think this is my calling after years of doing other jobs.
“I am incorporating some of the things the All Blacks have been doing so successfully into these programs because it’s all about having the right mindset.
“During our training with these adults, we cut back to the basics because when they first come to us, they are frightened by the ball.
“But once they get what we are trying to teach them, it brings a massive joy to me to see their smiles.”
The program encourages team building, social skills, physical fitness, giving the participants a sense of being part of a community and team.
“It’s great to see a few of our clients who wouldn’t normally get involved, participating, and becoming part of the team,” explained Claressa Botha, the team leader at the program.
“Our staff love their jobs, they bring their unique abilities to their roles and support every individual to get the most out of life and experience something new.”
The program usually runs every Tuesday at Tamplin Fields, Hobartville, from 11am, weather permitting.
Afford, a registered charity, has been operating in Australia for 68 years, providing a range of disability support to thousands.
Program details: www.afford.com.au or call 1300 233 673