International Day of People with Disability 2021: elite-athlete student Finn Broadbent opens up about his journey into sport
Friday 3 December is International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD). Held annually and celebrated internationally, the day aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability, and celebrate their achievements and contributions.
IDPwD is an opportunity for us to make positive changes to the lives of the 4.4 million Australians with disability. This year’s Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games once again highlighted that sport can lead the way in breaking down the barriers, biases and stereotypes that limit opportunity.
Research has shown that only one in four people with a disability participate in sport and 75% of Australians with a disability want to take part in sport but feel there are limited opportunities. Unfortunately, 10% of Australians with a disability also report experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment.
Everybody has the right to enjoy an active life with the opportunity to participate in sport, physical activity or any role associated with a sporting community. Involvement in sport can be more than participation through playing; it can help build a sense of belonging and create life-changing community connections.
At its best, sport is inclusive. Sport is for everyone.
That’s why to celebrate IDPwD this year, we’re focusing on the benefits of participation in sport for people with disabilities. We’ve pulled together some Deakin stories of the power of sport, including casting a critical eye over how the industry can improve.
We invited two of Deakin’s elite para-athletes, Finn Broadbent and Matt Felton, to reflect on their respective sports and achievements, and what advice they would share with anyone wishing to take up a sport. Here, we learn more about Finn.
Finn Broadbent is an elite wheelchair tennis player who is studying a Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) with the support of the Deakin Elite Athlete program.
A highly driven youngster, Finn’s journey in sport started when he was a child: ‘I wanted to get involved in sport so that I could keep active and keep my fitness up, as well as enjoy doing things that my friends do,’ he says.
Finn got involved in wheelchair basketball at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC), before then going on to pursue tennis.
‘I saw wheelchair tennis on TV and asked dad if I could do that, we got a contact and I have now been playing for over 7 years. I’ve met some awesome people through tennis and have been lucky enough to have travelled overseas a few times,’ he says.
So what benefits does Finn see regarding participation in sport?
‘It has been a massive benefit to me as I got to meet other people like myself that are in wheelchairs, hearing the different stories and how they ended up in a wheelchair as well as the friendships I’ve made along the way,’ he says.
‘Being able to experience the competitive side and also play against people from other countries has been awesome.’
In terms of career highlights so far, Finn was selected to represent Australia in the Junior World Cup team in 2018 and competed in the Netherlands, finishing fourth overall. In 2019, his proudest moment in sport was being selected again and travelling to Israel with two other teammates where they won overall.
‘In the semi-final we played Turkey and my teammate won his singles and then I was 6-2 4-1 down and managed to win 7 games in a row and end up winning 7-5 in the third which was unreal.
‘We played Great Britain in the final and it came down to the doubles and we managed to win which was an unbelievable experience and the score was 6-4 1-6 14-12 in the super tiebreak.’
Finn believes sport has a large impact on community, connectedness and inclusion.
‘Within our community of tennis, we have strong relationships because we know the struggles that everyone has been through, which brings everyone close. I would also say that everyone feeling connected makes them feel included and that they’re part of the community that is growing.’
Finn offers some advice to anyone considering taking the plunge into sport, whether as a participant or as a club looking to be more accessible.
‘If a club wants to be more accessible to attract more people, I would just say to do it, even if you’re not sure whether it’s accessible, just do it. As a participant, just have a go at something even if you don’t think it’s for you or you might be no good, because it takes years of practice.
‘Give it a crack because if you don’t you might regret it later on in life.’
Take the plunge, get involved in sport today! Visit deakin.edu.au/idpwd.