Redefining inclusion with swish
Swish is a similar game to table tennis and air hockey. A ball is filled with bells that players must then hit across a table and over the net. A wooden paddle is used to hit the ball. Over the past 18 months, the popularity of swish has grown in Victoria.
The game can be played by people who are blind or who have a vision impairment. But it is also a game enjoyed and played by people without a disability.
Swish in Victoria
Swish has developed a regional presence in Victoria. There are now groups in Bendigo, Mt Eliza and Mildura as well as in Melbourne. The Melbourne group has been providing a program to help establish new groups in Gippsland.
Last year the Bendigo and Melbourne groups met on three occasions to socialise and play swish. The Bendigo group embraced swish as an all-abilities sport. The game is simple to play and rarely needs to be modified. Everyone plays on an equal footing including those with physical disabilities and those without disability.
Steve Monigatti the recreation development worker for Vision Australia Bendigo says most of the players have a disability.
One of our players uses a wheelchair but wheels around on a stool during games, he says.
The other players hardly notice that he's sitting down instead of standing at the end of the table.
Allan Mitchel likes the community aspect the game brings including the great work by volunteers.
I got involved in the Bendigo swish group when I lost my sight. It's a great opportunity for members of the blind community to come together and play sport, he says.
The best thing about the group is the volunteer support. They help players into the building, collect token club fees, call who will play in each game and help everyone find their way onto transport or into a taxi to go home again.
The junior swish program in Melbourne has had a 50 per cent increase in size since 2009. The juniors are from eight to 21 years of age. They enjoy the social outlet and getting to know new people at social days and tournaments.
The 2012 junior swish calendar includes a tournament every two months. It also includes family days and social days with other swish clubs in Victoria.
Practise makes perfect
Having coordinated the junior coaching program for 12 months I have seen the development of some of the children. One 11 year old could hardly hit the ball under the net when he started. Now six months later I have to concentrate to win against him. It doesn't matter that he can't see as well as I can; the net takes away the advantage of sight.
Lizzie Sullivan has cerebral palsy and has been playing swish for about five years.
When I started swish I used my walking frame and wasn't confident at playing' says Lizzie. 'Now I have gained better balance and have competed in both junior and senior tournaments.
Are you interested in playing or learning more about the game swish. If so, leave your comments below.