It was a lightbulb moment for Richard Plenty. His daughter, Laura, has cerebral palsy and, four years ago, she asked to come along to Rhiwbina squash club where her father coached:
“Yes, it suddenly struck me – why on earth don’t we provide for people with disabilities?”
The journey since then for Richard and his partner-in-crime Bob Perry has been nothing short of pioneering:
“We haven’t heard of wheelchair squash happening at any other club in the world,” says Richard.
Disability Sport Wales has awarded the club insport gold for its commitment to inclusion – a badge of honour held by just two sports clubs in Wales.
The dynamic duo formed an alliance with Weston House – which Laura attends – which provides residential accommodation for young people who have disabilities and impairments.
“Monday night is my favourite night of the week,” beams Bob. “All the gripes and groans and aches and pains just disappear. It is like a shot in the arm. They carry their disabilities 24 seven but they never moan.
“It really stretches us as coaches. When you’re dealing with different disabilities, you have to put your thinking cap on.”
They use a ball on a string to provide a fixed target for those less mobile. A squash cannon – which fires out balls – also proves handy when programmed to target the racket.
They coach two disability specific squash sessions and also have a disabled member now attending mainstream sessions, playing matches against non-disabled members:
“Our aim is to get at least four wheelchair users as members of the club who play alongside non wheelchair users,” explains Richard.
While the “R” word (retirement) is a dirty word for Bob – “you’ll have to drag me out kicking and screaming” – the other half of the double act is keen to expand their offer:
“It’s never ever a chore. We’d really like to get something going on Saturday morning and would love to set something else up.”
Asked about the recognition of their contribution to disability sport and their community, Bob adds:
“Although its Richard and I up for the award, we have a great team of people who help make this happen every week.
“And we don’t do it for the certificates, trophies or accolades.
It’s not really what we’re about. We just love the sport and want to be able to give back.”