As one of Australia’s estimated 2.9 million sports volunteers, London 2012 wheelchair rugby gold medallist Ben Newton enjoys giving others the kind of support he received early in his sporting career.
Newton, who finished his playing career in 2014 and transferred to coaching, volunteers as coach of the Queensland Cyclones state team.
Initially, he said, he wanted to bring guidance and structure to the program in South-East Queensland. However, he soon gained benefits that money can’t buy.
“You meet the most amazing, diverse kinds of people through volunteering in sport,” Newton said. “The different kinds of relationships that you build up with people, you can’t put a value on it.”
Paralympics Australia is proud to mark National Volunteer Week from May 16 in celebration of the millions of volunteers around the country, including those in sport, who play a critical role across a wide range of tasks.
Newton, who acquired incomplete quadriplegia in a car accident when he was a child, said his life was changed when he discovered wheelchair rugby in 2003 and felt he had a duty to return the favour.
“Sport is a really core part of who I am. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone else who was disabled. I didn’t have that sort of connection to my community of people with disability until I started playing,
“To be able to talk to people about all the big things and little things that you come up against every day when you have a disability just means so much. Sport brought me into that community.
“Now I’m in the position to be able to play that same role that those back nearly 20 years ago played for me which is super rewarding.”
Newton played for the Steelers from 2010 for four years and was part of the team that won Australia’s first Paralympic gold medal, in 2012. After retiring, he wanted to stay involved and transitioned to coaching.
“I felt like the sport had given me so much, so I had a bit of a responsibility to give back to the sport and the people in the in the wheelchair rugby community. Volunteers are such an important part of making our sport possible, so it was a way for me to give back.”
Newton encouraged others to get involved in volunteering in sport.
“I think if you’re considering volunteering, just give it a go and jump in. There’s no real downside to it in my experience – there’s really only upsides. It’s such a rewarding thing, you get so much out of it.”
By: Lucy Hunt, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 16 May 2022