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What can a wheelchair basketball coach learn from a Para-archery training camp? What would a Para-table tennis coach gain from watching a wheelchair rugby coach communicate with players? How can the seating position of a wheelchair tennis coach improve a Para-triathlon coach’s performance?

These are the kinds of questions being examined by Innovation Team leaders at Paralympics Australia after Victoria-based coaches in Para-sport gained a behind-the-scenes insight at the recent Australian Open tennis championship.

The day was part of a new phase in PA’s fascinating Community of Practice program, which aims to transform the way Australia’s top mentors in Para-sport connect, support and learn from each other.

“Situational learning was a call-out by the coaches themselves,” Paralympics Australia Coach Development Advisor Alex Jago said.

“They want to learn in each other’s context, they want to see how other coaches perform in their training environment or, in this example, during the Australian Open.”

Para-triathlon Lead Kyle Burns, Gliders wheelchair basketball coach Craig Campbell and Para-table tennis National coach Alois Rosario were among those who shared in Francois Vogelsberger’s day, as the wheelchair tennis mentor guided player Heath Davidson through his schedule and competition. Also attending were Essendon AFLW coach Natalie Wood and AIS Coach Development Lead Michelle de Highden. Tennis Australia’s National Women’s Coach Nicole Pratt also joined the group.

“Watching how Francois went about the day with Heath gave the coaches a range of insights,” Jago said.

“For instance, it rained and it was interesting to see how Francois adapted his athlete, changed the schedule and problem-solved the issues.“

Another topic was communication. There are big differences in the way coaches communicate in team sports compared to individual sports and also around the rules of each sport. For instance, a coach in wheelchair basketball can call a time-out but a coach in wheelchair tennis can’t. So it was interesting to watch how Francois, from the sideline, could impact his player just by body language or using certain words or motions.”

Jago said another interesting discussion point arose around where to observe the play from.

“In wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby you’re side-on,” he said.

“But what if you sit north-south? What if your video analysis is from a range of angles? What different insights might you gain?

“It was a really great experience shadowing Francois for the day and everyone having opportunities to tap into each other’s expertise, connect and have informal dialogue about what they were seeing.”

Jago said the Innovation Team was processing feedback from the group and planned to facilitate more experiences in each other’s environments.

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 15 February 2023