In February it became apparent that John F Kennedy School in Newham would need support in order to run their weekly indoor rowing club. Anthony, PE lead, was struggling since he hadn’t been allocated an assistant coach yet by the school. LYR stepped in to run weekly fitness sessions for three classes of students at JFK School, all of whom have learning and communication difficulties.

Jenny, LYR’s lead on inclusive rowing coaching found the following issues most prominent with students:

1. Obesity - often caused by medication

2. Behavioural problems 

The benefits of exercise with students with learning difficulties cannot be underestimated. Students can feel the enormous health benefits associated with activity alongside the opportunity to: gain independence, communicate through play, have new experiences and learn to feel good about themselves in a way that does not test their communication, just engagement and effort. 

Over the first four weeks of structured LYR sessions, teaching assistants and students alike were learning how they could push themselves out of their comfort zone. Often helped by playing music and introducing the rowing machines as a game rather than a sport, students went from being intimidated and coy, to laughing and engaging with light exercise. 

 

(Students exercise circuit, incorporating rowing and buggy boarding games!)

  

This support and increased understanding led to the students being able to take part in the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships in March 2017.

Anthony said, of LYR’s support this season: 

“Coach Jenny has been fundamental in establishing rowing in JFK school. Staff have been able to see a coach run sessions, which has modelled best practice and they are using what they have learned. All have enjoyed the experience.”