Inclusive Coaching In Practice – Carter Taylor

Scottish Disability Sport (SDS) and Waterski and Wakeboard Scotland (WWS) have collaborated to produce a video highlighting the inclusive coaching practice that exists in Scotland. The video takes the form of a case study of WWS athlete Carter Taylor, 20.

Carter was first exposed to the sport 7 years ago through a gift voucher and has become one of the top waterski athletes in Scotland. He has come a long way from his first days on the water, both in technical expertise and physical development. An impressive athlete, one of the most noticeable elements of Carter’s skiing is his strength and power. Furthermore, Carter demonstrates a remarkable dedication to the sport and can be found on the water at the National Training Site in Dunfermline most days throughout the season, come rain or shine. However, there has been an additional obstacle that makes his performances all the more impressive – Carter is on the autism spectrum.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. Carter faces many challenges throughout his everyday life as a result of this. With this in mind, the impact that the sport has had upon Carter’s life is enormous. As his father, John, explains, the difference he has seen in his son since he began participating in waterskiing is remarkable; “He has developed from having very little eye contact, very little speech – if any – in his early days, to being a very confident young man.”

In any athlete/coach relationship, communication is key. When the athlete is on the autism spectrum, this is even more so. The video highlights the different ways that WWS coaches have overcome this in Carter’s case. This ranges from the use of hand signals, tone of voice and other strategies. In many instances, coaches will relay information to Carter through his father in order to ensure that the content is relayed successfully. Indeed, there is very much a team ethos surrounding Carter, from his parents to his coaches. The success of these methods can be seen through Carter’s increasingly impressive results in able-bodied competition – something that has not gone unnoticed by his fellow athletes.

“He has developed from having very little eye contact, very little speech – if any – in his early days, to being a very confident young man.”

Throughout 2016, Carter has achieved a series of outstanding results. June yielded the Male Slalom title at the Scottish Open. This was followed in August by victory in both the Under 21 Male Slalom and Open Men Slalom categories at the Scottish Native. Perhaps even more significantly, Carter has achieved a 3rd place finish – also earning a bronze medal – in Division One of the British Ski League. In doing so, his score of 3 @12 metres 58kph qualifies him for the Premier Division in the British Ski League and ranks him in the top 5 slalom skiers ever to come out of Scotland. This score also ranks him 26th in the UK for slalom.

Despite such impressive results, it is crucial to recognise that inclusion is not simply a matter for coaches. The National Training Site at Town Loch in Dunfermline has provided an inclusive setting for Carter, where he has been welcomed by fellow skiers with open arms. The staff and other skiers have proven extremely welcoming – especially his peers. This has provided an environment within which he has developed and flourished, both on the water and as a person.

Whilst this good practice is fantastic news, it is important to note that it is not solely confined to the NTS in Dunfermline. Over the course of 2016, WWS and SDS ran two Disability Inclusion Training courses that were attended by coaches and volunteers from throughout Scotland. Speaking about these courses, John Beattie, National Development Officer for WWS said: “These courses were a fantastic opportunity for our members and our coaches to broaden their knowledge of inclusive practice, and to recognise existing good practice. This is further proof that waterskiing and wakeboarding are inclusive sports that can offer so much to those who participate.”