Ellie was too self-conscious to do sports at school because she has cerebral palsy. She spent PE lessons doing homework instead. Today she is a top athlete. Ellie shares her story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign.
I avoided sports at all costs throughout school simply because I had
cerebral palsy. I went to a mainstream school and on the whole I really enjoyed it. I just wished that the other students were more open to the fact that I was a little bit different to them.
Things started to get difficult for me when I was around 13 or 14. That’s the age when kids start to form cliques and reject anyone who isn’t the same as them.
Whenever we had a PE class, the teachers would look at me and say: ‘shall we go inside and do some homework Ellie?’ I went along with it because I hated the idea of getting up in front of a group of girls.
I thought my classmates would judge me because I’m disabled and wouldn’t want me on their teams. My cerebral palsy is very obvious when I move and I wanted to stay inside and hide away.
Then came the summer of 2012. I watched five minutes of the Paralympics on the telly and was blown away. It changed everything for me. I watched people like myself competing and I just sat there and thought ‘wow’.
Six months later, I saw on Twitter that ParalympicsGB was holding a ‘sports fest’ where you could try out all of the Paralympic sports.
It was an incredible day with an amazing atmosphere. I loved the fact that everything was set up so I could participate.
When it came to sports, I’d always heard: “no, you can’t do that, it’s not safe.” This time, it was all: “come on and have a go.” I’d never experienced anything like it before.
Becoming an athlete
I had a go at ‘clubbing’. You have a wooden baton which you throw as far as you can. I was surprised to find I was good at it! I left my contact details with the organisers of the event and a few weeks later they found me a coach at the local athletics club.
I am now an F32 Club Thrower and I have competed at a national level. Most of the people in my category cannot walk or talk. In everyday life, people like us are totally overlooked by society. That’s why it’s so thrilling to be an athlete.
Out there on the field, being watched by hundreds of people, I am in complete control. As a disabled person, I don’t feel that way very often.
My life has been transformed by sports
I cannot put into words how much I love athletics; it gives me control, and it doesn’t discriminate against me, which I suppose is bizarre as it’s a very physical thing and I have a physical disability.
My life has been totally transformed by sport, and this inspired me to go to university and do a sports coaching degree.
Making sports accessible
It’s been good for the other students to think about how to make sports accessible – hopefully they will continue to do this when they qualify and start working.
Through my degree, I hope to make disabled people aware that they can do sports and find confidence in their bodies.
Ellie is also the founder of CP Teens UK, an organisation which offers support, friendships, opportunities and events for teenagers and young people with cerebral palsy.