This week the International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS) organisation hosted its first ever “Mixed Ability Sports Virtual Rowing Festival” which extends the range of inclusion in rowing even further than conventional “adaptive” classifications. I will follow this post with a specific one on the event itself, but first I wanted to publish this piece as a basic primer on “Mixed Ability” that people can refer to. As it happens, one of the prominent areas of discussion at the festival was defining what constituted “Mixed Ability”. I contributed to that dialogue and include both my observations and others from IMAS in this post. Their opening presentation, ”IMAS Virtual Rowing Festival Introduction” , slides 4-11, outlined the concept of Mixed Ability.
I would add (and did in the breakout sessions) that “Mixed Ability” can be seen as the ultimate level of inclusivity in the sport of rowing:
- PARAROWING – 3 medically certifiable levels of impairment international recognised.
- ADAPTIVE – Several added medically certifiable levels of impairment (eg. Learning Disability) recognised in the UK (other countries also use the term adaptive, but sometimes more generically for non-classified rowing by disabled individuals).
- MIXED ABILITY – Catch all for impairments which are not recognised by Pararowing or Adaptive classifications but require adaptation or special consideration and assistance as well as formats for “able-bodied” individuals integrating in training and competition with “disabled” ones.
General categories of Mixed Ability rowers include the following
- Injured Rowers – Rowers recovering from injuries and wanting to work out with a squad sensitive to their limitations.
- Medical Condition Rowers – Rowers with medical conditions (eg. heart condition, Parkinsons, Arthritis) which did not fall under para/adaptive classifications, but they wanted to work out with a squad who could support their situation.
- Support Rowers – Rowers who have enjoyed supporting various para/adaptive athletes by rowing in a boat with them (eg. VI rowers who need guiding, LD rowers who need support in steering and decision making, arm-impaired rowers who needed someone to row the opposite side for balance, weaker rowers who needed someone to help them move the boat).
Examples of Mixed Ability impairments include the following (“RowSafe” Guide from British Rowing includes a section “8.6 Coping with Illness and Diseases” which specifically provides guidance on those listed above in italics.):
- Temporary Conditions
- Respiratory Disease
- Recovering/Rehabilitating Injury
- General Illness
- Chronic Conditions
- Hearing Impairment
- Cardiac Disease
- Permanent Injury