Mike O’Regan began a life changing journey as he assisted his son, other players and their families, his own rugby club and now a Rugby Union Premiership side to join the Mixed Ability movement.
I started the Surrey Chargers after reading an article in Rugby World about Mixed Ability rugby and got in touch with IMAS. My own son is on the Autism spectrum and although he had previously played for 3 years in the Chobham RFC minis section, found conventional training to be a bit too intense, so I was really pleased to find a form of the game that emphasised inclusion and participation but was still competitive, irrespective of the fact it includes people with Learning Disabilities and Autism.
IMAS arranged to come down and delivered a whole club presentation which really helped get the committee and club members on board. With theirs and the RFU’s support we set up an exhibition game with a Chobham XV running out against the Letchworth Braveherts an established Mixed Ability team. It was so successful we set up taster sessions under local RFU community coaches before moving to weekly Saturday sessions the following year.
Since last season we have been playing regular matches against other clubs, all really enjoyable and the development of all our players has been a joy to watch – particularly pleasing is the number of dads who play alongside their sons (currently six sets), including one who has never played before.
On a personal level, it is safe to say that my life has changed because of Mixed Ability rugby. Last year I took early retirement from my desk job, gained my level 2 coaching qualification and started taking community sessions for Chobham, as well as the Harlequins Foundation and Community Department – I have also been asked to head up the Community Department at Chobham RFC and am really looking forward to involving many more people with and without disabilities in the life of our grassroots club. None of this would have happened without the Chargers or IMAS so I am very grateful for this – two years ago I never dreamed I would be where I am now!