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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Jackman

Coach of the Year

This is my nomination for Coach of the Year with Active Cumbria. So beautifully written.

Sport or Activity: Multi-ability exercise class for people in the community with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Achievements: Debbie Jackman took on our group a year ago, delivering a weekly multi-ability exercise class for people in the community with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This was her first experience of working with people with MS, although she did have experience of working with people with Parkinson's, so understood some of the mobility challenges experienced by people living with a neurological condition. Debbie engaged with our group immediately, quickly identified each individual's areas of strength and weakness, and began tailoring the exercise class accordingly.

Debbie is passionate about helping people to get the most out of life, to get the most out of themselves and to help them not to give up. Her approach is fully inclusive and attentive: she checks that everyone's OK, and doing things in the right way; she stops sessions to teach the correct movement to everyone, breaking moves down so that individuals can build up strength and awareness of their bodies. She infuses every class with energy and infectious enthusiasm; and, while trying to help us all to improve our mobility, she keenly recognises that the social side of classes is as important as the movement itself, so we all have a lot of fun while we're at it - the sessions are never dull.

The pandemic sapped a lot of people's confidence, and left many despondent and out of shape. Within a year, Debbie turned that completely around, each week inspiring individuals to push their personal boundaries just that little bit further. The greatest achievement, which sounds like such a small thing, is that she has managed to coach some of the most disabled in the group to stand up from a sitting position and to sit down again - unaided. It sounds so insignificant, but watching people struggle, week upon week, and finally succeed in standing was hugely rewarding and emotional - it was an incredible achievement to see unfold before us, and there was rapturous applause all around. And there've been tears too, and lumps in the throat, as one participant stopped a class mid-session, blurting out, "I just wanted to share that this class is incredible: it makes me feel like I don't have MS anymore - thank you Debbie!" The impact on us all has simply been immense.

Debbie is also focusing on teaching techniques to help these more disabled individuals to be able to get up from the floor. Balance and proprioceptive issues mean that people with MS are prone to falling, and consequently to getting injured. This can engender a very real fear of falling, a known syndrome that can be life limiting, often preventing people from living active, fulfilling lives (it can even lead people to lose their independence as they become too anxious ever to leave their own homes). Debbie's work in this area is therefore tremendously important: it helps to build individuals' confidence, ultimately showing them that they can get up - unaided - following a fall, and that they won't have to rely on carers or paramedics to rescue them in future (as had previously happened to some members of the group). I really do believe that Debbie deserves a medal, both for what she's achieved already and for what she's still trying to achieve for our group.

The NHS offers people with MS virtually no help with physical therapies to maintain even the most basic levels of mobility, let alone coaching in how to sit, stand and get up from the floor without assistance. Not only has Debbie gone that extra mile and plugged that gap for our group, but she's also given us all something fun, effective, therapeutic and immensely rewarding to look forward to every week - she has embarked on a journey to transform our lives, and has indeed elicited some remarkable transformations. A year ago, the group literally could not have given her a standing ovation - thanks to her dedication and commitment, now we can! Brava!

Wow! Thank you so much for my nomination. It really captures what happens at our sessions. I love them all and I think you love them too.

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