I feel my students need me now: coach Dmytro Lazebnyi-Cholovsky on helping children with disabilities to play sports

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29.09.2022
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The Parimatch Foundation continues sharing stories of Foundation’s the «Yes, I Can!» and «Sports Mentor» programs coaches. Every coach has his working methods and approaches to children but they are united by their love for sports and children, as well as the desire to bring the common victory closer with their actions.

Our today’s hero is well known to everyone who follows the Parimatch Foundation activities. Dmytro Lazebnyi-Cholovskyi is the 2020 innovative PE teachers contest winner, a permanent coach of the, a PE teacher and class leader at Kyiv school #216, a speaker of webinars dedicated to the «New Physical Education» program and known as «Not a physicist» on the Internet.

Dmytro helps children with disabilities to play their favorite sport as a part of the «Yes, I Can!» program. Also, with the help of the program and training, the coach contributes to the progress of the entire country, as he draws the attention of the entire society to issues related to ensuring barrier-free access to sports.

I woke up to a phone call from one of the students’ parents who told me that Kharkiv was being bombed

When asked how Dmytro’s life has changed since the start of the full-scale invasion, he replied that his family is safe, but he is awaiting military service. Recalling the first days in February, the coach says that he woke up to a phone call from one of the student’s parents that Kharkiv was being bombed, and half an hour later, he heard the sounds of explosions in Kyiv.

Dmytro recalls that, like everyone else, he was expecting a full-scale invasion, because it was rumored for a long time. He was sure that as soon as everything started, he would go to the Military Commissariat, and take a machine gun to defend the state.

— On the third day of the war, when the first child died, I realized I couldn’t wait anymore and came to the military commissariat. I was told to gather a group of 15 people to join the territorial defense. We submitted the lists and began to wait. But since there were a lot of volunteers to join the TD group I didn’t get a call right away. While I was waiting, I continued my work as a teacher, the end of the school year was approaching and I was immersed in classroom management. But despite my work, I am still waiting to be drafted to the front.

Children with disabilities keep me in my place

Until the very beginning of the new academic year, Dmytro hesitated whether to continue leading the class or to make a new group with the «Yes, I Can!» program, because he could be called up for military service at any moment. But the coach admits the children make him hesitate where he is needed more. After all, there is a lack of coaches who can work with children with disabilities and engage them in sports.

— I understand that few people work with children with autism and Down syndrome. My students are very much looking forward to training. Before the war started, many children used to live from training to training as physical activity, a circle of like-minded people, and a friendly atmosphere was so important to them. If I did not feel I need to be here working with children, especially children with disabilities, then I would force the time of my draft.

Dmytro said that at the beginning of September, the first floorball training for the «Yes, I Can!» program’s students started after the beginning of the full-scale invasion. The mission of this program is to change the attitude of Ukrainians towards people with disabilities, to provide children with special educational needs with access to inclusive training, and to reveal children’s potential.

Every day I do everything possible not to become a burden in the war

According to Dmytro, sports helped him to recover from the stress caused by the war. He started by cycling to work, then, as an experienced rower, he helped his other coaches at a sports camp. In this way, he was getting fit so in the case of the draft, he will physically ready not to let his combat brothers down.

— I have been doing sports all my life. Whenever I have life troubles, I return to sports and it helps me to stabilize my morale,says Dmytro. — And today, sport helps me to see my goal. I get up in the morning, run, stretch and do it every day.

Children should be engaged in what they like. After all, we are not about sports, but about life.

Dmytro with a smile remembers the friendly and warm atmosphere at training and is looking forward to resuming training with his wards. Because training with children with disabilities is not exactly about sports, the coach emphasizes, they are more about life. Children with disabilities adapt to normal life through sports. Sports help them make friends, move, set goals and achieve their victories. Children’s smiles and support are the most important component of such training.

Regarding advice, Dmytro is sure that parents, who are with their children around the clock, know their children’s needs the best. But banal exercise and morning activity should not be neglected.

— The main thing is to watch and observe what children like in general. Some children do not like to jump but like to dance. Therefore, we turn on the music and integrate jumps into the dance. Use little tricks. Children respond more easily when tasks are integrated into fun play. It is necessary to walk a lot in the fresh air and be sure to find what the children like the most. Then the child gets not only pleasure from physical exercises, but also benefits,Dmytro Lazebnyi-Cholovsky is sure.

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