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UK Coaching Team
Rapport Building and Communicating Developing Mindsets

Paralympic Greats Deliver Language Lesson to Sports Coaches

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Hannah Cockcroft MBE and Kadeena Cox MBE deliver some strong words of warning around the use of language and imagery in disability sport. They argue that careless use of words can undermine the drive for equality and diversity. The word ‘inspirational’ bore the brunt of their ire. Blake Richardson reports from the Women in Sport Conference North

Golden girls is a well-worn sporting cliché; but I make no excuse for using the platitude here to describe the three icons of British disability sport who shared their knowledge, wisdom and extensive international experience with a full to capacity conference suite at the BBC Sport offices in Manchester.

With 17 Paralympic gold medals and 19 World Championship gold medals between them, it is an appropriate collective term to describe Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Hannah Cockcroft MBE and Kadeena Cox MBE.

However, caution is advised when attaching labels to individuals or groups. As delegates heard, when done carelessly there is a danger it could undermine the drive for equality.

The language used around Paralympic sport, for example, is a particular bugbear of all three, who eloquently expressed their line of reasoning.

That labels can reinforce stigma and stereotypes will come as no surprise to anyone reading this article, but when all three said they baulk at the use of the word ‘inspirational’ to describe their sporting journeys, there were more than a few raised eyebrows.

They spoke passionately about the overemotional portrayal of disabled athletes in the media; calling for an end to the obsession with athletes’ backstories and declaring that the quest to change the way disabled people are perceived by the public still has a long way to go.

It was both a privilege and an education to hear such piercing insight from three of Britain’s most decorated Paralympians as they addressed the myriad challenges disabled athletes face in their careers.

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