Para-athlete inspires University High students
Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) para-triathlete Liam Twomey visited University High School on November 24 as part of the institute’s “Be Fit Be Well” program.
The initiative provides an opportunity for those striving for success in sport and life, to develop new or improve on their current skills, while connecting with friends, teachers and pro athletes.
VIS community engagement coordinator Amy McMahon said the program had long-lasting healthy lifestyle and career benefits.
“The program helps to promote physical activity and its links to wellbeing and features interactive and inspirational presentations with elite athletes from the Victorian Institute of Sport,” she said
“Key topics are tailored for specific school year levels and include motivation, resilience, goal-setting, coping with pressure, health and nutrition.”
A VIS presenter who is aiming to compete at the 2024 Paralympics in Paris, Mr Twomey said young people could expect to find valuable strategies through the program.
“I think an athlete’s coping skills or strategies are really beneficial to anyone in any way,” he said.
I present Be Fit Be Well as a way for students to learn about sport and life as an athlete and how they can implement strategies that athletes use to perform in sport in both school, life, work, home or whatever it is that they choose.
Mr Twomey has also connected with young people, as an ambassador for Black Dog Institute, The START Foundation and the Challenge Cancer Support Network.
“One of my strengths is my ability to be very open and honest and vulnerable with complete strangers. My teenage years were filled with more dramas than most, especially my schooling,” he said.
“I wasn’t the best student by any stretch and being able to come back and share my story about not having to be the best student to be successful in life, have success personally, is something I really benefit from. If I can get one student engaged in the presentation, then it’s a win for me.”
He added that he believed developing a positive attitude was one of the most vital skills in building a fulfilling life after experiencing and surviving cancer.
“I change my perspective to look at the fact that being alive is a big win and probably there have been many days of frustration where I wish it wasn’t me.”
“But I realised because I lost my leg, I actually have this amazing opportunity to do the sport I love, I get to travel the world and speak to schools. I am only lucky to do what I do but it’s only due to something negative that happened in my life.”
“So, I think perspective and motivation for me is more about realising I have every opportunity and having cancer hasn’t changed either. It probably upgraded that for me.”
The head of sport at University High School, Jack Brook, told Inner City News the program was unique in that it was inclusive.
“It’s not like you have to be selected to compete, every student here gets the opportunity to compete,” Mr Brook said.
“I think a lot of other schools select teams and send out one or two teams, whereas here there’s an opportunity for everyone to try and compete. There might be some teams that are a bit more competitive than others, but participation and engagement is something for our school and not many schools around here do that.”
However, Mr Brook has recognised University High is getting extremely crowded which presented the only downfall for the program.
“We are sending out a lot of teams so there might be some students that are still getting a lot of opportunities to go out on sports but with so many teams they might not be with some of their friends. They might end up playing with people they don’t know, which again it’s good to make some new relationships,” he said.
“But with the program itself over the last few years I’ve set it up to run pretty strong and I think most of the students are pretty happy with the way the program has been running.”
Over the past 30 years, the VIS program has encouraged primary and secondary school students to stay active and lead a healthy lifestyle.
The Be Fit Be Well program is free for government schools, with funding from School Sport Victoria (SSV), while non-government schools can participate for a fee. •