Battling Back with Leeds Metropolitan University and the Royal British Legion
Coaches from Carnegie Great Outdoors and the School of Sport have been commissioned to undertake the programme of week-long courses by The Royal British Legion, who are investing £27 million over 10 years at their pioneering new Battle Back Centre based at Sport England's National Sports Centre at Lilleshall, Shropshire.
Through inclusive sport and adventurous training, the team from Leeds Met's Carnegie School of Sport and Carnegie Great Outdoors - a leading provider of Adventurous Activities and people development courses - work with participants, known as Battle Backers, to focus on what they can do, rather than on what they can't, do to help them improve their resilience and motivation and build confidence and independence to make the best possible recovery.
Professor Carlton Cooke, who heads up the dedicated research team from Leeds Metropolitan's Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure - providing independent evaluation used for continuous improvement of the week-long residential courses, commented: "The Centre can accommodate up to 24 people, with 16 rooms fully equipped for those with a range of disabilities. Since pilot courses began last year, it has helped over 200 wounded, injured and sick service personnel and around 600 people a year can attend its multi-activity and personal development courses.
"The evaluation provides immediate feedback for development of the programme evidence based practice for The Royal British Legion and research outputs from Staff and Doctoral students."
While the centre officially launched on November 22, Leeds Met have been on board since October 2011, where a succession of 11 pilot courses were devised, developed and undertaken. Sport and adventurous activities at the centre, which is operated by the Royal British Legion in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and Sport England, include wheelchair basketball, archery, indoor climbing and caving, and water sports.
In addition the University's Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Centre has accredited the programme to give Battle Backers an ILM Level Two award, recognising team member skills to support their future career prospects.
Dave Bunting of Carnegie Great Outdoors and Head of Coaching and Development for the Battle Back Centre, said the programme was set for the team to undertake 24 multi-activity courses per year, with a capacity of up to 24 Battle Backers per course.
"We have now made the transition from pilot to full capacity courses and the inclusive sporting equipment we use is second to none, ensuring that everyone who attends the week-long programmes can take part in each and every activity," he said.
"There are two channels to be addressed for the Battle Backers during the course - personal development and the adventure training. In 2013 we are also looking to offer additional courses which will focus on one particular skill such as climbing, archery or wheelchair basketball, with the intention for the participants being awarded a qualification in that sport upon completion of the course."
"The students are some of the most determined and inspirational men and women you could ever hope to have the privilege of meeting. Based on feedback from the Battle Backers and the evaluation it is clear that taking part in people development courses, using sport and adventurous training activities as vehicles for change, enhances recovery."
From the very first pilot course, PhD students Suzanne Peacock and Kelsey Erickson have worked with Professor Cooke and Professor Jim McKenna and Reader David Carless, evaluating the impact and effectiveness that the sport and adventurous activities courses have on the participants. Along with the coaches, Suzanne and Kelsey have helped develop the pilots and have been instrumental in their transition into fully-fledged courses.
"The courses are a key component of the Military's Individual Recovery Pathway for the wounded, injured and sick," commented Suzanne. "It is an absolute privilege to be involved in the Battle Back Centre. The Royal British Legion has invested £27m into it and the positive impact that the week-long programmes have on those who take part is incredible. Due to their injuries, some Battle Backers begin the week truly believing they cannot take part in the sporting activities. But with the adaptive equipment, the excellent coaching team and most of all their own ability and determination means that what they can do, often completely exceeds their expectations of themselves. Although the physical activities are a key component of the program, these are actually used as vehicles for personal development. More important are the conversations and thought processes which are stimulated as a result of participation and the opportunities for personal reflection.
"The ethos that the course runs by is challenge by choice - there is no pressure to do anything. The evaluation that I am involved in has two parts to it. A weekly evaluation for the Royal British Legion measures how students feel on day one when they arrive at the Centre and how this changes when they leave. It also looks at the experiences of individuals participating in the course and identifies what they have learnt about themselves.
"The next stage of the evaluation is to follow-up with the Battle Backers six months on to find out the longer term impact that their time at the Battle Back Centre has had on them."