Matt Labbett was awarded an Active Surrey Award in the Reigate and Banstead Sports Awards 2019 for the Inclusive Sport Award Category.
Matt has made a significant impact on disability sport in Reigate and Banstead. Matt has completely changed the lives of disabled people through his commitment, determination and perseverance to the people that he supports at Surrey Choices. Matt works with disabled adults at Surrey Choices to help them to improve their fitness, health and wellbeing. He works with each disabled person and designs a fitness plan with them and then supports them to put this plan in place with the end goal being for them to be able to access sports and leisure facilities in their community independently.
Matt is completely person centered. This includes supporting them to access their local public swimming sessions, to play golf, to access the gym and use equipment independently and to play badminton. Matt works with each person to help them believe that they can improve their fitness and supports them with their anxieties and self believe. He builds up their confidence through getting to know each person and setting realistic goals.
Before Matt started working with some people they had never accessed their local leisure centre and now they go independently without support and use the gym. He also teaches disabled people about how to keep healthy and supports them to create healthy menu plans. This has helped people to lose weight and feel better about themselves.
Matt supports people with a range of disabilities including:
- Those who are non verbal
- Autistic people
- Physically disabled people
- Those with learning disabilities
Matt makes adaptations to help people to reach and fulfill their potential such as:
- Using pictorial images
- Setting routines
- Changing someone of the difficult words used in sports and leisure to plain english for people to understand
- Using Makaton
- Breaking down the steps for using equipment
- Putting in a step down approach where he reduces his support for each person for them to be able to learn each step
- Using adapted equipment
Through his commitment to the people he supports we have seen life changing outcomes. One example of how Matt has turned someone’s life around is Gary. Gary’s parents have written a supporting statement for Matt’s nomination as below:
“Our son Gary is autistic with severe learning difficulties. He has very limited communication skills. Gary started running at about 10 to help manage his anxieties. By the time he left college, where he had a number of running partners, we could no longer keep up with him. Gary met Matt at Surrey Choices where Matt encouraged people with special needs to enjoy physical activity. This involved sessions at the gym but soon Matt was taking Gary for runs around Reigate Priory. We have always felt that Gary was in safe hands with Matt but also challenged. For the last two years Matt has accompanied Gary at the Superhero 10k at Eton Dorney. For last year’s run Matt even came back from holiday early in order to run with Gary. In July Matt ran with Gary in the evening Reigate 10k and at the end of September they will be taking on the Barns Green Half Marathon. Matt has established such a rapport with Gary that while he really likes running he loves running with Matt. We are very happy to endorse Matt’s nomination.”
Matt really is a true role model not only for disabled people but also for his colleagues. He even inspired his manager to do the London Marathon and supported her every single step of the way! Matt’s passion and drive to make sports and leisure facilities more inclusive has impacted not only the people at Surrey Choices but the whole community. His work in the local community has inspired others that use the facilities. He has changed their perception of disabled people and shown that anything is possible with dedication and support. He has integrated disabled people into the community and made them feel part of it rather than them having specific disabled sports sessions inside a day centre. This is key in helping disabled people to be more independent and to take away stigmatisation.
The General Manager at Donyngs Leisure Centre Tony Blatchford has written a supporting statement for this nomination:
“I have known Matt for over 10 years as he attends this leisure centre with his group. The group participate in many activities and it is clear to see that they enjoy the sessions and gain a lot from them. Many of them have been coming for several years now. He provides a very safe, calm and inclusive environment for the group and it is obvious they feel comfortable with him. Matt has integrated his customers into the centre seamlessly and many of the staff know them on first name terms. His communication with me and the centre has always been excellent and, I hope, has formed a very strong partnership. I would absolutely support any nomination for Matt and his achievements with the group.”
Everyone at Surrey Choices supports this nomination and would love for Matt to be recognised for his sheer determination to make sport and leisure accessible for everyone no matter who they are!
Describe Matt in 3 words: