Over the last few weeks, Commonwealth Alumnus Kagiso Tlhabano-David has been attending the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as the sport psychologist for the Botswana national team. As an emerging advocate for disability inclusion in sport, Kagiso has been particularly enthused by the fully integrated inclusion of the para sport programme in the Games.
Kagiso shared the below insights with us about her role at the Commonwealth Games, her passion for disability inclusion in sport, and why the Commonwealth Games are an important opportunity to foreground this issue.
What does it mean for you to be at the Commonwealth Games, representing Botswana as the team psychologist?
It is an honour to serve my country Botswana in my professional capacity. To provide needed psychological support to our athletes who have worked very hard to make the team and to prepare for the Games is a privilege. That I am here as the Team Psychologist, a role I also played at the previous Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast 2018, Australia) suggests that I am applying myself in understanding the team’s needs and providing the needed support. To serve at this level gives me the opportunity to continually learn and grow as I tailor support to individuals and the whole team.
Can you tell us a bit about your passion for disability inclusion in sport. Why is this issue so close to your heart?
It is never right to advance opportunities for one group while leaving another group behind. In this case, it can never be right to advance training and competition opportunities for individuals who have no disability while leaving behind persons with a disability. I believe that growth in sport and the highest integrity of sport cannot be reached if opportunities for athletes with disabilities are behind that of other athletes, on local, regional, and international stages.
Why do you think the Commonwealth Games are an important time to foreground disability inclusion in sport?
Being here at the games and seeing para-athletes competing in various sports is incredible, it is inspirational. Seeing all athletes (para-athletes and other athletes) interacting with each other at the villages, training grounds, and competition venues is an amazing image – it is how it ought to be. In my view, the Commonwealth Games’ friendly atmosphere, an atmosphere where the vibe is not of dominance but rather, of challenging oneself, is fitting to foreground disability inclusion. In this, the Commonwealth Games Federation also sets the pace for even regional and national games to consider integrated disability inclusion in competitions.
And in what ways are the Birmingham Commonwealth Games helping to foreground inclusion in sport?
Birmingham 2022 is another major event since the pandemic. It is the first major Game since the pandemic to allow an audience, given that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games didn’t. What an opportunity to raise awareness of integrated disability inclusion to the masses as they watch para-athletes compete at the same venues and during the same schedules as other athletes! That image will stick and many watching across the globe will be challenged to include disability, and many para-athletes not here will be inspired by what they see.
Sports can be a vehicle of many things, disability inclusion among them.
Kagiso Tlhabano-David is a 2016 Commonwealth Scholar from Botswana. She is due to defend her PhD in Sports Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University.