Hi Ataxia UK family and friends! This blog is about my Rugby journey and how ataxia affected my playing abilities.
My name is Glyn Bennett, I was born in 1960 to a family from a small mining village in South Yorkshire, more than five miles outside of Rotherham. I developed a passion for rugby at the age of 12, playing through my school years, joining a colt’s team with Rotherham at 14, and playing for their first team at 17.
In 2003, I started the club’s first mini junior rugby team and studied coaching at level 2 through the RFU while playing club rugby in Staffordshire. My aspirations were to develop local youth rugby through quality to inspire and introduce young people of all age and ability, to the sport that is truly inclusive and diverse. An environment that is fun, safe, and educational. I eventually want to build the club junior section with a membership of 200 per year.
Players often reach county, academy, and even international levels, and many enjoy a shared love of sports and their community. Developing friendships that would last a lifetime.
By the age of 30, I noticed my playing game started to deteriorate with a slow loss of coordination and catching ability, which was extremely confusing as well as frustrating. In time, I noticed that my game reactions slowed down and that certain balance issues began to arise.
My local GP was unable to explain my symptoms, so I was referred to several neurological consultants until one carried out typical ataxia tests and diagnosed me with Cerebella Ataxia at age 40.The condition has worsened over time.
At the age of 50, I eventually had to hang up my boots for my own safety. I did not want to leave the world of rugby as it had given me a lot of friends and enjoyment over many years.
In 2018, I suffered my first of two strokes which contributed to my worsening condition. Later, I became chairman of the junior section of the club. Accredited as one of the first RFU “Kids First” clubs in the country. As a key member of the county safeguarding, I provided confidence to hundreds of vulnerable members of our society.
I became Club President in 2022, and today, as a disabled and wheelchair-bound person, I continue to enjoy community rugby. I was also nominated as Queen’s Baton Bearer for the Commonwealth Games. I was honoured to be nominated, but was told there were thousands of nominations. I accepted the nomination with pride.
When I received the news that I had been selected, I was delighted to be able to celebrate with individuals throughout the commonwealth. To honour friendship, diversity, inclusivity, and friendship in sport, I will be carrying the Queen’s baton, showing that my ataxia is not a disability, but rather a different ability.
In spite of my struggles, I am able to help others and celebrate my sporting life with the support of incredible friends and family.