Ben Humphrey, 34, is co-ordinator of the Swindon Shock wheelchair basketball team. He recently hailed a
Paralympic-led boom in sport for people with disabilities. Ben also works for Motivation, a Bristol-based international charity promoting sport for people with disabilities, and is a former Swindon Council ability sport development officer. He lives in Old Town with fiancée Kayleigh, 28, who is a PE teacher.
FIVE years as a banker in the City is an unlikely background for a sports co-ordinator, but it’s there on Ben Humphrey’s CV just the same.
“I moved to London with friends,” he said. “I was looking around in the sports and leisure sector, but there weren’t many jobs.
“A job came up at Citibank and I had to pay my rent. I progressed through the ranks there and ended up being a key accounts manager. I did quite well but I was never really fulfilled.
“I always knew I wanted to do something with sports but I never knew quite what. I began doing research and found sports development. It’s about sport for sport’s sake.”
Already armed with a degree in sports management from the University of Plymouth, Ben studied for an MA in sports deveolopment at the University of Gloucestershire’s Gloucester campus after leaving the City.
“My University of Gloucestershire course was all about the value of sport,” he said. “So somebody gets involved in sport, so what? So they make friends. So they have a sense of identity. So they improve their health and fitness. So they develop confidence. That’s the model for my sports development philosophy.”
Ben is originally from Harwich in Essex. He is one of three siblings: his brother is an engineer and his sister an art therapist. They are the children of an engineer father and a care assistant mother. The family moved to Highworth when Ben was seven, and he attended Warneford School before university.
Ben has always been a lover of sport, whether participating, advocating, coaching or developing. His favourites are athletics and trampolining.
He aims to promote participation in general and participation by under-represented sections of society in particular, and after his MA he began working at Swindon Council. By the time he moved on last year he held the title of ability sport developmernt officer.
“The reality is that once you have got somebody active and involved, hopefully they will carry on with sport for the rest of their life. That’s the Holy Grail for sports development.
“I applied for a job at Swindon Council. Initially it was a part-time sports development role. I loved it. I made myself indispensable and I was offered a full-time job within a year. A lot of my role involved applying for external funding, and back in the late 2000s there was more money around than there is now.
“They’ve got a great team at the council and Swindon has a very good range of activities for people with disabilities. The key is the the sports development team. They’re so passionate that it’s more than a job for them. They don’t work 37 hours a week, they work 60 hours. It’s passion.”
Ben carried that passion forward last autumn, when he moved from the council to the Motivation charity. His duties have already taken him to Uganda, promoting sport for young people with disabilities in a place still feeling the impact of a shattering civil war a few years ago.
“The project is about showing and educating the community that these kids with disabilities can live worthwhile lives and valued lives as members of the community. We work with local partners who know where the kids are. They say to them, ‘You have a right to education, a right to health and a right to live a worthwhile life.’ “The kids come along, they have fun and while they’re taking part we alert the families to the rights of their children.”
In this country, Ben co-ordinates not just the Swindon Shock team but also the Bristol-based South West Scorpions. He is also a trampoline coach, many of whose pupils have special needs.
While sport for people with disabilities has never been more respected or had a higher profile, he says the journey isn’t over.
“It’s a work in progress. The key thing is that it’s about getting people with disabilities as policy-makers, people with disabilities becoming coaches, becoming representatives, managers of clubs, sports development officers.
“It’s all about equality and everybody having the same opportunities.”