Libi’s leading the way in disability sport – at 11 years of age!
Libi Phillips is a remarkable young lady who has been heavily involved in wheelchair basketball in Haverfordwest but is now making a name for herself with the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team at under 16 level - no mean feat when you consider she is only 11 years old!
Not content with that singular achievement Libi is organising a 'Heels and Wheels' initiative where her aim is to raise enough money to be able to buy a specially-adapted wheelchair that can be used by other aspiring wheelchair rugby players to take part in the game, and hopefully another for wheelchair basketball in the future.
Libi sets out her challenge to women and girls
Her challenge to women and girls is to walk, jog or wheel their way along the old railway track, starting near McDonald's in Haverfordwest and ending in Neyland, on the 30th April at 11am. Participants will use this outstanding walking and cycling path to undertake her challenge whilst raising funds at the same time. (Please note that as part of Libi's master plan the fellers attached in any way to these doughty females aren't invited to participate, other than to act as stewards or perhaps cheer their loved ones on at the finish after obtaining financial support for them!)
Anyone who is interested should go to the Face Book page "heels 4 wheels" where they will find a link to the ‘Just Giving’ page.
Family support guaranteed for her brilliant quest
To this end Libi has received total support from her parents Joe and Steve, who was once one of the top cricketers in the county, plus older sisters Alyx and Madi, plus the rest of her extended family.
"I love playing wheelchair rugby for The Ospreys," Libi told us, "but it is a fact that there aren't enough special wheelchairs to go around and it isn't easy, especially during games, to swap over because of the adjustments that have to be made to cater for height and weight differences.
"I think it is great that so many young people like me can now get involved in a sport that is great fun but at one time was not available for us - and I am hoping that as many girls and women as possible will support us."
Maturity way beyond her years
With a maturity far in excess of her years, Libi added,
"Before I set out in basketball with Angela Miles, who is a brilliant worker in disability sport in Pembrokeshire, I was an anxious child but now I'm much more confident and really enjoy my life - and I'm sure sport can help others in wheelchairs too!"
Her involvement with The Ospreys means there is lots of travel to two-hour academy training at Llandarcy every Sunday morning but her parents enjoy seeing her so involved and she has already tasted success as the team captain when The Ospreys competed in a big competition at Stoke Mandeville and came away with a bronze medal apiece for their efforts.
"We would love to get at least a silver medal next time," admitted Libi, "and we hope to have a competition at Llandarcy when the time is right."
Tough training sessions with The Ospreys
The Ospreys' training sessions include warm-up exercises, time trials where the target speeds with the wheelchair are assessed and updated regularly, skills sessions and tactical awareness - and both Steve and Joe, who was a useful sportswoman in her youth, readily admit that taking part can be hard work - and very scary!
It is a comment that makes Libi laugh as she counters,
"We love the collisions and scrapes because it is such fun just to get stuck in!"
This season has already seen Libi and Co take on the Saracens, Exeter and Harlequins from the English set-up and she is delighted that The Scarlets are planning to start a team - but when asked where she would be playing if that were so and she readily admits that she is now an Osprey through and through!
Thinking outside the box
Outside of her playing, Libi is also held in high regard for her ability to think outside the box and was approached by GB Wheelchair Rugby to help Stuart McLinden rewrite the players' code of conduct, based on her experiences in the game - some achievement for an 11 year old as she has outlined ideas for safety on court and safeguarding all the players in other areas.
It is the same back at The Ospreys as she has recently been voted to be youth representative on their wheelchair committee, the only non-adult at the regular meetings, and at Spittal School, where she is a Year Six pupil, she is now a Sports Ambassador with the Sport Pembrokeshire team run by Ben Field at County Hall.
Showing a determined streak
Libi has also shown her determined streak in other areas, none more so than when she decided to take part in the 'November Challenge’, aimed at encouraging people to raise funds for a worthwhile cause, with the target set of completing a mile every day of that month.
Libi made sure that she went out in her wheelchair every day, no matter what the weather and signed off her month in style when she went the final mile from Wiseman's Bridge to Saundersfoot and raised money for those suffering from Thyroid Cancer.
Since Angela Miles was involved from the outset when the sports-mad young lady attended a taster session put on by Sport Pembrokeshire it is appropriate that we asked her for a comment and the answer was immediate:
"Libi Phillips is already an inspirational figure to others in a wheelchair seeking to find a sport they can gain fulfilment in because she has developed so much in so many ways.
"At first it was in basketball and she showed real determination in reaching the standard where she could play as the youngest member of the Welsh wheelchair basketball team - and still attends the local club’s training sessions at STP School Gym, where she encourages others and takes part with real enthusiasm.
"She is a lovely young lady who is a great advertisement for all sport in Pembrokeshire and she is a credit to her terrific family, her school, her club and her country - and I am so proud of all she has already achieved."
And finally . . .
Having met Libi Phillips on a few occasions it is easy to see why she was a winner of the junior disability award with the Sport Pembrokeshire Awards and why her 'Heels and Wheels' project is sure to inspire others.
We have already offered our help and it was gratefully accepted by this determined, mature but delightful young lady, but only as a steward, recorder or cheerleader!
At The Conference for Play at Folly Farm recently, Libi spoke about equality and play for all.
Her head teacher and Angela Miles were very proud of her and the Children's Commissioner for Wales said it was "inspirational". She has also been asked by Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby to speak about safe play and the code of conduct at the Stoke Mandeville Tournament in November.
Libi also approached Tesco re ‘heels 4 wheels’ and she will be promoting the event in store in Haverfordwest on April 1st. She is planning to take along her rugby chair and a basketball chair and have a chat with anyone who is interested in either the event itself or wheelchair sports in general.