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Adversity. Grit. Determination. Three words that define Aaron Phipps’ journey. That’s who joined us and over 50 #NetworkMyClub members and non-members at this online meetup on Remo.

Having both legs and most fingers amputated to septicaemia aged 16, to competing in the Team GB Wheelchair Rugby team at London 2012 Paralympics. The story of how he got there is jaw dropping.

If that wasn’t enough, Aaron’s achievements also include:

  • Being the first British person summit Mount Kilimanjaro without assistance
  • Raised over £250,000 for Meningitis Research Foundation
  • Included in UK’s Top 100 Most Influential People with a Disability 2018/19
  • Home schooling his kids (his proudest achievement to date)

Anyone else feeling lazy yet?

You might think dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic wouldn’t effect someone so strong minded? Wrong. Aaron has spent the past year preparing his body to be in peak condition for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

In this Q+A with Network My Club Founder & Managing Director, Bradley Hatchett, Aaron tells his story.

When was your first introduction into sport?

Wasn’t the traditional route. I started wheelchair racing to raise money for charity and local distance races, which led me to do 2 Marathons. From there, I got headhunted into the wheelchair rugby team, which was formally known as murderball. It’s that brutal.

“I got headhunted into the wheelchair rugby team, which was formally known as ‘murderball’. It’s that brutal.”

Let’s talk about the now. What’s it like for an athlete that had been preparing for the Tokyo Olympics?

Massive question. I never thought they would cancel the Olympics and Paralympics! Who can imagine a world where that would happen? Low and behold, they did.

Sport isn’t everything though and it was the correct decision. But that didn’t make it an easier. My whole lifestyle was based around ensuring I peaked in August. I was training so hard to the point where I was vomiting. So, for them to turn around and say it’s cancelled was difficult. Really difficult. It was really tough to readjust my mindset.

When you were going through those dark times, what did you do to try and overcome it?

It’s tough! When laying in that hospital bed aged 15, I tried to keep a positive mindset. But it wasn’t easy. If I was telling my 15-year-old self one thing is: it does work out in end. The same can be applied to the now. We will come through this.

“We will come through this. However, it’s important to do it your own way.”

However, it’s important to do it in your own way. I’ll be honest, after hearing about the Paralympics being cancelled, I hid. Put my head in the sand and took my time. You can do the right things to make positive choices, but everyone will deal with this in their own way.

What have you learnt from overcoming adversity?

If I look back, becoming disabled is the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Worst for obvious reasons, but best because it gave me a completely new outlook on life. I’ve become motivated in a way I could never have before. If I could have my legs back, I wouldn’t.

“If I could have my legs back, I wouldn’t.”

We can relate this to business! If you can get through these next few months and come out the other side, it’s not going to get much worse is it?

How have you had to adapt being a professional speaker?

All of my work has been cancelled. So, I’ve just tried to look how I can help people and be there for each other. Sport wise, our Chief Executive is planning for a few different scenarios.

“If training doesn’t restart this year, I’m not sure what’ll happen to the Paralympics going forward.”

Hopefully we’ll be back training together in August. If training doesn’t restart this year, I’m not sure what’ll happen to the Paralympics going forward.

As a team that’s so close knit competing in a professional sport, how are you still engaging with one another internally?

I think I speak to my coach more now than I ever have! Some of my teammates can’t even leave the house as they’re high risk, so we’re trying our hardest to stay connected via online meetings just like this.

Do you find it better to have long- and short-term goals?

Normally, big-big-big goals. Why wouldn’t you. At the moment though, I’d take it day-to-day and make short goals.

How do you balance the tough training with rest, regeneration, even mindfulness?

It’s becoming easier. Put blocks in your diary when you’re not doing anything. If you don’t, you’ll crash and burn.

What advice would you give to those who maybe are not as confident speaking publicly?

People love stories. Bring your slides to life by telling something engaging. If you can, shock people. Keep them guessing.

What’s your motivation to exercise?

Start. Doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what time or what YouTube video you’re watching. JUST START. You’ll feel better for it.

View the full recording of the Q&A

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