Pararoo Ben Atkins excited to build on 2019 form ahead of 2021
Pararoos defender Ben Atkins is excited to build on the team’s strong 2019 form ahead of their 2021 campaign.
After a 5-0 win over Canada in the Pararoos’ first home match in 19 years and a strong performance at the IFCPF World Cup, the team was gearing up for a massive 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
However, the Pararoos will come back stronger and more inspirational than ever - and Atkins knows this from his first-hand experience.
Growing up with Cerebral Palsy (CP), Atkins struggled to find his identity until he joined the Pararoos program in 2000.
“I was fortunate enough to come into the Pararoos program and then New South Wales or the CP program when I was nine years old,” Atkins told Pararoos.com.au.
Watch a 'Pararoos At Home' profile with Ben Atkins in the video player below!
“As a kid with CP I didn’t know if I would be - as silly as it sounds - a successful person. Somebody who could impact society or make an impact on society”.
While partaking in his first camp in the Pararoos program, Atkins began to believe he would be able to live a life of independence.
“Coming into my first camp as a nine-year-old, I saw these adults who seemed to have that independence. I never actually thought that I would have independence”, he said.
“Up until that point I didn’t really have many role models with Cerebral Palsy or disability more broadly.”
Now, the Pararoos defender is humbled to be viewed as a role model in the same way he looked up to past players at his first camp as a youngster.
“Online through our social media, through the Canada game (in 2019), and through our Pararoos development centre sessions these kids can see what’s possible,” he said.
“Giving those kids who were at the Canada game something to strive towards and a platform for them to work towards and know the work will pay off and they will get the opportunity that we have been fortunate enough to have, to represent your country.”
He added: “You don’t realise what you could achieve, and what’s possible. That’s the beauty of the Pararoos.”
In 2019, the Pararoos finished 11th at the IFCPF World Cup. This was followed up by a 5-0 drubbing of Canada in the Pararoos’ first match on home soil in 19 years in November last year.
“Looking back to 2019, we had a successful tour in Spain. We wiped the floor with Canada, we did pretty well. We did very well to be honest,” Atkins said.
Akins and the Pararoos were ready for what were to come in 2020, before COVID-19 hit earlier this year.
“Going into 2020 we were going to Spain; with the view we could win the competition [2020 IFCPF World Championship Qualifying Tournament] or win the tournament and come away with the trophy,” he said.
“We were training the house down, everyone was doing their own programs and doing what they needed to do back home to make sure that we were in a position so that when we got to Spain we could win the tournament.”
Atkins is looking at this international break due to COVID as a chance to make some inroads and close the gap on the higher ranked countries around the world.
“COVID’s been interesting from a fitness perspective,” he said.
“For a long time my sole priority has been football and fitness and making sure I’m fit. COVID has in a way given us an opportunity to have an off-season.”
“While not taking the complete time off we have to stay at a certain level of fitness - so we still play club football, still make sure that we're getting out there and touching the football a couple of times a week.”
He added: “Making sure we go for runs, making sure were getting into the gym. Making sure were looking after ourselves from a health perspective so if the opportunity does come up to go overseas next year, we’re ready to go.”
Ben Atkins explains the Pararoos go into every match with a winner’s mentality.
“Some people think that the undefeated tagline is just a bit of a branding thing, but it means more than that to us. It shows regardless of our circumstances, regardless of the setbacks we are going to be undefeated,” he said.
“Because we are going to make sure we turn up the next day if we do have a setback and put in our all, regardless if we win, lose or draw, we are going to be undefeated.”
Watch a 'Pararoos At Home' profile with captain Benny Roche below!