Written by Heidi Cox
The Armed Forces Para-Snowsport Team (AFPST), stationed in France for the Army Ski Championships welcomed a new supporter for the weekend. Tim Stimpson flew out to witness first-hand how competitive, adaptive snowsport can help our athletes achieve their personal best.
The majestic mountain range of Serre Chevalier isn’t a natural habitat for the burley, ex-international rugby full-back, Tim Stimpson. He had come to show his support to the AFPST family, meet the athletes and hear their stories. As a non-skier, he took to the nursery slopes with characteristic gusto. The level of difficulty he experienced was a timely reminder of the challenges our own athletes face when venturing out onto the snow. Learning how to stop in a sit ski, or finding an edge with a prosthetic limb are skills that require courage, determination and practise.
On our plane ride home, Tim reflected on his experience with the AFPST.
What were your first impressions of the charity?
“The AFPST is a world-class team with exceptional core values, led with military precision. From the moment I met them, I felt alive, invigorated and amongst friends. They were interesting to talk to and learn from.
The support staff were quite simply awesome. They reminded me of what it felt like to be an athlete in an elite organisation. I found myself part of a team again, where the welfare of the group was more important than individual gratification.
I enjoyed comparing notes and psychological methodologies with the athletes. Their positive, ‘can-do’ attitude was inspiring.”
How can you draw parallels between your rugby training and what our athletes are achieving today?
“I believe rugby was a vehicle in which I learned to be more successful in life. I knew I wouldn’t always be asked to kick goals, just as the para-athletes will not always be dreaming of the next gate. Nevertheless, competitive sport teaches you skills that can be applied to the rest of your life. Such as:
- Keeping an open mind and being receptive to new ideas. Humility is an essential component to self-improvement.
- Nurturing your psychological and physiological strengths to become the best you can be.
- Be willing to learn. The thirst for knowledge and a passionate desire to get quicker helps carry you through the difficult times.
- There is no substitute for hard work. Set your mind to a goal and don’t look back.
- Becoming a team player. We are stronger collectively than alone.
- Learning to cope with the fear of failure by developing coping strategies. Having worked so hard, you have the right to be confident in your own abilities.”
How did you prepare yourself for missing a kick?
“In short, I had no problem with missing a kick, providing I had done everything reasonably possible to prepare for that ball going over. If you do your best, you can’t ask for more.
As a good goal kicker, I knew the game could be won or lost once my foot made contact with the ball. I would remember all the effort and sacrifice of my team mates, club and supporters and I used that pressure to help me focus and be in the moment. When skiing a slalom race, you know that if you miss a gate, you’ll be out. It’s a hard lesson to learn but a necessary one. It will teach you coping strategies for the future, which in turn will ensure the best chance of success.”
What is the one element of your training you value most?
“Out of all the lessons I have learnt along the way, team work is probably the most invaluable. As U.S Army General George Patton wrote, ‘Fatigue makes cowards of us all’. Sometimes you need your best mate dragging you off the ground or looking you in the eye, providing a mirror for your soul. By being in a team, you know you’re not alone and that you are in the fight together. That sense of belonging enables us to achieve more than we would ever have had the courage to expect alone.
The AFPST know all about the value of collaboration. Unlike rugby, good team work in the military can be the difference between life and death. That’s why it’s so important the charity offers a chance for our brave men and women to stand firm together once more and be counted.”
A personal message from Tim to the AFPST athletes:
“Take responsibility, for this is your time and space. You are on a journey, as we all are. There will be periods of your life when you experience rapid personal development and other times, when you hit an all-time low. Like the stock market, every life has its ups and downs. We all have times when we have to face failure, loss and the feeling that our lives lack purpose. This can be a painful check-point but I’m confident by sticking together you can find the strength to journey on. What you are doing with skiing is inspiring more people than you realise. You most certainly inspire me!
Please try to be kind to yourself. Even if you feel your output has gone down, you continue to achieve much more than most people I meet. It’s a great shame you have to go through so much pain, but stay strong. Maybe try to see these tough times as some sort of extreme training, which you can handle. Learn from these experiences and you will be armed to cope with anything life throws at you in the future.”