UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP

Sad story: “my Life and Career” Prolific rugby player shares his painful experience

Harrison Walsh, a former rugby player for the Ospreys, suffered a “freak” accident in 2015 while playing a match with his beloved Swansea RFC. The injury was so severe that it severed the nerves in his leg, leaving him with “no feeling” and impaired movement in his right foot. His career ended abruptly, and his life had completely changed.

“Since I was a small child, I have always loved rugby. I started playing the sport in school, and as I kept playing with neighborhood clubs, my enthusiasm for it grew significantly. I could see myself doing rugby as a career eventually, and it became clear that I really excelled at it,” Harrison recalled.

“I was lucky enough to be offered full-time contracts and began playing with the U18 Ospreys team. In Wales, we are obviously extremely passionate about rugby, so the thought of doing this for a living with a potential to go on to represent my country was a dream come true!”

But that dream was going to end abruptly. “I was told [after my injury] that I might never be able to run again and that I could struggle to walk. Just after I had begun playing professionally, I received this devastating news,” he continued. “I was completely lost and unsure of what to do next. I had to adjust to a new identity, which was difficult for me both mentally and physically because I started to walk differently. It got harder to escape what had happened to me. I had never given the term “disabled” much thought until all of a sudden I realized how drastically my life had changed.”

After spending time in rehabilitation, Harrison started to look at different career options for his future – and soon started trying out different sports to discover new strengths.

Harrison recalled his experience learning to throw the discus: “After my injury, I actually took a while to figure out what I wanted to do because there wasn’t one thing that I was naturally drawn to or felt I was as good at as playing rugby. I had dabbled in a variety of endeavors, including teaching rugby, attending college, pursuing an engineering career, painting homes, and working in a kitchen.”

Harrison later got in touch with Disability Sport Wales and began experimenting with various sports. “I started at Cardiff Metropolitan University, where I studied rehabilitation, strength, and conditioning. I was able to train while attending school full-time, which was such a wise choice. I really enjoyed my course, and being able to work out hard once more gave me the confidence I needed to go back into the sports world,” he said.

After eight years, Harrison has medalled in discus from both the Commonwealth and Europe and plans to compete in the Paralympics in 2020. Harrison has talked about how his life changed dramatically after his injury on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities (Sunday, December 3). He claims he never would have imagined that he would be preparing for the Paralympics.

“Don’t be afraid of the opportunities that come up,” he said, offering guidance to others going through difficult times. I had no idea what I could do, so I wasted a lot of time trying to find work. I really struggled at first, but in a matter of seconds, my entire future had changed, and I had no idea that I would go on to compete as an athlete in the Paralympic Games.

We are all unique, so I don’t think anyone should try to compare their circumstances to those of others. Everybody faces different obstacles in life; it all depends on how you respond to them. In any career, going through tough times can make you a more resilient person, but it can be particularly difficult for job seekers who are trying to break into the workforce. Even though it might seem like the worst thing ever at the time, it will ultimately shape who you are.”

Harrison backs the Working Wales ReAct+ program, which provides free, individualized employment support to people in Wales. This assistance includes funding for training and advice for individuals who are unemployed or in danger of being laid off.

“We all face different barriers stopping us from achieving our personal and career goals which is why I’m supporting the ReAct+ programme,” he stated. “Knowing that specialized support is available to assist individuals in overcoming obstacles to employment can have a significant impact. Whether it’s money to learn new skills, one-on-one coaching to boost self-esteem, or assistance in looking for and applying for jobs.”

“You can never be sure what lies ahead. The key is to be ready and aware of the people and resources available to assist you during that time, he continued.

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