Tommy Oliver was so unsteady on his feet that he would ‘fall over his own shadow’ according to his mum Sally.
Yet just over a term into his time as a star at didi rugby Reading’s Aldermaston classes, he has become a totally different boy.
The four-year-old from Bramley near Basingstoke has recently been diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome. It’s a condition that features joints which easily move beyond the expected range.
As a result, it can be hard to control those joints, which can dislocate easily. People with Hypermobility Syndrome can also suffer from pain in their limbs – especially in the knees, hips and elbows.
“He’s clumsy and he falls over all of the time,” Sally added. “It’s hard for him to keep his joints in place and the strain that puts on his body makes him tired.”
With older brother Owen (19) a player at Aldermaston RFC, one of the clubs that didi rugby have partnered with in the Reading area, Sally saw that didi rugby classes were held there and decided to give it a go for Tommy.
“He is quite shy and it takes him a while to come out of his shell but he managed to stay upright throughout the session,” said Sally.
“He was 20 months old before he could walk and some of his joints, like his knees and shoulders, dislocate a lot so we never thought he would enjoy didi rugby as much as he has done.
“He wanted to come back after his first session and he has just finished a full term and moved up into the four to six-year-old group.
“It’s like if you put a rugby ball in his hand, he can run in a straight line!
“His coordination and balance have improved dramatically. You can see how much he enjoys it. He kicks and catches and his skills are really developing.
“And during the recent half-term, we took him to the didi camp at Reading RFC and even though it was a new venue with new faces and lots more children than he is used to, he joined in and enjoyed it.
“didi rugby has been amazing for him. He is always asking if it is didi rugby day and coaches Donna and Caitlin have been great with him.
“Here was a young boy who would trip over his own shadow and now, he is much more confident and steady on his feet. It’s a great activity for strengthening his muscles too.
“And his confidence has grown as we have gone along. There are three guys who open the didi classes up at Aldermaston every week called Andy, Ritchie and Grant. They always have a smile ready for the children but Tommy never used to say a word to them. Now, he ‘high-fives’ them every week.
“His growth has been amazing for me to see too. He has just started at school and I was really worried about him falling over all of the time. So I went into school to tell them to prepare for what might happen with Tommy – but it’s not happened yet.
“didi rugby has been brilliant for him.”
Tommy’s coaches at his Aldermaston classes, Donna and Caitlin have guided the four-year-old through every step of the way, sharing in his joy as he has gained in confidence and broadened his physical and mental skill-set.
“Tommy always comes bounding up to us and into class with a big smile on his face. His enthusiasm and giggle is infectious and if I could bottle it, I would,” said Donna.
“He thoroughly enjoys running around playing games, learning new skills and taking on a challenge. These challenges always have to include Caitlin and I and he is now a expert at setting up a obstacle course for us all!
“There is nothing he won’t try and through his determination and enjoyment of didi Rugby we have seen a huge improvement in his balance and coordination. There really is no stopping him. He is an absolute joy to coach.”