Sarah Hope: “Sport has always been a great outlet”

Spautism friend Sarah Hope talks changing sports, international travel, and being adaptable to what life throws at you.

What I’ve been up to…

In March 2022 I officially retired from international wheelchair basketball. I was about as prepared for it as I could be as I’d been considering it since Christmas of the year before. Transitions are always difficult and I knew this would be a big one.

Being a professional athlete is very different to any other type of job I’ve had – it’s definitely a lifestyle and not an occupation – so I braced myself! I was still playing in the Women’s Premier League within the UK and so it was a fairly easy shift in terms of my actual day to day. I had enough savings to be able to play the WPL season out (until May) before getting a new job.

I also had been looking at another sport. Not one to sit still, I had heard that the Great Britain Para Ice Hockey team was splitting into men’s and women’s and that the women’s programme were inviting athletes from other sports to try out. Knowing that I had the relevant experience in an elite level programme I thought I could give back to sport by supporting the creation of the GB women’s para ice hockey team. I actually found being a beginner again quite enjoyable! Especially already knowing how to manage the team element, the socialising, and the sensory aspects. There was a lot of anxiety but it also helped take my mind off basketball and give me something else to progress at – which is definitely something I get fulfilment from.

In August 2022 I represented Great Britain at the Women’s World Challenge in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Something I then repeated in 2023. While I’m not the youngest or fittest out there, I do take a lot of joy in seeing the development of the women’s game and, hopefully, the eventual addition of this event at a Winter Paralympic Games.

Unfortunately, 2023 has seen a development in terms of my disability and I’ve had to pause both recreational basketball and all para ice hockey until I can get surgery. In the meantime I have done my archery beginner’s course and will be shooting for a club in Gloucestershire. Archery appeals to me for a number of reasons – it’s social without having to deal with communicating under the pressure of game play, it’s highly repetitive and you do better the more exact you are with your repetitions, and it involves lots of numbers and stats which we all know I’ll end up putting into graphs and charts!

It’s a difficult time for me at the moment, with the medical problems that I’m having, and sport has always been a great outlet and something that allows some consistency in my life. I’ll always be grateful to sport for what it has done for me.