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An Interview with Mandip Sehmi – Paralympian and Coventry Wheelchair Rugby Coach

The Coventry Wheelchair Rugby Team achieved joint third in the recent league

At RML we are proud to sponsor the inspirational scheme of the Coventry Wheelchair Rugby team. The coach of this team is Mandip Sehmi, a triple Wheelchair Rugby Paralympian with an incredible story of what sport has meant for his recovery.

To gain a better understanding of the benefit our sponsorship provides, we interviewed Mandip around his journey into wheelchair rugby, his main motivators to coach and the progress of the team.

Mandip’s introduction to Wheelchair Rugby began following an injury to his neck in 2000, which meant losing the ability to walk. Despite this difficult period in his life, Mandip emphasised that sport was a key supporting factor in his recovery.

It was during this rehabilitation period that Mandip was introduced to Bob O’Shea – Captain of the Great Britain national wheelchair rugby team. Although Bob initially tried to encourage Mandip into trying the sport, he had reservations due to not fully comprehending his capability to play.

After eventually trying the sport, Mandip was pleasantly surprised by how it made him feel:

“After playing I didn’t want to get out, I was having so much fun and almost forgot I was in a wheelchair.”

Despite Mandip having initial reservations and still debating whether to continue with his education, Bob had confidence in his abilities and Mandip eventually pursued his career in Wheelchair Rugby. Three Paralympic games later, Mandip has had an incredibly successful career as an athlete, including competing in the London 2012 games – a personal highlight for him.

During his final games in Rio 2016, Mandip knew that it was the right time for him to retire from the sport as it was taking him longer to recover from training. Not to mention that he coincidentally found out he was going to become a father at the same time, so there was an additional focus for him outside of work.

The end of this chapter meant that Mandip could focus his efforts on passing his experiences and knowledge onto other people, inevitably leading to coaching. Living in Leamington Spa, it came to his attention that there was nothing locally which allowed people to take up Wheelchair Rugby. So when the idea of coaching the team was presented to him by Coventry Rugby, he jumped at the opportunity.

As can be seen from the team’s strong initial start in the league, Mandip’s coaching skills have been successful in enhancing player’s abilities. Describing his coaching style, Mandip shapes his team to be player led and puts his personality into everything he does. As a result of this, he has been incredibly proud of the team’s performance:

“They came joint third in the league and I was pleasantly surprised because they had only been playing together for about 7 months, whereas some of the other teams have been established for 2 or 3 years. It was a credit to them, they worked really hard for that.”

Mandip stressed the importance of sponsors in the team’s success due to the costly nature of the sport:

“Each chair can cost up to £4,500 and is bespoke to the player, so the support of sponsors such as RML in providing chairs and kit is key for the sport to grow in Coventry.”

It was fascinating to see Mandip’s passion for what he does despite the challenges he has faced and continues to be an inspiration for so many children and aspiring players. This furthers our pride in supporting such an important programme and we will be continuing with more events centred around Wheelchair Rugby in the near future.

Click here for the video interview