Four years ago Matt Lancett suffered a stroke which resulted in him having a visual impairment. It was a blow to his independence and confidence and, as a keen sportsman, he felt his life had no future. All this changed when he discovered and started taking part, in VI sport.
We caught up with Matt to find out about his story and how sport has changed his life.
Matt Lancett is a happily married 45-year-old man with two children. It was on his wedding anniversary that the stroke caused the loss of his left field of vision in both eyes (a condition called left homonymous hemianopia) and his life was changed forever.
Prior to his stroke Matt was a qualified butcher, played football regularly and was a keen runner, which included him completing the London Marathon.
After coming out of hospital he suffered with balance issues, severe loss of confidence and anxiety for the next 12 months.
But his fortunes changed when his brother told him about a woman with a visual impairment, who was playing rugby at Warriors Community Foundation in nearby Worcester.
But it wasn’t just the physical activity aspect that was important Matt explained: “I hadn’t socialised outside of the family for a year so to be back chatting and travelling with other visually impaired people was so uplifting. I had the chance to speak to other visually impaired people about how they have overcome their challenges.”
In a short period of time, Matt found himself taking part in more sports and he joined the local VI cricket team. He also now takes part in running again with a guide and plays football.
He found through running, football, cricket, and in particular rugby, a new sense of freedom.
His confidence steadily grew. There were no longer constant worries about bumping into things. No worries about cars or other people around as he knew he safely on a sports pitch.
As well as playing locally in Worcester, he is part of the Change Foundation team in London. To take part in this he travels independently each month, even though this is challenging.
But the rewards have been life-changing! Matt was lucky enough to join the UK team in Japan to play VI rugby as part of the rugby World Cup arrangements in 2019. He travelled to Tokyo to compete in a three-test series against rivals from Japan and New Zealand. For Matt, it was an experience of a lifetime.
He looks back to how it all started:
Prior to getting active again, Matt thought he was a 40-year-old man with no future. He now knows this is not the case, but he needed the support of family and his friends to realise what could still be achieved.
He is now working with Warriors Community Foundation to promote visually impaired rugby to people in the Worcester area and beyond. He said: “The aim is to roll out the game to all parts of the UK, to remove travel and cost barriers that exist and provide opportunities at a local level.
Sport and physical activity was the springboard that Matt needed to get some part of his old life back. He added:
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