‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it’
It’s fair to say that sport is Mitchell Gosling’s main passion in life.
The 23-year-old from Hertfordshire was born with cerebral palsy, which is the general term for a number of neurological conditions affecting movement, speech and co-ordination.
But, as he says: “Nothing stops me. Nothing.”
Gosling is the captain of the England table cricket team, plays power chair football, coaches children, has played boccia, and done archery “with my mouth.”
He swims three times a week, having taught himself at his local pool. “I can’t be sitting at home, I’d rather be out and active,” he told Elephant Sport.
Gosling admits he’s always had a competitive streak, and he initially channelled it at the age of 13 into playing boccia, a form of bowls which is played up to Paralympics level.
Power chair football and table cricket are currently his main sports, and of captaining England’s team in the latter, he says: “It’s a big responsibility but I love it.”
“I would get out my wheelchair and play in goal”
His proudest moment to date came in 2015. “I went to the Cerebral Palsy World Games with England. We won a silver medal in table cricket and I received the ‘Spirit of the Games’ award.”
Gosling is a true leader in more ways than one to his team-mates. “They don’t always know how to cope with their disabilities and I help them overcome them,” he says
“I think I’m on this earth to help people understand disabilities. Anyone can do anything they want if they put their minds to it.”
Gosling’s positive mindset was partly shaped at Portland College in Mansfield, which works with disabled people to develop their employability, independence and communication skills.
One of his teachers was Dave Winter, who is also the coach of England’s table cricket team and spotted his ability and leadership potential.
“Portland College was a big help,” says Gosling, who studied there for three years. “I loved it because living by myself [away from home], I gained my independence.”
He would play sport alongside disabled and able-bodied students. “I would get out my wheelchair and play in goal,” he recalls.
Gosling now coaches sport at his old school, Lonsdale Primary in Stevenage, every Monday and Thursday, and has quickly become an influential role model for the pupils.
“The children look up to me, they’re always happy to see me,” he says.
It was while he was attending the school that Gosling was first able to speak.
“I never used to be able to talk, but then I had an operation on my mouth to help me when I was eight years old.”
He is a truly determined character. “About three years ago, my hip came out of the socket. The doctors said I would never crawl again, but a year after I was back crawling.”
When Gosling is not playing or coaching sport, he enjoys watching football.
He’s a Manchester United supporter, thanks to his dad being a fan of the red side of Manchester.
In February, he attended his first-ever match at Old Trafford as United beat Watford 2-0. He said it was easy to get into the ground but more lifts would have been helpful.
Gosling has also been to watch Arsenal play at the Emirates Stadium where he met one of his favourite players, Mesut Ozil.
Gosling’s long-term ambition is to establish his own sports business called DIFFability.
The name mixes ‘different’ and ‘disability’, and the aim is to help anyone play sports, whether they are young, old, disabled or able-bodied.
He sees it as a pathway to integrating disabled people and the able-bodied so they competing together.
“I need a venue,” he explains. “I’ve got everything else. I have the equipment, and I’ve saved a lot of money from my own pocket.”
Securing additional funding is his next goal, and the ultimate aim is to take the concept nationwide – and even potentially overseas.
Don’t bet against the determined Gosling making it happen one day.