Coach on podium with pupil

TWO friends from Shellharbour City - a sporting coach and his pupil - were among 21 winners at the recent National Disability Services Achievement Awards in Newcastle.

The awards were hosted by Life Without Barriers, a national not-for-profit organisation, to celebrate International Day of People with Disability.

Client Andrew Cunningham, of Warilla, and Shellharbour's John Carroll were among the recipients.

Carroll coaches Cunningham in ten-pin bowling, the pair having become friends.

Cunningham, 33, was given the highly commended award in the Breakthrough Award category.

He has an acquired brain injury. He received his award while in Newcastle, where he was helping with coaching at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games, in early December.

However, he didn't compete due to recently breaking his left hand while playing basketball.

The talented athlete recently joined the Illawarra Special Olympics swimming team and has already broken records.

He has also completed several certified courses to teach others to swim.

"(Getting the award) was a bit unexpected, but I felt pretty good and happy about it," he said.

His favourite part of competing was "winning, for sure".

Carroll earned a Highly Commended award in the Accessible Community category for his work as a Special Olympics volunteer.

An avid ten-pin bowler, in February he established and began training an Illawarra-based team for the Special Olympics.

Carroll has represented NSW and Australia on the seniors' circuit.

His 14-year-old daughter, Georgia, has a moderate intellectual disability, while his wife works in the disability sector.

Carroll said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience of coaching his charges, who number close to 20.

"I like what it gives to all the bowlers. It empowers them, and gives a sense of achievement.

"People don't realise how great they can be until they give them a chance to do it, and then you see what amazing people they really are."

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