Last autumn, in partnership with the EFL Trust, we launched “Every Player Counts”, our national programme aimed at increasing the opportunities available for disabled people to play football. The initiative is funding 25 of the EFL club community trusts up and down the country to run projects in their local area, targeting gaps in provision and creating new chances for disabled people of all ages to get involved in the beautiful game.
Four months after the start of the programme, the first set of returns are in from the clubs. The fantastic news is that almost 2,000 disabled people have taken part in one of the projects – against a target of 1,000. And this is despite that fact that several of the club schemes have yet to get up to full speed. It’s also great to learn that around half of the participants have already attended at least 10 sessions – demonstrating that people are loving the projects and just want to keep playing.
Huge thanks are due to all the participating clubs for getting the work off to such an excellent start.
Of course, numbers are not everything. Some of the schemes have no plans to “go big” but are working with smaller groups of individuals who have a particular impairment or support need, and are providing whatever level of assistance is necessary to enable each person to stay part of the group.
What really matters is the impact that the projects are having on each individual player, whatever their level of impairment or ability and how playing football is helping them to improve their lives in so many different ways. Here are just a couple of examples:
from Amy Edwards, Health & Inclusion Officer at Shrewsbury Town in the Community
Amy told us “Evan is a young footballer at our Down’s syndrome football and also attends our short breaks ‘All In’ programme. He comes to both sessions every week and to see how he has progressed and developed is amazing. Evan has progressed physically, technically and socially through doing the sessions. His sister attends some of the time for support which is great as it creates a stronger sibling bond. Evan has also attended holiday clubs that are 3 hours long which shows he feels comfortable enough with the coaches for his parents to leave him for a longer period of time.
Because of Evan’s progression and his outstanding efforts, he was nominated and won an award at Shrewsbury Town in the Community’s 21st Celebration Event. This was a proud moment as I have watched Evan grow and to see him smartly dressed come up and receive an award in front of 180 people was extremely impressive.”
You can see more about Evan here.
from Lee Smith, Community Sports Manager at Wolves Community Trust
Sometimes, it’s not just about the football. At the Wolves Community Trust, they’re using that first engagement with football, as the entry route to helping disabled people achieve their full potential through work experience opportunities. Lee told us about one young man they have worked with:
“When Aaron started his placement with Wolves Community Trust he had very little knowledge or experience of working in a professional environment. His ability to forge relationships was poor and he was very nervous. We then were able to pair Aaron with our Sporting Chances Team Leader, Gavin Jones, who was able to mentor Aaron out on sessions equipping him with the skills to engage participants and how to be act professionally when interacting with partners. Gavin was then able to give Aaron training whilst in an office environment. This involved giving him guidance around his conduct in the office, including his interpersonal skills and organisation techniques. Aaron would interrupt staff when on the phone and talk very loud. He would lose things he had put down in the office and would call a member of staff constantly on the way into his placement to check he was doing the right thing.
We have seen a massive progression in Aaron, he is now able to organise himself to get to Molineux without needing any support, constantly checks he has everything and his manner in the office is to the standard of any other member of staff. He has become a very popular person around the office interacting with everyone.”
See Aaron’s story here.
….and finally a comment from a parent at Albion in the Community
“Just a quick note to say thank you so much to you and all the coaches. I can’t tell you how much Owen LOVED it – he was buzzing afterwards and can’t wait for the next one! It means so much as a parent of a child with SEN for him to have opportunities like this. Owen finds it hard to keep up with his peers at school and he gets frustrated that football at school is “too tricky”, but he can relax and really enjoy his AITC football. Yesterday’s session was perfect, it was lovely to see the chill out area for those that needed it, and plenty of supportive coaches on hand to make it run smoothly. Every single child was engaged and happy for the whole two hours – just brilliant!”
We’ll be posting up more success stories and case studies from clubs across the country in the coming weeks and months, so do check back.
A full list of the grants awarded on the WNST/EFL Trust Every Player Counts programme can be found here.