“I’ve been very grateful for the sessions because it has given me the opportunity to excel myself.”

Matthew Hunter: “I’m very proud to wear the badge. You’re not just representing yourself but the club and the town as well.”

For Latics fan Matthew Hunter Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s Every Player Counts programme has provided the 31-year old the opportunity to represent the club he has adored all his life.

The initiative – which is funded by the Wembley National Stadium Trust and backed by the EFL Trust – aims to get more people with disabilities involved in football.

Matthew, who has learning disabilities, has been involved with the Community Trust for over ten years through it’s disability football programmes, and has since enjoyed a number of opportunities including represented the club in competitive games against other North West clubs.

Latics have worked with over 60 adults in the past 12 months through the project and Matthew says he loves taking part in the sessions.

“I’ve been very grateful for the sessions because it has given me the opportunity to excel myself. I love taking part and playing in a competitive league where we can win things. “We have great camaraderie and, being around different lads, we can have a laugh. Everyone is supportive of each other whatever their skill level and I think that sums up the Wigan Athletic spirit as a whole.

“I have become a better footballer than I was right at the beginning and the sessions have helped me to learn and become a better player at the same time,” he added.

The Community Trust have also delivered over 200 hours of weekly coaching, with both an adult and junior team representing Latics in the Greater Manchester Ability Counts League, something Matthew takes huge pride in.

He said: “I’ve supported Latics since I was 13 and have seen them play in the Premier League and Europe and also win the FA Cup. I’m very proud to represent my club and wear the badge. You’re not just representing yourself but the club and the town as well. Whether it’s in a game or just in a training session I will go out there and give 100%.”

Following the postponement of sessions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust supported participants through regular communication and online challenges, which Matthew appreciated during a difficult time for him.

“It was tough during lockdown and one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with. I struggled with it mentally and I lost a close friend to COVID-19 in April too which was really tough,” Matthew explained. “But Joe [who coaches the Every Player Counts sessions] was there for me through having a chat and supporting me through that time. “When sessions returned, I was bouncing. I went back to work in June and that felt normal so when the Monday sessions restarted, I was pleased at work at the thought of going back after five months without it.

“It was a relief to get back and I can’t wait until we start back again. “As someone who supports and plays for Latics, it’s great that the Community Trust are there, not just for me but for the town. “They are a vital part of the community and without them people would really struggle. Even during the pandemic and since March, having them there is vital and has been a big help for the town.”

Following a second lockdown, the programme is set to restart on Monday 7th December with free sessions taking place between 6pm-7pm at Wigan Athletic Academy, Stadium Way.

 

He is the Brother We All Could Do With

Two brothers Michael and Ryan are taking different paths with Blackpool FC Community Trust.

Michael is volunteer coach at Blackpool Community Trust Every Player Counts funded Pan Ability football sessions, and he’s in a unique position of coaching his brother, Ryan, who lives with autism.

Michael and Ryan’s mum struggled to find somewhere for Ryan to attend football sessions where his disability would be catered for. Blackpool’s Pan Ability football provided the answer.  As Ryan started to play football his brother Michael became a volunteer. Having his brother there was beneficial for Ryan, making him relaxed and fell more confident and reduced his anxiety.

Michael is currently in his second year at college doing Football Coaching and Performance. Being able to volunteer with the Trust helps towards building his experience of coaching disability football. Michael says

“I absolutely love being a coach, I enjoy learning and gaining experience every time I coach. I love helping people gain better skills and the best part about coaching is the smiles it can bring.” One of the big bonuses of coaching with Blackpool is that Michael gets to see his brother Ryan’s development. He said “It’s been amazing seeing my brother progress and seeing a smile on his face every time he plays.”

Ryan really values having his brother coach him, he says

“I enjoy my brother coaching me at the footy sessions as he helps me understan what to do”.

Proud Mum Joanne, says

“It is really great having the footy session for Ryan at Blackpool because he feels safe and supported and he loves football. It reduces his anxiety a lot. I enjoy watching Michael coach his brother. He is very patient and understanding towards Ryan. He has a calming influence over him and that makes him a good support for Ryan.”

Paul, Blackpool’s  disability engagement officer who leads Every Player Counts session on a Tuesday, said about Michael,

“Although Michael is not yet 20, he is the most mature young person I know for his age. And all the participants love having him there, especially his brother. To sum Michael up, I would say he is the brother we all could do with.”

Blackpool are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past four years, got over 11,000 disabled people into football. Blackpool are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental and learning impairments.

Football Makes My Child Full of Smiles

“A big thank you to everyone involved, my child was full of smiles and actually enjoyed football” says the Mum whose child has been attending Newport County’s Every Player Counts Disability Football session.

Child H, aged 10 has ASD. His mum explained that he was unsure at the thought of playing football because he had previously tried to attend a mainstream football club but struggled in a large group and got confused with the activities. County in the Community working in partnership with local disability charity Sparkle have recently delivered a 12-week programme supporting the children and young people to further develop their skills as part of EFL Trust’s Every Player Counts Programme.

During the sessions, although child H was initially nervous, he soon settled in well and responded positively to the encouragement and praise from the coaches. He especially liked receiving a medal!

Daniel Williams from County in The Community comments, “Initially, it was clear to see that Child H was nervous in relation to engaging in the session, we spent a few weeks getting to know the child to ensure the child felt comfortable. After a couple of weeks, they took it upon themselves to join in the session and every week onwards developed confidence and encouragingly tried lots of new things which was great to see as a coach!”

County in the Community are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past four years, got over 11,000 disabled people into football. Barnsley are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental and learning impairments.

He Was Nervous about Attending But Now He’s Coaching the Team

Two years ago D was at his lowest point, the loss of a close family member and mental health issues left him struggling and anxious. He decided to give MK Dons Sport Education Trust disability and mental football sessions at try.  Entering these sessions was a big step for D due to his mental health issues and the anxiety of not knowing how the sessions worked, whether he would fit in, and if he would enjoy attending. However, it was a decision that was to prove a catalyst to changing his life and  lead to him not only enjoying the session but taking a coaching qualification and now leading the way in helping others benefit from them too.

D initially joined the sessions to boost his fitness, however after a few weeks of adapting to the environment and building a rapport with coaches and fellow participants, he soon started developing his confidence and demonstrating his leadership qualities within the group. He was soon invited to represent MK Dons mental health football team – a team which went on to win the Championship.

D is very opinionated at times and before joining MK Dons he struggled with open debate and would react negatively if someone else shared an alternative perspective. However, he has developed his tolerance and now puts his opinions across in a manner that other participants understand and can contribute to open, meaningful discussions. His confidence levels have increased significantly, and he has developed friendships with numerous other participants. He now works well as part of a team both on and off the pitch.

MK Dons SET are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past four years, got over 11,000 disabled people into football. Barnsley are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental and learning impairments,

The, COVID-19 restrictions and the introduction of a national lockdown has had a significant impact on D. He was initially very isolated and missed the structure of his weekly football sessions. However, the Trust have made weekly phone calls to D and all of their mental health and disability football participants, to check in and make sure that they are okay. As a sign of how far D has come in the past two years, D also took on the responsibility to call some of the more vulnerable participants himself to check in on them and make sure they were not being left isolated.

As well as calling all participants the Trust also held weekly quizzes, which D helped prepare and spent time getting other participants them involved/engaged in the quiz. D has been very proactive with the wide range of activities the trust has provided during lockdown helping more vulnerable members through this difficult period.

During lockdown, D enrolled on MK Dons BBO (Building Better Opportunities) programme. The Trust’s Education Manager worked with D to support his employability prospects, which led to him starting his FA Level 1 coaching qualification.

In addition to his FA Level 1, D is currently undergoing the necessary DBS checks to allow him to support some of our disability football sessions. Before the second lockdown, D was shadowing one of the Trust’s adult disability and has produced some session plans for the sessions can restart again.

 

Mya and Her Family Benefit from Reds Short Breaks Programme.

Reds in the Community, Barnsley FC’s community charity, run a short breaks programme which provides activities for participants with disabilities to enjoy valuable sporting experiences away from their parents and carers. In turn, parents and carers benefit with a valuable respite from caring.

The Father of one Short Breaks participant, Mya, has nothing but praise for the programme saying “The benefits to Mya have been immense, she’s had plenty of time to herself, her own independence which has brought her on at school and she’s got to meet other people and make friends, She got fit which is huge with kids now being sat at home a lot, she has gained a lot of skills, she’s met other people and she is socialising and now going to parties and other people’s houses and it has helped to remove a lot of boundaries and promotes a bit of conversation”

“As a family, we have had time to rest, relax and spend time with our other children and its helped them have a closer time as well and enable us to recharge our batteries and be a better parent both to our younger children and Mya”

The range of activities provided includes; Holiday Course, Saturday Coaching Club and After-School Multi-Sport sessions as well as competitive football fixtures in the South Yorkshire Ability Counts League involving neighbouring football club charities. All activities are delivered at Oakwell and within the community.

Mya’s father continues, “She (Mya) has tried mainstream sport and provisions and she has struggled, she feels very involved when she comes down here and feels like a team player, the staff are amazing, extremely supportive and understanding and go above and beyond I’m sure of their regular duties it’s been an amazing experience we trust and respect that Mya is supervised here at all times”

The Short Break programme is run in partnership with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council. Reds in the Community are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past four years, got over 11,000 disabled people into football. Barnsley are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with physical, mental and learning impairments.

Football with Argyle Community Trust Allows Oli to Feel Like a ‘Normal Teenager’

Oli is a young boy whose disability means he has problems with his coordination, communication as well as being partially sighted, which means he was very introverted and did not mix well with people. However, his mum credits Football with Argyle Community Trust as improving his self-confidence and allowing her son be a “normal teenager”.

Oli’s Secondary School recommended the Plymouth Argyles Trust’s Holiday Roadshows. For the first couple of years it was a massive challenge for his parents to get Oli to attend these. He was always fine once there and the continuity of the coaches was clearly important to him. However after over time, Oli now asks every time to make sure he is booked onto the Holiday Roadshows and can’t wait to get there for each ession. His progress is such that over the last 12 months he has also progressed to Argyle’s Ability Counts sessions, “something we could never get him to even consider”, said Oli’s mum.

“It’s a good opportunity for Oli to see friends on a regular basis who have the common interest of football.” Oli’s mum said. “His face lights up when he knows that certain friends are going to be at the session”.

Oli’s disabilities mean he cannot always socialise like a ‘normal’ teenager as he always needs someone to support him. The Ability Counts Football session is a chance for Oli to socialise with a group of young people with common interests. Although there are many physical benefits to taking part, it is the social aspect of these sessions that most beneficial to this particular group of young people.

Argyle Community Trust are part of the Every Player Counts programme which is funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust.  Every Player Counts has, over the past four years, got over 11,000 disabled people into football. Barnsley are one of 28 Football Club Community Organisations across the country that offer the programme, which is specifically developed for the needs of people in their local community, including those with both physical, mental and learning impairments.

During the lockdown period, Oli has not wanted to leave the house, other than going to school, so he has really missed the benefits provided by the football sessions. The community trust recognised the importance, now more than ever, for disabled people to stay active and the positive impact this has on their mental health. Especially for Oli who is now preparing for his exams. The coaching staff at the Trust have been providing weekly football activity videos for the participants to take part in during the lockdown period.

Since participating in the Ability Counts session Oli’s self-confidence and self-esteem has grown, along with his willingness to communicate with others. Oli’s mum said, “We saw a turning point and it has definitely improved his self-confidence, knowing that he can do something, and it is an activity he now chooses to attend which is so important for him”.

 

EFL Trust Christmas Advent Calendar

This advent, the EFL Trust are celebrating some of the amazing people whose lives have been changed by our Clubs and Club Community Organisations (CCOs). Each morning throughout December we will be sharing a different story through our social media channels.

2020 has been by far the most challenging year of recent times, however we are extremely proud of our network who have adapted and overcome these challenges working tirelessly to serve their local communities. This calendar is a great way to share some of our favourite stories and round off the year by celebrating the amazing work that has taken place in 2020.

Our CCOs have always been and remain at the heart of the support for their communities and their importance to the daily lives of so many cannot be underestimated. That has been reflected in the outstanding collective efforts they have made in supporting the community response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you give us a follow to see our Christmas Advent Calendar:

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

To read more about the impact of the EFL Trust network and about how each Club and their Community Organisation has responded to the pandemic go to: www.efltrust.com/ourimpact/

THE MAIN REASON I CAME WAS BECAUSE I WAS LONELY.

Former Latics team doctor and Extra Time Hub member Satish talks about the benefits the programme has provided him.

For local retired GP Satish Ahuja, Wigan Athletic has played a big part in his life from his role as club doctor between to now enjoying regular activities with the Extra Time Hub initiative.

Funded by the National Lottery and Sport England and backed by the EFL Trust, Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s Extra Time Hub aims to make a positive difference to the lives of retired and semi-retired people.

And for Satish, 84, the programme has been extremely beneficial to him and one he has really enjoyed.

He said: “I saw the advert for it in a local newspaper and I don’t live far from the stadium either.

“The main reason for coming was loneliness, I do have friends but I live on my own after my wife passed away and I thought I would come along to Extra Time.

“It was the first time I thought to myself to come as normally my friends would ask me to come here or there.

“I really enjoy coming, we are looked after every week by the staff you meet new people and also try different activities.

“We visited Fleetwood Market last year as a group which was an enjoyable trip. The sessions offer you the chance to make friendships and develop future friendships too.

“It’s very important for people to be able to meet each other, talk to each other and help each other and these sessions provide that.”

Having worked as a GP in Wigan for most of his life, Satish spent five years with Latics from 1978-1983 as the club doctor and a period he fondly remembers.

He said: “I was a GP in Wigan town centre and I was approached to be the doctor at Wigan Athletic through a friend and this was how my involvement began.

“At the time they had just been promoted to Division Four, Ian McNeil was the manager with Arthur Horrocks as Chairman.

“I was quite busy in general practice so I didn’t go to many matches but those I would go to would be on Saturday and then Wednesday evening. I really enjoyed my time there.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latics ran two weekly Extra Time Hub sessions with over 70 members enjoying activities including quizzes, table tennis and badminton.  During lockdown staff have been in regular contact with members through a number of ways and have also delivered over 60 goody bags containing a number of things to keep them physically and mentally active.

 

Bob find inspiration to ‘Shape Up’ at Watford Football Club

Bob, aged 61 was overweight – in fact, he says ‘morbidly obese according to the internet’. When Bob’s wife died, he thought it was important for him to do something about it, as she’d always asked him to.

‘Shape Up’ is a free 12-week weight management course for men at Watford Football Club. The course is aimed at men aged 18 to 65 years-old with a high BMI.

Participants meet up weekly for a ninety-minute session comprising of a forty-five-minute educational segment and a forty-five-minute physical activity session. These two segments are delivered with the aim of improving participant’s healthy lifestyle knowledge to ensure a sustainable weight loss rather than the typically short-term benefit of a diet-based programme.

 Bob found that the coaching team’s teaching about nutrition and the psychology of peer pressure and your attitude to food was really valuable.

 Bob stopped drinking beer, cut back on pasta and bread and ate lots of fresh veg and salads. He switched from sugary cereals to porridge and gave up his sugar in his coffee.  With the encouragement he found that he was able to stop eating sweets, crisps and general junk. He also felt inspired to begin exercising and now does activity 6 days a week, for 30 minutes.

The impact on Bob’s life has been significant. He’s now lost 11.4Kg and buys better food: mostly healthy lean meats, veggies and salads. He has seen a big drop in his blood pressure – now 130/80 – cholesterol and his resting heart rate according to his GP.

Bob has also found that he’s have stopped snoring. He loves being slimmer and is enjoying compliments from friends and family!

Bob remarried and is proud to say that his weight has remained fairly static….even through the COVID-19 lockdown! He says,

“This has genuinely been a complete life change.”

To find out more about how Watford are helping men like Bob, visit https://www.watfordfccsetrust.com/project/shape-up/