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”.