THE United Nations’ Day of Persons with Disability (IDPD) was celebrated worldwide today and over the past three years Argyle Community Trust has been successful in using this day to showcase their work on the project that has engaged with over 1,100 participants in Plymouth.
This year, again with the backing of EFL, the Community Trust used the day to celebrate the renewed funding of their Every Player Counts programme for another two years.
Through the Every Player Counts programme, the aim is to increase participation levels for all. The Trust is working with SEN schools in Plymouth and support organisations to help increase activities for all.
The Trust delivers activities covering a wide range of disability programmes including downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD, visual and hearing impairments, as well as mental health and learning difficulties, giving many disabled people access to football for the first time.
Health and Disability Manager, Ben Kerswell said: “The Trust programmes are open to people with any disability or learning difficulty that would like to be involved in sport.
“We do lots of great work to get people involved in sport regardless of their background or abilities and the support from the EFL Trust and Wembley National Stadium Trust enables us to reach our network even further and use the power of football to make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Since the launch of the Every Player Counts programme, coaches from the club’s official charity have been delivering weekly sessions that support the EFL Trust’s aim of getting more people involved in sport and offering more opportunities to people who may struggle to play.
The emphasis for the Community Trust staff and coaches is to increase participation and promote the social benefits of taking part in football, not only is it about developing football ability but also skills that will help with their development in everyday life, whether it is confidence, self-esteem, teamwork or leadership, amongst others.
Jamie, 20, started as a player but began volunteering every week at the Trust sessions when he realised his passion for sport could become a career:
“Football is a big thing in my life. I started playing at secondary school and discovered a team specifically for people with cerebral palsy, which I have.
“It made me feel great to be part of a team and just get out there and enjoy the game. As I progressed, I thought about what I could do next and realised that perhaps with my disability, maybe I can help others with disabilities, as I would be able to relate to them, so I contacted Argyle Community Trust to see how I could get involved.”
Starting as a volunteer at weekly disability sessions, Jamie’s enthusiasm and talent excelled and he was offered a full-time contract now coaching at Every Player Counts sessions.
Jamie added: “I feel proud to work for Argyle and it’s great to see both adults and children enjoy the sessions and have the freedom to play. There are so many benefits to playing, not just physical but mental, and I encourage anyone to come along, no matter your ability to have a go.”
(Told by mother Sarah Dent)
“George, 15, has got a left-sided weakness, visual and hearing impairment. We come here every Tuesday because he really enjoys it and it’s the highlight of his week. It doesn’t matter the weather, he just wants to play, and it’s really helped his coordination and increase his social opportunities.
“I think playing sport shows that anyone with a disability is no different from anyone else, these sessions with Argyle Community Trust are fantastic as the coaches are great and I know he’s in safe hands. Plus, there are the unique events when the first-team football players come along and join in.
“George isn’t very competitive, these sessions work as they offer a mix of drills and skills, shoot out as well as games.”
Through attending sessions and speaking to staff, George saw how coach Jamie had started as a player and then became a member of staff. Like him, George wants to secure a career in sport.
Mum Sarah added: “George has been inspired by coach Jamie and has me looking at college courses that will help him on a pathway to work in sport.
“He’s really focused and has undertaken a week’s placement with the Argyle Community Trust health and disability department to get a taste of what it takes to be a coach. Since shadowing staff at sessions his ambition is to become a coach and work for Argyle.”