On April 22nd 2018 we began our journey to create the UK’s first all Diabetic Futsal team……
Where do I start… It’s hard to put it into words how proud I am to see this project get off the ground after the hard work and time given up by people behind the scenes at TDFC. I know I personally invested a huge amount of time negotiating, networking and reaching out to people to try and make this happen, and to finally see a group of Diabetic players come together to train, socialise and share experiences has got to be one of my proudest moments I’ve had since launching the community in February 2017.
So in this blog I’m going to try and give a bit of insight into what happened…
So we’d asked the players to arrive between 9:30 – 10 am to give them a few minutes to acclimatise to their surroundings and stretch their legs after a number of them had travelled upwards of 2 hours to get to the University of Worcester ( www.worc.ac.uk ). As the guys all started arriving it was great to see the passion for the project and the idea of playing futsal with a group of people they’d never met! One thing which I spotted as people sat down and got ready for the briefing, was the instant connection and bonding that the guys were doing from the off… Most of them had never really spoken to another type 1 Diabetic let alone a whole room of them all interested in the same sport they were into!!! I’ve seen this happen only on a couple of other occasions at Diabetes related conferences and events but when it’s something you’ve helped organise it’s pretty special to witness.
Myself and Harley, who’d led the organisation of the day at the university, were keen to give the players a short briefing before they jumped straight into the session. We wanted to properly introduce the members of the TDFC team, give the guys an idea of the agenda and ensure they knew the health & safety procedure at the university. But after this “brief” briefing, it was all about the Futsal!!!
As the lads got kitted up and ready to go, I was running around trying to make sure the coaches were happy and had what they needed, whilst checking Elle and Harley hadn’t come across any hiccups! Luckily it was all good and as the lads entered the hall I was confident we were in a good spot! As Will Weaver and Paul McHugh (our coaches) introduced themselves and their esteemed background in Futsal, I was able to relax ever so slightly. As the session got underway I was able to chat with Jodie and Max who’d come down from the Worcestershire FA to support us and capture footage of the occasion (www.worcestershirefa.com), which was fantastic to see. It was also brilliant to see Sue and Lisa, from the local adult Diabetes specialist team, drop in to view a part of the session. I was extremely appreciative of the local support from our partners in the community on this historic day!
As we got into the session itself, I spent most of the time observing and capturing images for TDFC social media. My job will be to manage and pick the team, as well as potentially playing, so it was important I got a good idea of the quality level of the players! With the experience of the guys varying from a former professional footballer to recreational Sunday league, the overall standard was really impressive for an introduction to Futsal and I’m really excited about how they continue to develop their passion for the team and the sport. Luckily, we filmed the whole session so I’ve got the help of video footage to review when picking the squad because I’m not sure it’s going to be an easy job based on the ability I saw!!
The session continued to progress very nicely from technical drills, into sessions closely linked to game play, to give the players an opportunity to try out the things they’d just learnt. I just tried to facilitate our coaches’ ability to deliver the session as well as the happiness of players and our band of TDFC volunteers. I maintained a safe distance from playing (due to a game I’d played the day before) and tried to just take it all in, with everyone seemingly enjoying themselves, I was just so pleased. The observing was the best part! Loved it!
To see the media take an interest in our “new” team was also really positive as it gives us the platform to gain support from sponsors, new players, coaches and the governing body of our sport to continue doing this exciting work. BBC Hereford and Worcester arrived towards the end of the session to do a couple of interviews with myself and the players whilst recording some video footage to use for their social media channels. The below links are showcasing the coverage we received from the day:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0638fgt#play ( 1 hour 37 minutes 36 seconds for the feature)
A huge thank you to the BBC for all of the support and coverage you have given us!
As the boys finished up with training I witnessed a moment of absolute gold and something I felt summed up the day perfectly. Seeing a group of lads who’d never met before, high fiving, patting each other on the back and embracing at the end of the session like they’d known each other for years is something I’ll never forget. In reality, they’d known each other for 2 hours!!! Sharing a medical condition with someone who enjoys the same sport as you drives an instant connection that most people can’t even replicate with their best friends!! Something just clicks….
This signifies the start of something special!
Post session we grabbed the players, coaches and any volunteers who wanted to stay afterwards (of which most did!) to sit and have lunch. The camaraderie and laughter the lads were having normally takes months of work to create, yet they had managed it in a couple of hours, as they exchanged stories of life with Diabetes and shared the obligatory banter over football. Injections and blood glucose monitoring devices were out on all of the tables and carb counting was the norm!
As we brought the day to close and I reflected on what we’d delivered, I was filled with immense pride. This day had been such a long time in the making and I was so pleased it lived up to the expectations we’d set ourselves. We had some amazingly positive feedback and enthusiasm from the players involved and I think that TDFC did a great job during this first training session.
So it’s onto the next session… Sunday the 17th of June at the University of Worcester Sports Centre. We will be welcoming new and existing players to the session as we continue to work towards getting a team to www.diaeuro.org from the U.K and growing the team beyond this tournament.
Before signing off though, I have to say a huge thank you to Harley, Elle, my parents, Jon, Alex, Bryn, Will, Paul and all of the players for their support in putting on a hugely positive session. I’m sure the positivity surrounding the day will ensure this project goes from strength to strength and I’m super grateful for all of your involvement.
Until the next time,