The First #SporT1Day Conference: Organiser’s Perspective (Chris Bright)

After months of phone calls, organising, negotiating and talking about #SporT1Day, May the 13th 2018 has been and gone…….But what a day!!! It was our first foray into creating an event which provided education and inspiration in one big dose! Before I even start talking about the day I’d like to say a big thank you to Paul Coker at www.1bloodydrop.com and the University of Worcester (www.worc.ac.uk) for partnering with TDFC to deliver the conference. I’d also like to extend the thank you to those people who helped us organise, run the day and tidy up afterwards!

Building up to it I’d spent the previous week stressed, writing my presentation and critiquing everything myself and Paul had put in place as I strove for perfection… I knew deep down this wasn’t possible but I wanted the event to look as professional as possible whilst delivering the overall objective of giving the attendees tips, guidance and education about Type 1 Diabetes management in sport. I think we did a good job at trying to deliver that!!!

The day itself was an absolute whirlwind for me but I loved every minute of it…

I arrived with Alex at about 8:30 to ensure that we had the venue looking smart and the registration process in place… It took us half an hour,  but by 9 am we had it all sorted! At this time myself and Paul took up our places on the registration desk to welcome the delegates, check them in and give them their goodie bags! It was great to see so many smiley faces with an early start on a Sunday but I could sense the excitement in the attendees and in myself and Paul.

10 o’clock came around quick! This was the moment myself and Paul opened up the conference and after we’d rounded everyone up and guided them to the room it was time to begin the proceedings! We were keen to introduce and stress the importance of learning and education in our opening, with as few words as possible, due to the amazing speakers we’d lined up.

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Following the warm-up we started as we meant to go on… With a cracker!

I’d spent the last few months getting to know Chris Pennell and his work with the Type 1 Diabetes academy based at Worcester Warriors, so it was only natural I should ask the first Type 1 Diabetic to score a try for England, to be the first speaker at #SporT1Day.  Like Chris’ career, he did not disappoint!! We heard stories of Chris’ life and his approach to Diabetes management, which caused a stir in the room, whilst he talked about the endeavours of being a professional athlete with a chronic medical condition.

2 comments really stood out to me from Chris’ talk… The first was his reference to himself as a “plastic Diabetic” which he explained was because he felt he’d had an easy ride by being diagnosed as a 19 year old after the difficult years of school and being a teenager. I felt this was a direct reflection of Chris’ work with Type 1 Children in his academy and the stories he’s heard from countless families about the battles they face… It is difficult but we come through it stronger.

Despite the amazement in the room at Chris’ dietary approach to type 1 combined with his athletic lifestyle, I actually felt he made a really interesting comment about becoming a better Rugby player because of living with the condition and the discipline it taught him. An interesting concept I’m sure many type 1 Diabetics won’t have considered. I’ve always thanked the condition for making me more determined and motivated to achieve whilst I understand the impact it’s had on my ability to plan and organise, so it wasn’t too much of a shock to hear Chris say that but I wonder how many others in the audience were expecting it?  It was fascinating listening to Chris’ story and I can’t thank him enough for agreeing to share it with us! I appreciate it mate.  

After Chris shared his experiences for us it was the turn of Matt Cook, our Sports Nutrition expert and senior lecturer from the institute of sport and exercise science at the University of Worcester. Matt isn’t an expert in type 1 Diabetes but I felt he did a great job in demonstrating the academic literature out there and how it corresponds with Type 1 Diabetes. It gave plenty of our audience quite literally “food for thought” as he demonstrated the recommendations and gaps in understanding for people living with the condition from his sports nutrition perspective… I really enjoy getting the perspective’s of people who aren’t well accustomed to the condition as it brings an unbiased representation of the facts, which is important for those of us living in the world of Diabetes. Matt did a great job of positioning what we do and don’t know about the condition in relation to sports nutrition and management and I think the whole room got a lot from his talk. Thank you Matt!

Following a really quick coffee break… We moved onto the “Legends” of the type 1 diabetes world, Mr. Paul Coker, my co-organiser, and Mr. Pete Davies a man whom has lived with Diabetes over double my own lifetime! They both have epic stories to tell which I’d struggle to do justice with words so I’ll just try and describe the theme of their talks. I’d seen Paul speak a couple of times at other events about running 40 half marathons in one year to celebrate 40 years living with Type 1 Diabetes, but this was the first time he wanted to break down his routines and try and give the audience something tangible to take away and utilise in their own exercise regimes. I was watching many members of the audience frantically scribbling down, which was a huge indication of the quality of the information Paul was delivering. I think we all learnt something from Paul’s presentation. We won’t mention the fire alarm going off (a minor hiccup!).

We then met the man who’s surpassed 60 years of living with Type 1 Diabetes, Pete Davies. What a guy and wow has he seen some change over the years! I saw Pete speak at TAD (Talking About Diabetes Conference) just a couple of weeks prior to our event and his talk was super inspiring so I was just pleased we’d secured him for our first conference. His presentation involved demonstrating the changes in Diabetes care over time as well as the amazing treks and expeditions that he’s been involved in. I think everyone in the room felt very lucky to have the access to technology surrounding Diabetes care that we now have within society. I certainly did! It’s a huge eye opener to think that 50/60 years ago people living with type 1 Diabetes weren’t expected to live much beyond 40 which is something I’ve certainly taken for granted! A quality presentation from Pete and a huge personal thank you from me for your support for the event!

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After we’d spent the lunch break talking about the morning’s talks, I was preparing to take to the stage for mine! After watching some of the amazing presentations during the morning I felt I had a lot to live up to…  The approach I took was to talk about the journey I’d been on from diagnosis at 8 years old through to founding the Diabetes Football Community with snippets of detail about diabetes management mixed into it. I just hoped that people that listened to me took something from the talk… It was honestly a pleasure and a privilege to be able to talk about my own experiences and views on the world of Diabetes. I felt the talk went pretty well, up until the moment technology let me down and didn’t play the videos I’d included!!!  Alas, it’s in those moments you just adapt and crack on! Hopefully next time I won’t be let down in the same way! I thoroughly enjoyed it and as I finished up I had the honour of introducing Craig Stanley, a former professional footballer whom has lived with the condition for the majority of his career.

Craig’s talk was a fascinating listen for me, as I’m sure it was for the audience, as I’d always dreamt of being a professional footballer and having missed out on that opportunity a couple of times, it was amazing to hear from a man who lives with the same medical condition I do and who’s lived that dream. Craig’s talk mixed in humour, stories from his career and a constant relation to his routines and experiences with type 1 diabetes within professional football. It was my personal highlight of the day, as a part time footballer and founder of a community based on Football and Diabetes, to have Craig there was extra special.  He was a big hit with the audience and was asked a number of questions post presentation and throughout the day. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the man over the last few months and he’s a really top bloke and I can’t thank him enough for his support for the conference and our UK all Diabetic Futsal team.

Following the final break in the programme it was onto our final speakers… Georgia, Alex and Emma.

I’ve been in contact with Georgia for around a year or so now as she’s been really supportive of The Diabetes Football Community and spreading the word of what we’re doing, so it was only natural with her experiences as a Diabetic intent on living a healthy lifestyle encompassing weightlifting that we asked her to be a part of the day. Georgia quite openly expressed her experience with Diabulimia (google it if you haven’t heard of it) and her passion for exercise and a healthy lifestyle within her talk. With Georgia being a Radio DJ she showcased an engaging style and female perspective to an otherwise male type 1 diabetes line up which really captured the audience’s attention. You could see the impact she had on the attendees as her Q & A session was almost as long as her actual talk!!! It was wonderful to have Georgia with us and I’m just glad she said yes when I asked!! Thank you.

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Georgia’s talk led quite nicely onto our penultimate speaker, Mr. Alex Richards. A good friend of mine and an expert in Sport & Exercise psychology whom has become a really important fixture in the work of The Diabetes Football Community over the last few months. His work has been appreciated and praised in the community for its unique and differing approach to the condition in sport. I think his work will become more and more important to diabetic athletes over the coming years and it’s definitely a “watch this space” message from me regarding the direction Alex heads towards over the next year. Much like the work he’s been producing, his presentation captured and engaged the whole room. His presentation focussed on sport, self-compassion and Type 1 Diabetes which to my knowledge is a subject seldom addressed by anyone before.  This groundbreaking look into sports psychology for Type 1 Diabetic athletes is something that I believe can make a difference and Alex is passionate about contributing towards. He did a fantastic job on the day and I think he was just as excited about the reaction from the audience as the audience were about his ideas!!! Thank you buddy.

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Last but by no means least, was our expert medical professional, Emma Innes. Emma has been a leading Diabetes specialist nurse amongst many other roles across her distinguished career, which has now led her into a role as a senior lecturer at the University of Worcester.  I was certainly keen to involve someone from the medical profession in the day as they have such a big impact on the lives and approach of people living with type 1 diabetes to sport. Emma cross referenced her experience in the profession with the recommendations for people with the condition exercising. It was a really insightful viewpoint on which to bring this epic first conference to a close.

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As myself and Paul wrapped the day up by thanking the speakers and audience for attending, I was absolutely buzzing from the excitement as well as being absolutely exhausted! It involved a lot of my time planning, organising, negotiating, communicating and ultimately delivering the day. In some ways I was pleased that it had come to an end but for the most part I was disappointed it had been and gone as I really enjoyed the experience.

As I drove myself and Alex home that night there was no doubt the positivity was radiating throughout our conversation and the question about the future prospects of another #SporT1Day conference was discussed… Why Not?!

After a day full of wonderful speakers, a great venue and with wonderful support from the Diabetes community, I’m not sure myself and Paul could say no to creating another conference. So our intention is to organise another #SporT1Day later this year… November is a month looking likely so keep your eyes peeled for our social media announcement and I hope it’ll be in a location where the community can continue to back us.

Lastly I must say a huge thank you to the University of Worcester for their support in hosting the event and allowing us access to staff members whom spoke, to Dexcom for supplying a starter pack prize to our most prolific Tweeter and to Gluco for supplying delegates with hypo treatment goodie bags.

An incredible day and the start of something quite special… Keep supporting us and who knows what we can achieve?!

Chris  

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