It’s been a little while since I’ve found the time to sit and reflect on all things TDFC but the end of a calendar year always presents me with that opportunity… But as we do in every year since our existence, we’ve tried our best in 2022 to provide a project that is progressive and a reflection of what the diabetes community want. We’ve had some amazing things going on this year and I just want to say a massive thank you to those who help lead on everything at TDFC and to those who commit to what we do and make all of this possible! It continues to motivate me to keep pushing the boundaries and to strive for more for our community.
There have been some significant changes in my own circumstances which have meant this year we’ve also transitioned to a situation where I’ve been a little less hands on with the day to day running of our project due to my new full time role working at JDRF UK. The prospect of working for the charity has been an amazing chance for me to continue my development more widely and learn more about the UK and global context that exists surrounding type 1 diabetes. I’ve really enjoyed it and the impact my role in the organisation has on supporting the community… Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2023! Despite the change in my world, the support for what TDFC does has never been greater as so many people recognise the importance of our work and are really stepping up to help myself and the directors with continuing to push what we do onto the next level. Together we are stronger and so is TDFC.
With this review of our year, I obviously wanted to run through some of the key things which have been happening in 2022 but this time round I’m going to do it in alignment with our strategic pillars of Educational improvements and increasing participation opportunities for people with Diabetes in Football.
So firstly, a look back on the developments we’ve made in Education in 2022:
The continuation of our podcast has led to some incredible episodes on the channel as we saw Adam Smith and Reece Parkinson share their stories of living with type 1 and working in the media industry. Whilst we also added a chat with Joe Wright (Current Millwall FC Goalkeeper) as he discussed life with type 1 as a professional player… We also got Lucy Wieland on the podcast to talk about something else I’ll come onto in a little while… (Can’t give all the key details away in the first few paragraphs haha!). The Diabetes Dugout still remains a great source of stories, information and support from those in our community, so if you haven’t checked it out yet click here and you can listen to all of the episodes we’ve released so far.
Alongside those all-important lived experience stories we’ve shared, we’ve also been able to help create a structured education programme called Active Minds in partnership with our friends at AJB Sports in Education. The idea was to utilise physical activity to educate on the differences between type 1 and 2 diabetes, as well as to educate on lifestyle to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. In my opinion, educating the next generation on the condition will in future reduce the level of misinformation, stigma and stereotypes which are prevalent in society surrounding Diabetes. It’s been something that I’ve experienced regularly since I was diagnosed in 1999 and it’s an area which I’m extremely passionate about tackling… Education will make this happen, but it takes time to implement and there has to be a “carrot” for the mainstream to engage them in the conversation of raising awareness and learning more about Diabetes. As numbers rise and people see the condition more regularly day to day, many more people are receptive to the idea that society at large needs to know more about this condition… I think there will be many more developments like this in years to come and I’m really glad we’ve been able to co-produce a series of lessons to support with this education… Make sure you head over to our page to check out the Active Minds programme.
This year also saw the development of a piece of work I’ve been trying to create for over 4 years… To see it land was a big moment and something which I hope will help so many people across our community in the years to come. I am of course talking about the Coaches Guideline & Webinar co-produced by ourselves, JDRF UK, Diabetes UK and The Football Association of Wales (FAW). I’ve always felt that the organisers & coaches of our sport, haven’t had the support to help them with creating an environment and support system around a type 1 player as the condition hasn’t been well understood. So, to now have a guideline which coaches can utilise to help with the foundations of what a player with Diabetes goes through can only be a huge step forward. To have this supported by the 2 big patient charities and the FAW is also vital in seeing this rolled out more widely to the sporting community. More awareness and education for physical activity providers can only help with participation and the feeling of comfort in a sporting environment for those with the condition… A massive moment and if you haven’t seen these resources yet click here and take a look!
Then we’ve also seen the foundations laid for the inclusion of Peer Support as part of the recognised treatment pathway for those living with Type 1 Diabetes within the NHS in England… A monumental step in chronic health support and a move that we at TDFC have been championing for a long while. I was invited to be involved in the group of people who have helped shape the principles of Peer Support in conjunction with the NHS England team and the patient charities (Diabetes UK & JDRF UK). The process of shaping “what good looks like” collaboratively has taken just over a year and it’s been brilliant to see the release of those principles on World Diabetes Day… As someone who’s personally seen the impact of peer support changing my own life, and others through our work, this is a HUGE moment. It’s been my belief for the last few years that good peer support deserves its place within the healthcare structure for the contribution it can make to health outcomes for those with type 1 diabetes. I’m now excited to see where these principles will take us as we now focus on the delivery and growth of peer support… Keep your eyes peeled for more from the NHS Diabetes Programme and if you haven’t checked out the principles yet take a look here
To build on this further, the research conducted into the development and creation of The Diabetes Football Community will be included within an academic publication for the first time in the early part of 2023. This was always a huge goal of mine following the conclusion of my masters degree programme in 2020. I wanted to ensure the lessons I’d learned from developing our project could go onto help us and others in continuing to develop projects/communities/groups which are reflective of how society and a sub-cultures like sport (football in this case!) operate. I feel the key to creating positives connections to the condition lies in the link to the areas of interest we have within our lives, to positively re-frame some of the identification with the condition. By doing this, identification with the condition may grow and healthcare outcomes improved as a result… It’s a topic of conversation I’m hoping the research opens up further, as we look to see how we can supplement the development of diabetes technological advancements, with further understanding upon the impact that society & culture has on those living with the condition. I’m sure there will be lots more to come in this area, and if you’d like to see the book where the research will be published, please click here whilst you can also check out the blog post I wrote on the research here . A big shout out to Professor Gyozo Molnar who has played a huge role in guiding all of the work on this research!
So, from an education perspective this year we’ve been pretty busy… But we weren’t done there! Our participation work has also been progressing…
Because for the first time since we were created in 2017, we’ve been able to host an all-women’s training day, in the same year that the England National Women’s team won the European championships! 2022 has been a huge year for us and for Women’s football in the UK. In making this team we’ve also been able to link in with the incredible HerGameToo campaign to help us champion women’s participation in our sport. It was brilliant to welcome Caz May, one of the founders to a session to meet the team, as they continue to provide support for what we do. A huge thank you for the donations you’ve provided, which have helped us in developing the sessions and funding our first kit! As you’ll see from the images, alongside our new women’s kit, we’ve got an updated Men’s kit supported by Air Liquide, which we hope, will be worn at DiaEuro 2023 (The European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes)… It’s looking likely that this will take place in Poland in June and we’re busy planning behind the scenes to try and get a UK team back in the tournament for the first time in 4 years! I also want to shout out our friends in Ukraine, who hosted us and the tournament in 2019, who have been going through an unthinkable year with the Russian invasion of their nation. My thoughts are with you all!
Whilst our teams are a great opportunity to represent country and condition, they’re also an incredible opportunity to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes more widely in society… We take that on as one of the primary objectives of the team, alongside the support it offers the players, so to have BBC MOTDX attend a session to showcase T1D in Football was incredible! If you haven’t seen the feature yet, please do check it out here , in what was a great day for our men’s and women’s team. Awareness in mainstream TV makes a big difference to us all when it’s accurately portrayed, and with having Reece involved it gave Football a real insight into what our lives look like when tackling the sport whilst living with T1D.
The magic of what makes our community great has also been recognised in 2022 with our TDFC London team awarded with a QIC (quality in care) award for all of their amazing work across this year. It’s thoroughly deserved, and the team continues to go from strength to strength as they grow their numbers and look to win another league title in 2022, after winning one of the London Futsal League North iterations previously! They’re a brilliant group and I’d urge anyone in the south east/London to get in contact with them to find out more about what they’re up to…
Not only do these teams serve a purpose on the court but away from it as well… Because most of the players within them have originally come through one of our peer support WhatsApp groups to help continue the discussions and support in football surrounding T1D after the full-time whistle sounds too… We now have a WhatsApp group for men, women and we’ve recently introduced one for parents of children living with Diabetes. As with the men’s and women’s groups, we now hope we can take the support online into a physical session and team in the future for kids with type 1. We’ve had discussions about this within the group and keep a look out on our social media for any developments coming in 2023… We’re excited about this!
Sooooo, what a year it’s been! We’ve faced changes, we’ve adapted, and we’ve grown. Our community is special. It’s coming up to 6 years since TDFC started and as the community’s founder it always amazes me what we’re able to achieve collectively… It’s an honour to still be doing this and while the need is still there for us, I’ll be there helping to push what we do forward…
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my musings and for all of the support this year, I hope you’ve enjoyed a great festive period with families and friends, and I wish you an amazing 2023…
We will be there with you, when you need us…
Happy New Year!
Founder of The Diabetes Football Community