My Story: Kendall Higgs

At The Diabetes Football Community we love to share the stories of those of you who follow us. With the diverse nature of the community we support it’s always amazing to share stories from all over the world. So here we are bringing you a story from Kendall who’s based in the USA. No more words from us other than to say if you enjoyed reading Kendall’s blog please give it a share. Over to you Kendall…..

“My name is Kendall Higgs, I’m from Loxahatchee, Florida , and I’m 20 years old. I fell in love with the game of soccer at four years old. I remember feeling unstoppable with the ball at my feet. On August 3rd, 2009 my world changed. I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 10 years old. The first three questions I would ask anyone who came into my hospital room was 1. Can I still play soccer 2. Can I still drink milk 3. Am I going to die.. in that order 😂 to some people, my priorities may have been a little off.. but for me, if I couldn’t play soccer anymore, I might as well be dead. Even though most doctors told me I most likely couldn’t continue to play, I did it anyways. I refused to allow something to take over my life. I traveled to Costa Rica at 14 and Brazil at 16 to play soccer with region 3 ODP (Olympic Development Program)

I graduated early from high school and went to University of Pittsburgh in 2017. After 3 semesters there I transferred and now play at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. Soccer has been my way to connect to people, to new places, and to different cultures. When I’m not playing soccer, I feel out of place.. and at first my T1D contributed to that “out of place” feeling. I didn’t want to embrace my Diabetes..I wanted to pretend I didn’t have it. It wasn’t until this past year that I really started to take care of myself and to fully embrace my disease. I recently started T1D1 Diabetic Athletes as a way to spread awareness, give a platform to other diabetic athletes, and to show young, aspiring T1D athletes that it does not limit, control, or lessen their ability to be successful.

Within this journey I have realized that soccer isn’t my only way to connect to people.. T1D has allowed me to connect to others battling the same illness, to learn, to empower, and so much more. I am so grateful to be apart of the T1D community.”

A big thank you from all of us at TDFC for sharing your story Kendall and if anyone else would like to share theirs please get in touch !

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#DiabetesWeek 2019… See Diabetes Differently

As the motto for Diabetes Week 2019 is “See Diabetes Differently” it’s great to be able to share an interview that Chris conducted with DigiBete (www.digibete.org) which focusses upon mindset and the approach to sport/exercise that he takes in the hope it may help others living with Diabetes. It’s different to the usual articles/content on the physical management of the condition for sport but we hope it proves to be useful!

A huge thank you to DigiBete for asking Chris and putting the time into creating this amazing video. If you want to check out their resources for people with type 1 diabetes surrounding sport & exercise head to the below link:

https://www.digibete.org/resources/sportsandexercise/

We must also thank the University of Worcester who gave Chris & DigiBete permission to shoot on their campus. Thank you!

We hope you enjoy the video and we’d love to hear your feedback on it! Please share far and wide if you enjoyed it as you never know who it may reach!

Thanks,

TDFC Team

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 4 (Zak Brown)

In our fourth instalment we feature Zak Brown… Zak is currently living and working in Australia but has been heavily involved in all things TDFC throughout 2018 as a pivotal member of the UK DiaEuro squad, whilst also heading out to Ireland with Chris to observe the Diabetes Junior Cup… Zak’s passion for the project is evident and in this post he shares his thoughts on how being involved has helped him! No more words from us, over to you Zak:

“I think firstly and foremost, the opportunity to meet several other T1D’s with a passion for football was amazing in itself! To then be able to discuss our condition as we went through very similar schedules during DiaEuro was great – having a diabetes discussion with your team-mates was like having 10 nurses beside us, as they added great value through personal stories and specialist advice.

The access to technology was a huge thing for me personally. I was a bit skeptical of the Dexcom G6 initially, as I have been on the same insulin and blood sugar testing strategy for a number of years and been relatively consistent (HbA1c usually between 50 and 61). It took a couple of days to adapt but several months later and I wish I still had the G6. I regularly see T1D’s on social media posting about how much the Dexcom has improved their control in recent times.

The other thing which was highlighted for me was the carb counting. I have generally just guessed my insulin based on what I am eating and knowing how it has affected my sugars in the past, but to see plenty of my UK team-mates measuring the carbs on their packets of food and calculating their dinner plate in the their head was a good insight for me; and pushed me to start making more calculated guesses with my own carb intake as life and diabetes continued after the tournament.

Whilst I wouldn’t say the experience has directly improved my control yet, I think it has acted as a gateway for me to access more information, attend diabetes meet-ups and possibly gain access to modern technology, which I expect will have a direct improvement on my Type 1 Diabetes control moving forward! Only time will tell…

Zak Brown

UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”

If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 3 (Jack O’Brien)

In our third addition we share the thoughts of Jack O’Brien… Jack has a fresh outlook on the way Diabetes has impacted his life having been diagnosed quite recently! His account offers some great insight into how a newbie to type 1 Diabetes feels about the challenge of this condition coming into their life… No more words from us let Jack do the talking…

“First of all, I think I should point out that I am a relative newbie in the Diabetic world having only been Diagnosed 2 years ago today! (I wrote this on 6th Feb). DiaEuro was only the second time I was going to be away from home, and all the supposed safety that comes with that, since I was diagnosed.

To say I was nervous doesn’t really do it justice! I was fully aware that I was going to be spending the week with a group of people who have for the most part been Type 1 Diabetic for a long time. The fear or seeming like I don’t really know what I’m doing, or “messing up” all the time was playing on my mind because this was for me the first time I would be spending a prolonged period of time with other Diabetics. It’s funny how weird things like this can play on your mind! I was seriously still at a stage where I felt like it was only me who suffered from hypos because everyone else would have it under control!

The first morning we are there, we all go down to breakfast together as a squad to enjoy the spread of food that was being put on. It was this experience that alleviated all the pre concerns I had. Seeing most of us checking sugar levels and injecting insulin immediately eased my nerves. This was something that I found awkward to do beforehand.

Before you knew it, Diabetic chat was bouncing around the table. The same problems I found, others were also talking about. In a weird way, if felt so liberating! That sense of not being in something alone, that others have found ways to overcome similar situations and have come through them to find solutions was amazing for a newbie to hear.

You hear the phrase “trial and error” thrown around a lot when it comes to Diabetes, and I really understood that so much more after this journey. A corner was well and truly turned for me during this week. I am now playing sports more regularly, because I feel more confident. Understanding food on the day of playing football is something that is so important. Seeing other people using the Dexcom looked brilliant. Once I finished my trial run, I missed it so much that I signed up for 12 months.

 

 

 

 

 

The whole experience was invaluable to me. I learned more in that week than I would have done in years studying books and speaking to specialists. Seeing people who regularly play sport and manage their Diabetes gave me so many tips and ideas that I use myself now. There really is no better experience than experience itself.”

Thank you to Jack for sharing his thoughts on how TDFC has helped him and the UK DiaEuro team in particular. If you want to follow Jack on social media you can find him on Twitter @DalstonGooner … If you want to know what’s going on at Arsenal FC Jack’s your man to follow!!

Diabetes, Football and Me

It’s great to be able to share stories of our community and when we asked Zak if he’d like to write for the blog he was really keen… If you’d like to write something for us please get in touch! Anyway, over to Zak…

Hi, my name is Zak. I am 26 years old and a PE Teacher from Lancashire, England but currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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Football has always been a huge part of my life and being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes aged 14 did not change this one bit.

 

Despite my Dad’s initial fears that I may not be able to play football in the same way, we were reassured by the nurses at Blackburn Hospital that I could continue my number one hobby soon enough. Sure enough, after a few minor adjustments and some extra pre-game preparation, I lined up for my team just two weeks after diagnosis! I remember it so vividly, tucking into a couple of digestive biscuits at half time to keep my blood sugars up and cramping up towards the end of the game.

 

I know that many people have struggled to keep up their previous lifestyles after diagnosis, through fear of hypos/hypers or by misinformed advice, but it’s something that has never stopped me from doing anything I like… except for one thing – scuba diving.

 

I have tried to Scuba Dive twice in Thailand and Australia but not been accepted both times. Without a doctor’s letter of approval after taking private health exams via a registered “dive doctor”, unfortunately I had to stick to snorkeling. I’d be interested to hear about other people’s experiences with scuba diving so please get in contact if you have a story or info worth sharing!

 

And despite the scuba setback, I have done kayaking, bungee jumps, overnight treks, 100km bike rides and many many more adventurous activities!

 

Having diabetes has its obvious challenges and hurdles we face day in, day out, but it has given me some great experiences that I will cherish for a long time to come…

 

I have been fortunate to represent Great Britain in the Junior Diabetes Cup held in Geneva, Switzerland. In my first year (2009), we won the tournament in a nail-biting penalty shootout against Slovakia. I was due to be the next penalty taker and I can’t describe the relief I felt at not having to take one! I went back again the next year and was nominated to be captain, which was an incredible honour. Despite finishing the top scorer in the tournament, we lost 1-0 in the final to Slovakia who got their sweet revenge (excuse the pun).

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Then in September 2016, I decided to move to Australia to give life a go “down under”. I have found a great football team here in Sydney and have represented Australia at the Mini Football World Cup in Tunisia, playing in front of a packed stadium of 3000 fans under the floodlights! I spent a bit of time pre-tournament learning the national anthem so that I didn’t have to mime awkwardly whilst on camera! I was also part of the UK’s first diabetic futsal team to play in DiaEuro 2018, which was an amazing experience both on and off the court. To meet so many other diabetics with a passion as big as mine for football was incredible, you can imagine how many stories were shared during that week!

 

A few adjustments have been made after moving to Australia, most notably with my prescriptions and dealing with heat of up to 40 degrees during summer! I have to pay for my diabetes supplies here, which makes me appreciate just how good the NHS is back home. Playing football in the heat took some trial and error too. My suncream is now just as important to pack as my insulin on a Saturday afternoon!

 

Two and a half years down the line and I’m still enjoying life here. I’ve met one other sporting diabetic superstar and her family in Sydney – my namesakes the Brown’s have been great at handling Ellen’s diabetes whilst she competes at the highest level of futsal in Australia at U17 and all age women’s level. I hope to meet and chat to a few other sporty diabetics in the near future, so if you’ve read this and want to add anything of your own then please step forward!

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G’day

Zak

If you want to find Zak on social media head over to his Twitter @mrzakbrown or his Instagram @zakbtown

Announcement: TDFC London est. 2019

Hello reader, Happy New Year!

It’s crazy to think that it was only 9 months ago that I heard about the TDFC project. Via the community, I’ve met some really top people and represented the UK at DiaEuro 2018.  An amazing journey so far, but what does the year ahead look like?

I’d already bought into the vision of TDFC before participating for the UK team at DiaEuro in Bratislava this summer. However, as a type 1 diabetic for 7 years now, I was stunned with how much more I learnt about the condition during the course of the tournament. I didn’t even have to try. Diabetes related chitchat would pop up naturally all the time. I gained loads of great insight on how to manage the condition whilst playing sport and life in general.  My control was the best it had been in years too, and that seemed the case for multiple players.

The whole experience got us thinking – the platform for diabetics with a passion for playing football to meet up and learn from each other really does need expanding. It could bring so much good for diabetics new and old. Our experience was proof of it!

On the final day of DiaEuro 2018, whilst watching Bosnia cruise to victory in the final, we found out something very interesting. We learnt that the Bosnian team compete on a weekly basis in the 2nd division of the Bosnian Futsal League. That’s mega impressive: an entire team of diabetics playing (and winning) against high level non-diabetic team’s week in week out. This didn’t just give them the edge to win DiaEuro, it’s allowed them to raise the profile of diabetes and help to break down any perceived barriers to participation, a key goal of TDFC.

Post DiaEuro, with a strong desire to help TDFC grow and see the UK team improve at the next DiaEuro tournament, we decided to develop a new project – to set up the first all diabetic futsal/football team to compete in the English futsal/football pyramid.

  • Where? London.
  • When? Now!
  • Futsal/Football? Futsal (to begin with)
  • Club name? TDFC London

Over the past few months, we’ve laid down the foundations to get the project underway. Some great conversations with the London Futsal League, in combination with an opening for new teams to join the new season in February 2019, means we’re only weeks away from launching!

If you are at all interested in joining TDFC London, whether it be as a player, coach, sponsor or supporter (the more fans the better), contact tdfclondon19@gmail.com to find out how to get involved.

Hopefully this is just the start of things to come. It would be amazing to one day see the platform expand to provide opportunities for men and women of all ages, all over the country.

The year ahead looks good

Bryn

Project development manager

2018… Looking back to look forward

Firstly I’d like to wish all of our followers, volunteers, players, coaches and anyone involved in the TDFC family a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

What a year it has been…. We’ve done some incredible things in 2018 and I really just wanted to summarise what’s happened, thank some of the amazing people who have helped us make it happen and look forward to what 2019 might bring for The Diabetes Football Community.  

So where do I start…

For me one of the most important projects to highlight and look back on was one of the first in 2018. The 24 hours in the life of a Diabetic Footballer ( #WalkInOurBoots) was an important awareness and education project which showcased the Andrewartha family and Mitch’s battles with type 1 as a young footballer. This video fills me with immense pride every time I watch it. For me it encapsulates everything about living with type 1 and wanting to play football during childhood. It showcases the immense physical and emotional strain it puts on the family, as well as the incredible amount of preparation and determination needed from Mitch and his parents to get him out there playing on a Saturday. Every time I watch it back I’m inspired, moved and so grateful to the community we’ve created for supporting our ideas and projects. We do it for you and we couldn’t do it without you!

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A massive thank you to Dave, Faye & Mitch for agreeing to do the documentary and their amazing performances! Also a huge thank you must go to Ferenc Nagy who filmed and edited the video. A great job buddy…. If you want to check out the documentary head over to the below link where you can find the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWjlrLbvWr4&t=39s

The #WalkInOurBoots campaign was just the start!!! We then focussed on creating the first ever all Diabetes team to represent the UK and compete at the European Futsal Championships for people with diabetes (DiaEuro, www.diaeuro.org )… We don’t like to do things by halves! From the outset I knew it would be ambitious and extremely challenging to not only recruit players living with diabetes, but also to recruit members of the “staff” team who were willing to give up their time for nothing other than the experience (thank you to Harley, Paul & Jahna)! But what about the money?!! It’s quite expensive to get 14 people on a plane with kit and a roof over their head for a week!! A massive thank you must go to our sponsors Dexcom, Gluco and Havas Lynx for supporting the project in 2018 as we couldn’t have done it without you! As I look back now… A year ago it was an idea in my head which I’d just started to share on social media….  A year later and we’ve played in our first tournament and are planning for our second…. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to check it’s all been real! It was an incredible journey and achievement to create the team, manage the project and play in the tournament. Being stood alongside my 10 fellow type 1’s to represent our country and our condition was something I’ll never ever forget. Scoring 2 goals in our first win just topped it all off for me…. It still feels like a dream to me. I’ve made lifelong friends through this project and I hope the community draws a huge amount of inspiration from what we were able to achieve! With everyone’s support I hope this is a project and team I hope we can continue for many years to come…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf8n6LSLRRM

Whilst we were busy planning for DiaEuro we also joined forces with 1BloodyDrop and the University of Worcester to deliver the first Type 1 Diabetes and Sports conference in the UK led by people with Diabetes for people with Diabetes ( #SporT1Day ). An idea conjured up by myself and Paul Coker, we wanted to bring people together to further the knowledge of sport and exercise management for those living with type 1 diabetes. We tried our best to bring in speakers which demonstrated a variety of sports, approaches and experiences to offer a rounded view of type 1 management in sport and exercise. The line up included type 1 professional athletes, university lecturers, a psychologist and sporty individuals keen to share their experience of managing the condition.  It really was a special event which I loved hosting and presenting at. I hope that everyone attended continues to utilise the strategies shared on the day and due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received it’s something myself, Paul and the University are looking at re-creating in 2019 so keep your eyes peeled for that. A huge thank you to those who attended and to 1BloodyDrop and the University of Worcester for co-creating this amazing event! If you want to read up on the 2018 conference check out the below blog post:

(https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/05/28/the-first-sport1day-conference-organisers-perspective-chris-bright/ )

 

I feel that whilst we try to support people with the condition through advice, education and support through the community’s projects and members, I’ve always felt we need to try and drive change in a mainstream environment to counteract the stigma and stereotypes myself and many others have experienced. To do this I felt it was important to bring stakeholders in the Diabetes and Football world together to strive for change. In July 2018, we had the first Diabetes Steering group meeting led by the Worcestershire FA to do just that. We’ve invited the local university, the local NHS, members and volunteers involved in The Diabetes Football Community as well as parents of a child living with type 1 to join us within the group. Our remit is very much about trying to improve the knowledge and awareness of Diabetes within Football to improve the inclusivity of those living with the condition within the game. So far we’ve had 2 very positive meetings with some brilliant ideas coming up which we hope to develop forward into 2019. It’s a hugely positive step in the right direction which I’m sure will see tangible results for the whole community in the not too distant future!!

Around the time of our first meeting I also went over to Ireland on a scouting mission… Myself and Zak Brown (Our UK DiaEuro Manager’s Player of the Tournament), had spotted online about a junior small sided football tournament taking place in Dublin for children with diabetes and with the nature of what TDFC does it was something we couldn’t afford to miss… Ever since I started TDFC up the support of parents and children coping with type 1 diabetes has been incredible and this was an opportunity for us to do some fact finding for the future… I want us to deliver a project which really gives back to this group of people and I promise that we’re planning something for 2019, I just need to get my masters out of the way first!!! Diabetes Ireland did an amazing job at delivering their tournament and celebrating the successes of the children who took part. I was just so glad we were able to attend on the day and thank you for your hospitality… If you’d like to read up more on this check out the below blog post:

https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/09/10/diabetes-junior-cup-2018/

 

I think one of our last projects is perfect for this time of year! If you need any inspiration around this festive period or you’re finding things tough I urge you to watch our World Diabetes Day video below… The kids did an amazing job at sharing their thoughts and they get me every time! It’s very special seeing the way the community has come together to support what was an idea floating around in my head. This is all about you, the people who interact with us, and as long as we continue to hit the mark by educating, supporting and inspiring you, I’ll be delighted! Thank you to everyone who contributed to this video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C353oCtYH2U

A year I will never forget and one that has shaped the future for TDFC. We’ve become an official registered community interest organisation which has furthered the ambition and potential reach for the future, we’ve received recognition on local BBC radio stations and social media, we’ve exhibited up and down the country at conferences in the Diabetes world and continued to grow our social media presence throughout 2018. None of this is possible without the continued support of people in the Diabetes community so all I’d ask is if you like what we do, please keep sharing, raising awareness and getting in contact with us. We will always need support and funding to make our goals happen so whether you like, share and retweet our posts or you’re able to help us with sponsorship or donating to the cause everything is valuable and we appreciate it so much.

 

But let me give you a sneak peak at what we’re thinking for 2019…

There will be more of the same but hopefully with some exciting new developments alongside projects we already have in place.

The UK DiaEuro Adult team will be continuing with an emphasis on the DiaEuro tournament in 2019 whilst also creating opportunities to play against our near neighbours in Ireland who are creating their own team. I’m seeing an exciting future for our local rivalry!!! Another exciting participation opportunity for the adult type 1’s in the London area is the creation of TDFC London,  project managed by our man Bryn White to take part in the London Futsal League (https://www.facebook.com/LondonFutsalLeague/) as an all diabetes team for the very first time. They will be kicking off for their first competitive game in February 2019, so keep an eye out for the developments on our social media and if you’d like to help support them, get involved with the project, play in the team or sponsor please do get in touch!

As I mentioned we hope to re-create the #SporT1Day conference in 2019 that takes on the feedback from last year to offer a bigger and better event! I’ll be working with Paul and the university to see when and how we go about doing this over the coming months… As always any ideas you may have make sure you get in touch.

As I alluded to within the Ireland trip I mentioned earlier it’s definitely time we tried to put a participation opportunity together for our type 1 kids and their parents out there. I’d like us to work towards delivering a day/tournament in 2019 but this will as always rely on support from the community, sponsors and volunteers to make it happen but it’s something I’m really passionate about creating, so let’s give it a shot!

Lastly, I’d suggest that our emphasis around education will be pushed further as we continue to develop the Diabetes Steering group and partnerships with other organisations to champion education on diabetes throughout different walks of life. We’re really keen to ensure we develop resources and tools to drive further understanding and awareness within mainstream environments/sport whether that is with the FA, schools or clubs. If you have any ideas about how we might do this we’re all ears.

Right… I’ve talked far too much on this blog but I felt it was important to demonstrate the amazing work we’ve achieved in 2018, our amazing community and the ambition we have for the future. The wave is coming and growing in size. Patient led initiatives like ours are beginning to help shape the way people are supported with chronic medical conditions and I couldn’t be prouder to be the founder of this one…

A favourite saying of mine at the moment is dream big, then dream bigger. If we can achieve all of this in one year, myself and TDFC need to set our sights on doing it bigger and better in 2019! Which is exactly what we intend to do.

Lastly to anyone out there who might be reading this, in any part of the globe, if you like what we’re doing or want to get involved please get in touch! We know that our work isn’t confined to the UK where we’re based and the ideas we generate are mostly what we come up with! If you’d like to help in any way or work with us, you know where we are.

As always a huge thank you to the directors and volunteers who give up their time to support our cause, we couldn’t do it without you! Let’s make 2019 bigger and better than what has gone before.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Chris