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.
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 email@example.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.
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!
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:
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…
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:
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:
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!
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.
Check out this short video of the UK DiaEuro Journey in 2018… A huge thank you to our main sponsor Dexcom who’s support was vital in getting us there and to everyone else who played their part. We couldn’t have done it without your contributions!
We want to continue this journey into 2019 so if you want to get involved in sponsoring, fundraising, playing, organising or supporting in any way please get in touch!
It’s been a while since I got myself 5 or 10 minutes to write something for the blog but I felt my recent trip to the Diabetes Junior Cup was well worth finding it…
I thought to convey the trip I’d pose myself a few questions which helped me tell the story and purpose behind why I felt TDFC should reach out and connect with this event.
Where did you go?
So myself and Zak (One of the UK players from the DiaEuro team) flew to Dublin, Ireland to visit the Diabetes Junior Cup at the National sports centre in Blanchardstown. What a great facility that is by the way! So many sports located in one central location to support Ireland’s athletes and their international ambitions. It was a pleasure to visit…
When was it?
We were in Ireland from Thursday to Saturday over the UK bank holiday weekend at the end of August 2018.
Who did you meet?
Across the 48 hours we met a number of people involved in various different projects supporting people with Diabetes in the country. Firstly we met with Cathal, whom after seeing TDFC’s work with the UK all diabetes Futsal team that went to DiaEuro, is keen to replicate it and create a team for Ireland ready for the 2019 tournament. It was brilliant to see his enthusiasm for the idea and the inspiration that the UK team provided him. I really hope they can pull it off over there as it would be an amazing “friendly” rivalry to have between the UK & Ireland!
Secondly we met up with a Kate Gajewska and a group of type 1’s in downtown Dublin to chat about all things diabetes over some food and drinks. Sharing experiences with the condition are a form of therapy I find and if you can laugh about it whilst completely understanding what others are going through it diminishes the negativity of what Diabetes can do. It was really nice to catch up with Kate whom I know through the work of the League of DiAthletes (www.leagueofdiathletes.com) and it’s always great to hear new perspectives on the condition from a different, albeit similar, country and culture.
Lastly we had the Diabetes Junior Cup event day where we met some senior members of the Diabetes Ireland team whom gave up their Saturday to support this worthwhile cause. We had a brilliant opportunity to discuss the event, their plans for the future, our work and how people with Diabetes are supported in Ireland.
I have to say a massive thank you to everyone we met on the trip. We were made to feel very welcome! A special thank you to Kate who managed to give us more than our fair share of lifts around Dublin.
Why did you go?
The key reason we went was for the Junior Cup event which was designed to bring children with type 1 diabetes together to give them the opportunity to share their experience and make friends. Having lived with Type 1 for 19 years and not really shared what it was like for 17 of those years, I really wish I had sooner. This event was another perfect example of how we can provide peer support in the diabetes community.
Not only was it good for the kids to come together they got to have a lot of fun too! But I’m sure it was also beneficial for parents to discuss with others the stresses of supporting a child with the condition. Having this kind of event is a wonderful representation of how the community comes together to help each other.
With such a close link to what we do at The Diabetes Football Community I felt it was really important we were there to learn, network and support such a fantastic football event for people with Diabetes. The learning and friends we made whilst there will hopefully lead to promising future collaborations and events for the benefit of children, parents and adults living with Diabetes who share our passion for Football!
It was also great to be able to give our Irish friends an idea of what it took to get the UK diabetes Futsal team off the ground during the time we were there, in the hope that they can replicate that for next year! Fingers crossed we will be competing against each other in the near future!
If you want to check out myself and Zak’s story on the day head over to the below link:
What does the future look like as a result of your trip…?
The hope is that through developing links with this event and Diabetes Ireland (www.diabetes.ie ), TDFC may in future be in a position to put on this kind of event in the UK for children with type 1 Diabetes. As always it takes a great deal of organisation and support to get something like this off the ground but we’re hoping that the community will support us in trying to make a football participation camp/tournament for children with diabetes happen.
If anyone in the community would like to support us in trying to make this happen in 2019 please do get in touch via our email address:
Well… What a journey that was! I think it surpassed all of our expectations from a management, coaching and playing perspective and I couldn’t be prouder of how everyone equipped themselves with the whole experience.
With this blog I wanted to let the players share their thoughts on what DiaEuro meant to them and I’ll share mine in another post at a later date!
So over to some of the lads to tell you about it…
Tim Ward, our Goalkeeper and most improved player who played a pivotal role in our first win against Romania shares his thoughts:
Tim Ward – UK Goalkeeper
“Christmas 2017, my wife is surfing social media and shows me a post by TDFC asking for players for the first ever UK type one Diabetic Futsal team. “Sounds brilliant, wish this had been around 20 years ago I’d be all over that”. My wife being my wife tells me to stop being negative (You’re 42 not 102) and sent my details to Chris Bright (I think she had half completed the form before I actually agreed to do it)!
To cut a long story short here I am eight months later saying (with a massive amount of pride and a massive smile on my face) that I was part of the first UK Futsal team to compete at DiaEuro. What a journey it has been and the 8 days we spent in Slovakia were an emotional rollercoaster. The highest high being our first win against Romania (previous champions).
What a feeling, what a moment in life. The team talks pre match, then the UK chant, followed by singing the national anthems (out of time haha) and definitely out of tune were moments I’ll never forget. Then there was the game itself, I was nervous but growing in confidence as the team began to put the Romanians under pressure, the goals, the shared joy, the celebrating. I was part of that. Let me just say that again so I can believe it, I was part of that. I am an International futsal player who’s played at a European Championships.
I have memories that money cannot buy. I have laughed until my jaw ached, I am (in a bad Italian accent) “Big Brother” to the Italian team and we sang Karaoke with the Portuguese team (Ai Se Eu Te Pego, have a listen to it as it’s the tune of the tournament). I have friends for life. I have pride and love for a group of people, who 8 months ago I did not know but through a shared condition, that has not stopped any one of us, it’s actually brought us together and given me an opportunity to represent my condition and my country.
I have lived the dream, cheers every one of you”
Make sure you check out this save from Tim to keep the score at 0-0 in our first win vs Romania… Incredible for a man who isn’t a regular goalkeeper!
Next up are the comments from our anchor and Manager’s player of the tournament, Zak Brown who played the most minutes of anyone from the UK team in the tournament:
Zak Brown – UK Anchor
“I break into a smile every time I think back to the DiaEuro experience with team UK. On the court and in preparation for the games, we did everything we could to succeed despite having the least futsal experience of the nations in our group. I was delighted to pick up two wins across the tournament and run some fantastic futsal players close in our first attempt.
Off the court, team spirits were kept high as we socialised as a group, talking about our common ground of football, managing diabetes and generally joking around with each other as any team on tour would do!
I am excited to see what the future brings with TDFC. One thing is for sure, the foundations have been laid. With more exposure to our growing community and more people on board to help, I hope for many more experiences like this in years to come!”
And lastly but by no means least, we have our captain, pivot and joint top goalscorer, Jon Tyrrell (JT) with his in depth perspective of the tournament:
Jon Tyrrell (JT) – Pivot & Captain
“It was such an incredible tournament. To see so many top quality players from 17 different countries, all united around the same difference of having to live and play sport with diabetes was inspiring.
When I heard there was an all diabetic UK futsal team being put together I couldn’t believe it – futsal has been one of my biggest passions since I discovered the game on a football tour of Spain in 2007.
It was an honour to find out I’d be captaining the first UK team to enter the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes. We’d been drawn into a really tough group – many referred to as the group of death – with high-flyers Russia, Portugal and Italy.
Leading the team out alongside the Azzurri for our first game was really special, knowing you’re representing 4million people from the UK who live every day with diabetes.
It was to be only the second time a number of the guys had played futsal at all, and in front of a couple of hundred onlookers keen to see whether this UK futsal team would be the tournaments whipping boys. I think our nerves got the better of us a bit and we found ourselves 3-0 down at half time against a very strong Italy team featuring a couple of professional football and futsal players. But in the second half we came back strong, showing some grit to win the second half 2-1 and lose the game 4-2.
After an outstanding performance against Russia – holding them to 1-1 with only 5min to go – before eventually losing 2-1, we were taught a bit of a futsal lesson from Portugal who went on to beat us 6-1. That meant we were in the bottom half of the draw for places 9-17th and would face 2015 champions Romania in our next game – another really tough match.
The way we played against Romania was simply outstanding. To dictate the play and create the number of chances we did as well as looking strong at the back and keeping a clean sheet was something we were all so proud of. A brace from Brighty giving us a 2 goal lead to defend as Romania switched to the fly keeper.
Our 5th game against last year’s finalists Hungary ended up being our last game of the week. 0-0 at half time the game could have gone either way but a strong second half from Hungary and clever long ball play out from the back meant we were unpicked on a number of occasions. Another lesson to learn for next year, this time against a well worked 2-2 box formation.
From my perspective a massive thanks has to go to the coaching staff and players – to assemble and teach a futsal team to play against opposition of that calibre, from only a handful of training sessions demonstrates the ability of our coaches and players alike.
For me the main thing I’ll take from this week was the character from our players and staff. There was an incredible team spirit amongst us – everyone was learning fast and being thrown in at the deep end. I think we all had a lot of fun throughout the highs and lows you face during a tournament with 5-6 intense games in a week. Everyone contributed in their own way both on and off the court.
Our goalkeeper Tim deserves a special mention as some of the saves he pulled off – one in particular v Romania at 0-0 was quite outstanding for someone who’d not previously played as a futsal keeper before.
Also a massive thanks to the Slovakian hosts and everyone who helped put on this year’s DiaEuros. What a week! I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited to build on this for next year.”
JT also pulled together the below video of some of our on court action… (All of the goals except for the Italy game)
I’d like to say a massive thank you to our players, coaching staff, sponsors ( Havas Lynx , Dexcom & Gluco ) and the organisers for everything they supported with at the tournament.
As well as the people who supported us in Slovakia we must also say a massive thank you to the people from the UK who supported us, shared our story and continue to back the work of The Diabetes Football Community as we wouldn’t be creating projects like this if it wasn’t for all of you!!!
We will continue to demonstrate that Diabetes is just another hurdle to jump, not a mountain to climb and that as a community, together we’re stronger!
The Full Team from left to right….. Back: Jon Rosser, Ryan Bampfield, Scott Burrell, Tim Ward, Toby McCauley, Paul McHugh (Coach) Front: Jon Tyrrell, Shane Peckover, Chris Bright (Manager), Harley Jean Simpson (Assistant Coach), Jack O’Brien, Bryn White, Zak Brown, Jahna Drunis (Physiotherapist)
Well here we are!!! It’s 3 days until we play our first match and after months of talking about this momentous project, it’s happening this weekend. The UK will be represented at the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes, for the very first time ( DiaEuro 2018 , www.diaeuro.org ).
I wake up every day feeling privileged to have started The Diabetes Football Community and to be leading projects like this…. They make all the difference to the people who interact with us and seek us out for support. I hope that our endeavours continue to provide comfort, inspiration and a smile for all those who share in the challenges of Diabetes on a daily basis… We want to prove that this condition holds no boundaries for those living with it as long as we achieve good management. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s important we attempt to provide positive news stories for those with the condition when much negativity, ignorance and stereotyping is still evident throughout the media and society in the United Kingdom.
With so much going on I’ve found it very challenging to write anything on the blog for a while so it’s nice to find just an hour to share some thoughts ahead of DiaEuro and talk about our camp on the 14th of July.
The day was all about bringing the squad together to get to know each other, enhance their tactical and technical understanding of Futsal and ultimately play their first ever game as a squad. For me, all of those things were achieved and more. The team really did surpass all of our expectations as a management team and with expectations for us at DiaEuro low, I’ll be encouraging the boys to just go and give a good account of ourselves, with a smile on our faces. The tournament isn’t all about winning (try telling our squad that!), because it’s also about raising awareness of type 1 diabetes, its challenges and trying to develop greater levels of support across Europe for those living with it. As a collective we can’t wait to participate in this wonderful event and win, lose or draw it’s an incredible opportunity for all of us to represent our condition firstly and our nation secondly at this tournament.
We’d set out a jam packed day where the guys needed to arrive at the university of Worcester at 8:45am (Sorry lads!) as we wanted to spend the morning developing their tactical knowledge before implementing it in our friendly in the afternoon. Myself and Paul had come up with a plan on Friday for delivery and having seen how the team performed in the friendly we were absolutely chuffed that they’d taken on the knowledge we’d shared with them as that’s all you want from a coach’s perspective!
Alongside the hectic morning of coaching, Harley and Jahna were also busy planning their sessions for our lunch time break. Harley wanted to deliver a session specifically aimed at team cohesion and bringing the squad closer together ahead of the European championships, whilst Jahna wanted to capture some more in depth information from a medical perspective about the squad. This gave the lads an opportunity to catch a break!! They also got the chance to come and collect their matchday kit and tracksuits from me!! I think this was one of the parts they were most excited about having had a preview over social media… I think the kit looks great and thank you to www.movingforwardsports.co.uk for supplying us with it.
After all that we were lucky enough to get into our first match, which was a resounding success and we came away with such positivity! A massive thank you to our opponents, Duncan our referee and the university of Worcester for hosting this momentous occasion for us…
Now we move onto Saturday the 21st of July 2018… The day it all begins. The journey and the tournament await and we’re soooo excited.
My hope is that this team inspires people across the UK whom may be newly diagnosed or finding life with type 1 diabetes tough to think it is possible, the condition doesn’t have to stand in your way and that no matter what barrier it puts in front of us we can overcome it!
11 men all living with Type 1 Diabetes, pulling on a shirt to represent a condition and a country……. To know we’ve set about bringing that to life fills me with so much pride I find it hard to explain.
As it’s the end of #DiabetesWeek I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share a blog about the completion of my 2017/18 season… A season of complete contrasts!
July 2017… As pre – season begins for most players and clubs involved in Football, I was in a plaster cast contemplating how this had all played out. Two 5th metatarsal fractures in 6 months and an operation later and I was staring down another 2 months until I could walk again, let alone run! The worst injury I’d experienced in my sporting career.
But anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t give up in the face of a challenge… This was a hard one but I was up for it!
The season was well underway by the time I could walk again on the 1st of September but after months of crutching around the local gym and using a handbike to do cardio, I was just so pleased to be back on 2 feet again. The key with injuries like this I’ve found is to celebrate the small wins as you progress towards your old self again… If you don’t give yourself the recognition of improvement it’s going to be a really hard mental and physical battle!
It wasn’t long after walking again that I was given the all clear to do some light jogging, which was a huge step in my mind, as I put some serious stress on the bone for the first time since the op. With any injury that keeps you out for this period of time the deterioration in muscle strength in your whole leg is a massive problem to also overcome as well as the concern for the injury itself. I had a LOT of rehabilitation work to do but as I was accepted onto the Sports Scholarship scheme at the University of Worcester (www.worc.ac.uk) I knew I was going to have access to great facilities and people to support me on this journey back.
After 5 – 6 weeks of strength and conditioning, constant physiotherapy and some Futsal training sessions with the university futsal club, things looked to be progressing nicely in October. I was getting used to my team mates, new surroundings at the university and the demands of the sport on my body again. I enjoyed it but things were painful… I spent a lot of the first 2/3 months in pain playing as my foot was weak and the muscles supporting it weren’t much stronger!
The first game back was towards the end of October, and when I say game, I mean 2 minutes on court just to see how things felt!! That’s the beauty of Futsal, you can roll on and roll off quickly with substitutions… It felt alright but I think it was a false sense of reality as I was still a long way off at this stage! There’s a lot of fear when you’re coming back after a torrid time which is hard to explain, naturally the body just tries to protect it so you move in a way which is not efficient or conducive of high performance. It took a good 2/3 months to get over this and I’d argue I’m still not fully there!!!
As things progressed and improved, I returned to my first national team Futsal camp in November 2018, almost a year after breaking my foot on international duty. It was a great moment for me to see the lads again after spending so much time on the sidelines… I knew it was a tough ask to compete with the boys and their levels having only been able to run for just over a month and still playing in pain. Despite this I felt I gave a good account of myself but ultimately I didn’t have the fitness and games in the tank to really challenge for a place in the Wales Home Nations squad in 2017 as I narrowly missed out. Tough to take but understandable.
But whilst the Wales boys were playing in Edinburgh, I had the opportunity to attend the England Universities Trials in London. Another great opportunity to push myself against good players and towards my ultimate goal of full fitness and playing at the levels I knew I could achieve. It was a hard session considering where I was at in terms of fitness but I was really glad I did it. It ultimately led to selection in the squad later that month which was great! The management of my glucose levels and getting them right for games/occasions was now starting to become important again as I was more involved whilst playing more and more game time. You’d think the old ways would work?! A year after the last time I played sport at that level and my body certainly didn’t play ball!! My levels were shooting up to levels I’d not seen at a Futsal game before and crashing more dramatically than I remembered. I think there’s a certain amount of trial and error in everything we do as Type 1’s but it’s about reducing the number of errors we make that will allow us to enjoy our sport. For a good couple of months I made plenty!
As the festive season approached I also took the decision to get back to playing Football. I’d missed it and it was time to use the sport to help me get fit in December and January as the Futsal season tends to go quiet at that time. My old manager Quentin Townsend had inquired about my fitness a month or two earlier and I’d put it off to ensure my body was in a good enough place to cope with Football when I finally said yes! I signed for Pershore Town FC and played my first football match in 20 months on 19th December 2017 in a friendly vs Worcester City FC.
Before I knew it I’d played in 3 games in a week and it was like I hadn’t been away! There’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end but I was just pleased to get back out there again. I’ve got to say a big thanks to the lads who made it so easy for me to fit into the squad half way through the season and enjoy the second half of it. If I’m honest the transition with my Diabetes back into Football was much easier than with Futsal… Because I’ve played Football for a lot longer it feels a little more natural in terms of the routine I go through to manage type 1, so there was only really 1 and a half games from the 16 appearances I made where I’d say things weren’t quite right!
I spent a lot of time learning about how to manage my diabetes around sport again… 12 months away is a long time and plenty of things change during that time.
But as I moved into 2018 things were looking really promising following the call up to the England Universities squad and with regular weekly game time. This was huge! I was playing a 90 minute game on a Saturday and then playing Futsal on a Sunday for about 4/5 weeks on the bounce and after that I was flying into the business end of the season.
My season was all about pushing myself in Futsal and enjoying the game time in football. I wanted to come out of the season with some silverware with the university team with both the league and cup in our grasp. As we negotiated our semi final with a really tight 9-8 win vs a well drilled Loughborough 2’s team, I had a cup final to prepare for as well as a north vs south challenge cup as part of the England Universities squad.
Unfortunately we were unable to chase down the league title after a couple of disappointing results which meant we finished up as runners up in our division but we still had the cup to play for.
To go from that cup final and into the North vs South challenge cup just a couple of weeks later was absolutely class and well timed… I could feel I was on a roll and feeling good, so for me it was great to see the good form continue as I ended up as the top goal scorer in the tournament and with a Team South win 9-3 across the two games (6-2 & 3-1). I was finally able to show my ability as a result of the body being closer to a state which could showcase it! After this tournament and a couple of good results with Pershore, I pretty much knew the only meaningful game left in my season was the annual varsity ding dong derby between the University of Worcester and the University of Gloucestershire.
Varsity is a big deal for the students at the university you represent and winning the game you’re involved in is all that matters in the month of April! Luckily for us we entered the game in good form and were really confident that if our big players turned up we’d win the game… So it turned out to be the case. We ran out 8-3 winners and the team played a really good game in which we controlled it from the start to finish. It was a cracking way to finish the season off and undoubtedly contributed to the way we were rewarded at the end of season awards night…
The University 1st team were given the “Team of the Year” award for our cup and league exploits, whilst my individual contribution to those performances and my representation of the university with the England universities squad led to me being awarded “Male Athlete of the Year”. An award I didn’t feel worthy enough of winning but one I was extremely grateful and very lucky and proud to have received! When last year’s winner was an Olympian and former commonwealth champion Matt Hudson-Smith (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Hudson-Smith), you can see why I didn’t feel like I wasn’t worthy of this level of recognition haha! Incredible all the same though…
I honestly couldn’t be prouder to have ticked all of that off this season, despite not actually being 100% at any point. The key was that after all that time away from the sport I found my love for it again, the smile on my face was back when I played and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed playing like I did in 2017/18, since I was a kid. Sometimes the adversity can set you up for what’s next and I think the injury taught me a lot about fun and enjoyment that maybe I was missing beforehand!
I think this line sums up the approach I’ve taken over the last season and one in which I’ll try to continue for the rest of my playing career:
“Train like it’s the most important thing in the world, play like you couldn’t care less!”
However, one thing that I wanted to finish on surrounding Diabetes… After 12 months of being injured and focussing on my Diabetes more and more my Hba1c was 50 but as I returned to playing it went back up to 64… A really challenging question is…. What’s more important? I was called up to the England Universities squad, scored 5 goals in a cup final winning performance, won varsity and I won male athlete of the year at my university, yet my Diabetes control was worse. There’s no doubt my sport, the demands on my body and the responses my glucose levels have to exercise complicate overall control of the condition as my intensities of exercise differ so drastically!
I’d love to have some feedback on this… Because I honestly don’t know the answer but my choices have always involved enjoying life experiences over prioritising perfect Diabetic control but I’d love to hear what you think…
Finally I’d just like to thank a number of people who’ve supported me hugely throughout this season, my family for your continued support, to Dan Allen (https://www.instagram.com/da_training_and_performance/), Jamie Harrison and Marc Scriven for their strength and conditioning support, to Sally Smith and Lewis Miller for putting me back together each week with their sports therapy support, to the University for their providing great facility access and lastly to my teammates and coaches who’ve made me feel welcome and whom have played well so often this season! We win and lose as a team….
All in all a progressive season after one of the hardest periods of my sporting career with so much to look forward to in the 2018/19 season!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?!