In our second instalment of “It’s much more than just Football or Futsal” we look at the story of Scott Burrell. His journey with TDFC and type 1 Diabetes has been staggering and for those of you unaware of what Diabetes care was like without the technology that is available now, I’d urge you to read on… This is a fascinating account of how TDFC has effected and improved Scott’s life and another example of a social / community based project like ours supporting healthcare benefits and objectives for those living with the condition. No more talking from us lets hear from Scott in his own words:
“Being selected in the UK DiaEuro squad really changed my ‘diabetic life’ and that’s by no means an exaggeration! Firstly, and something a majority of the squad had said, was that they’d never met another T1 in ‘normal’ life so that was great. Like any football squad you tend to bond quite quickly with the other players but we bonded especially quickly as we all shared the condition. My knowledge of T1 has increased ten fold. It was great to share stories and bounce successes/failures off each other.
I was actually the only member on mixed insulin. I was taking Humulin M3 which was the same insulin I’d used since diagnosis in 1999! I’d been told for many years, probably close to 10, that a basal/bolus regime would be better for me, but me being a stubborn so and so I’d always thought I’d be better sticking with what I knew. Seeing all the other lads using the basal/bolus regime and many telling me how they had moved from mixed insulin and how much better it was really gave me the incentive to change.
A few months after we got back I eventually made the switch and now take Toujeo & Novo Rapid, I’m finding it much better and in hindsight wish I’d changed over many years ago. I’m certainly having less hypos which had always been a big problem for me before. As good as healthcare professionals are it was the kick from people living with the condition day in, day out which convinced me to finally change.
Finally I’m a lot more open about my Diabetes now… Growing up and even in my early 20s I’d try to hide it as much as possible, not talk about it and only tell people I was T1 if really needed. My mentality completely changed about that having been selected in the squad. I’ve now had newspaper articles written about me and appeared in a TDFC video filmed by BBC Hereford & Worcester which they shared on their social media platforms talking about the project and the condition. It actually made me feel ‘proud’ and gave me a desire to talk about diabetes for the first time…something I’d never experienced before in my time as a T1.”
Keep an eye out for more stories from some of the community and if you want to follow Scott on social media head to his twitter account @scottbufc to get in contact with him.
In April 2018, we started something which had never been done before. We created the first ever Futsal team in the UK that contained only players that lived with Type 1 Diabetes… As much as we hoped it would inspire and raise awareness of the condition we also wanted it to change lives and demonstrate the value of doing things differently to the medical profession when looking after people with Diabetes. We think it’s done that and more! Hopefully organisations such as the NHS can see the value organisations like ours add and continue to grow their support and the opportunities to work more closely together.
However, that’s enough about what we think…. Let’s hear from Tim Ward the UK Diabetes Futsal Team Goalkeeper about how TDFC has changed his life:
“Since becoming involved in the Diabetes Football Community and representing the UK as a member of the DiaEuro Squad my view of and the way I approach and manage my diabetes has changed, dramatically and it’s all been positive.
My usual mind set for the dreaded annual review at the local Diabetes Centre was an appointment to be met with the same antipathy as some of the staff showed when I tried to discuss the dreaded topic of getting any “Flash Glucose Monitoring”?! I have had my “Lazy” pancreas now for 37 years and as you can imagine as the years pass the complications within your health and well-being can arise and you start to accept this as the inevitable. Not any more!
A group of lads with a shared love of all things Futsal and Football related (be it all with Diabetes) can be a base of support, encouragement and knowledge which goes against the stereotype many wish to portray, but this is exactly what I have found.
Gone is the stigma of testing my blood glucose levels in the changing room before a game, or taking in extra carbohydrates if my levels drop while playing.
I have found answers to questions that the local clinics were unable or unwilling to give, I have experienced flash monitoring which has had an amazing effect on my knowledge of how my diet and eating habits affect my levels and how to better manage them to keep within the optimum levels. I have through the members of the squad learned new diet ideas of more fibrous carbohydrates, of when and how to inject and different options on the insulin to use. I now know that there are a myriad of options available to me to not just perform better in a sporting context but also live a healthier more energized life of less hypos, a better hba1c and greater trust in my own body.
The greatest impact has been that I do not have to be ashamed of my condition, it is not a weakness, don’t believe it and don’t let others convince you that it is. It is simply a bad hand dealt. Make the most of that hand, TDFC can and will support you in any way they can.
TDFC and especially the players, coaches and management of the DiaEuro squad have taught me through words, actions or just a smile and a nod that when you’re ready to play, take a deep breath, tie your boots, test your blood and go and beat whatever is in front of you, because you can.”
If you want to follow Tim on social media head to his twitter: @Tim_Ward07 or to his instagram: @timward16 and make sure you keep an eye out on the blog as we release more player thoughts on how TDFC has impacted their lives in the coming weeks.
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?!
Hi guys, just thought I’d write a blog post reflecting on my experience at the #SporT1Day conference that happened on the 13th May. The conference gave the chance for several speakers including myself, to cover a range of topics that impact type 1 diabetes. I wanted to write this post to share my opinions about the day whilst I also wanted to give a little summary of my talk for those who missed it.
So my thoughts on the day…. I think Chris and Paul Coker did a great job at making sure the day ran smoothly. There were a couple of hurdles to jump over such as the fire alarm going off during Paul’s talk. Despite a couple of things like this happening Chris and Paul managed to keep the day running nicely. One thing that really stood out to me was the variety of speakers at the conference. The speakers included professional athletes, women, diabetic nurses and people who had lived with the condition for over 60 years. It was great to see such a diverse line up which resulted in a wide range of experiences being shared. The take home message for me was that type 1 management is very much an individual thing. Therefore, it’s important to find out what works for you. This requires you to experiment and constantly keep learning what works and what doesn’t. The other great result of such a diverse line up was the breadth of topics covered. As there were so many different topics I think everyone could come away with something they found interesting. Topics ranged from management tips, to nutrition, psychology and some stories of inspiration. It’s a real credit to Chris and Paul for being able to put together such a great line up. The last thing I’ll say about the speakers is that hearing their stories has been invaluable to me. As someone who does not have type 1 diabetes I am constantly working hard to understand what people go through as best I can. So learning more about the condition from other personal experiences of type 1 is really important. I can’t thank people enough for sharing their stories with me.
The previous point leads nicely into my own talk. I’m not going to recap it all here but I will write a post in the future that gives you guys some more detail. So, the main points of my talk. Diabetes has been viewed for the longest time as a medical condition; which of course it is. However, from the perspective of someone that lives with the condition it’s much more. It’s a 24/7 job that you didn’t ask for but have to do. It’s a condition that requires you to make constant decisions. As a result, how you think and feel impact how you manage the condition. This being the case, what you put in your head is as important as what you put in your body. However, psychology support is an underused resource for people with type 1 and I’m really passionate about changing that. The psychological load of managing type 1 daily and during sport or exercise is heavy and psychological skills training can help you cope with the load. As I’m conscious about making this an overly long read I’ll expand on this in my next psych series. Before I finish, I’d like to briefly mention the main part of my talk which was self-compassion. In a nutshell self-compassion is the ability to treat yourself like you would treat a loved one. When they experience difficulties, do you criticize them? Do you constantly remind them how rubbish they are? Or do you try and understand that this is a difficult time for them? Do you try your best to help them move past the difficulty? My take home message to the people in the audience was that Type 1 is a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs. When you experience tough times, try and treat yourself with the compassion you would treat a loved one. If you wouldn’t say it to a close friend, don’t say it to yourself.
After months of behind the scenes work from myself, Ferenc Nagy and the wonderful Andrewartha family, who star in the documentary, we have now finally launched the #WalkInOurBoots campaign to raise awareness of Type 1 Diabetes in Football.
TDFC wanted to showcase what life was like for a young footballer living with the condition and its effect on his family. This campaign is a “real world” example of the challenges and daily routines this condition forces upon people who were dealt this card in life.
I found parts of this documentary very emotional to watch, as someone who lives with the condition, I feel every word they say. I hope the emotion and management implications of Type 1 Diabetes are captured, to ensure we can continue to challenge the powers that be to help change perceptions within society and ultimately improve inclusivity for people living with the condition in our sport.
I hope you enjoy…. PLEASE SHARE AS FAR AND AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE.
So this is the first of what we’re calling the psych series on the TDFC blog. In each post I’m going to blog about different topics in sports psychology and how they might impact your diabetes management or how you play sport. After all, diabetes is a chronic medical condition that requires continuous self-management. Whilst diabetes is a physical condition, there are psychological factors that influence your management and impact your sport and exercise experience. For example, diabetes may give you anxiety before a big performance, or poor levels may leave you feeling frustrating after you play. Or perhaps, testing around your teammates has an impact on your confidence? Some, or all of these may have an impact on your relationship with sport and exercise and it is my hope that through this psych series, you find some useful bits of information that can help you have a great experience with sport and exercise. I hope these posts are helpful and I look forward to any feedback or questions you may have.
Your driving force
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic medical condition that requires self-management day to day, hour to hour. When considering trying to be physically active on top of that and the challenge increases. The aim of this blog is to help you develop a clear mission for why managing your diabetes is important not just for the health reasons but to help you get the best out of your physical activity. To establish your driving force. No doubt there will be days where the frustration of not being able to just turn up to play the same way your friends do, or perhaps the aggravation you may feel when you must check your levels and your teammates are warming up can be overwhelming. Creating a clear mission and having that written down somewhere you can see often, will help you on those days. It will remind you doing the things that must be done, will help you in the long run.
How to develop your driving force
When you have some free time, take 3 minutes to jot down as many reasons that you love to play football (or any other physical activity you engage in). There are no right and wrong answers and don’t worry about grammar or spelling. With no restrictions, right as many as you can. Once you’ve done that, select between 5 and 10 of those reasons and underline them. Now, for each of those reasons, write down the best things you can do to help you achieve your goal. To save me trying to explain this further, I’ve completed this exercise with Chris to provide an example. Having completed those steps, you should have a list of reasons and behaviours that will help you reach your personal goals. Lastly, I want you to write at the bottom of your page, a clear mission statement that sums up the reasons you do what you do. Again, if you’re stuck just look at the example for some ideas. If you are struggling for time, make the exercises shorter by listing less reasons. For example, 3-5 reasons instead of 5 -10. This may also be helpful if you are a parent trying to complete this with your children. This exercise is great for helping to take ownership of your sport and helping you push through those days when you are feeling low or motivation is hard to come by.
Please check out Chris’ example below for how this could turn out for you.
First of all, I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas and is looking forward to 2018. I always see this time of year as the perfect opportunity to reflect on what has gone before and review the year’s trials and tribulations. It helps me process how I’ve dealt with what’s happened throughout the year and then focus on what I need to do in 2018 to make things successful from a personal perspective and in this case, on behalf of The Diabetes Football Community (TDFC).
For the purpose of this post I’ll steer clear from my own personal ups and downs across the year. Instead, I want to solely focus this post around the achievements of TDFC and the direction we’re taking for 2018 as it’s been a constant source of positivity within my life in 2017 and I hope it has been the same for the diabetes community.
Let’s rewind ourselves back to February and the start of the project… When I left university in 2012 I wanted to find a way of helping people with Diabetes around sport and specifically Football, knowing the experience I’d had within the game, but at that time I maybe didn’t have the experience, knowhow or the mindset to pull it off. However the continued rise of Social Media in that 4/5 year period all of a sudden gave me the platform I needed to communicate and share this experience. After a period of communicating and talking about my own personal circumstances and life within the #GBDoc the idea came to me… A free vehicle in the form of Twitter and Facebook where I could share some snippets of my own knowledge and hopefully encourage others to do the same and form a peer support community which could bridge the gap between legal disablement (Equality Act, 2010) and partaking in mainstream sport. There aren’t many conditions where this occurs and for me there hasn’t been anywhere near enough support for people living with chronic medical conditions in my sport during my life playingfootball. This is something I feel passionately about changing! This drive/passion and obvious gap I’d felt myself, created the growth platform for TDFC.
So following hundreds of posts, tweets, direct messages, blog posts, networking with others, conferences, Facebook live videos and a couple of podcasts during the 10 months since TDFC began, we now have 700+ followers on Twitter, 3000+ likes on Facebook and since the website launched at the end of May, it has received 6,500 views. To say I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done in growing the network and supporting people with diabetes would be the understatement of the century. I can only describe it as an incredible reflection of our hard work and of the gaping hole which needs addressing for this group of people.
However, you can’t achieve this all on your own…So let me say a huge, huge thank you to the team of people who have supported the development of TDFC across 2017. Firstly to James (Jim), who has completely driven the look and feel of our platforms, logos, images, T-shirts, leaflets and any collateral promoting the project. He does this whilst balancing a full time job and whilst having a young child, so his support has been incredible and I hope I can pay you back one day buddy. Secondly to Noel, whose enthusiasm for supporting people with diabetes and advocating for improvements is second to none and is truly inspiring. She continues to help push the project forward and lead TDFC in the USA. Whilst lastly I’d like to say thank you to Karl, Alex and Jon who have all recently been added to our family and have supported in three very different but extremely valuable ways. All of you have been incredible and without you there can be no doubt that the growth of TDFC would not have been as rapid. I’m very grateful to have you all on board and always will be. I look forward to you continuing on the journey and with some of the awesome things we’ve got coming up for 2018 I hope to see a few more joining the TDFC ranks, to help drive some of our ideas forward!
So what have been my highlights across the year?
Well where do I start… Probably for me the Trip to Portugal was the single greatest highlight of the year. I still can’t believe I was able to share a Futsal Court with a group of people who all live with the same condition as me. It had a lasting effect and it’s now something I’m working hard to recreate within the UK during 2018. As much as that was incredible, some of the stories from the community that have been shared and the impact we’ve been able to share outweighs the trip to Portugal for me. We’ve also been lucky enough to visit conferences relating to Diabetes and sport to spread the message of TDFC and network with other likeminded people/organisations. Yet the only thing that really matters is continuing to provide the inspiration, help and guidance the community need or want from us.
In spreading our message of empowerment and support we’ve been lucky enough to receive some great backing from organisations that will be imperative in driving our growth in 2018. One of those leading partners is the Worcestershire FA, who have been passionate about our mission from day one and for whom I’m incredibly thankful for their motivation to do more and join us on the journey. We will be working alongside each other in 2018 to push a number of initiatives and ideas forward!
Noel & Jodie meeting at Worcestershire FA HQ
A new addition to our partnerships and a good friend of mine is the DiAthlete (Gavin Griffiths). We’ve just agreed that as part of the League of DiAthletes programme which supports worldwide education and empowerment for people with Diabetes thatTDFC and I, as the founder, will partner with the programme to push the message of education and support, for people with Diabetes from people with Diabetes. I believe this to be an extremely powerful mix which with help from our healthcare professionals is changing the way care and education around Diabetes is provided. It’s a really exciting proposition which I can’t wait for TDFC to support.
Within this post, I also wanted to highlight some of the amazing publicity we’ve had during 2017… It’s a reflection of the hard work put in to developing the project but also a representation of the need there is for projects like ours to exist. It’s been amazing to receive coverage from the English Federation of Disability Sport, On Track Magazine and The Inclusion Club to name a few, in what has been great publicity for a project so young. However as much as I believe in celebrating our successes and sharing them, I’m firmly focussed on what I can impact upon now, which is the future.
So what are we doing in 2018?
2018 is about you, the community! This is now the time for us to take it up a gear. Following a period of time where we’ve focussed on providing mainly online support via social media, we want to push it a step further and try to develop some initiatives which bring people with diabetes together, with football as the vehicle. I’ve been building bridges over the last year with the Worcestershire FA, who are supporting us with raising awareness in Football with a video campaign we want to create, whilst also helping us consider how we may improve education through workshops and resources. Alongside the improvement in education, there’s an amazing opportunity to bring people together to learn about Diabetes management whilst also enjoying involvement in the game. This opportunity starts with attempting to create the first team from the UK to compete in DiaEuro and continues into developing our own participation days/camps for people with Diabetes at home in the UK. We hope that with the support of our friends at DiabPT United we can recreate the model they’re using to bring this all to life. We will need support from sponsors, players, coaches, admin & medical professionals to pull it off but I’m hoping we will have some amazing support from our friends within the diabetes community to get this off the ground!
The most important thing about our community is the people that interact with it, who share their stories, get inspired and who continue to learn new things which help them with their everyday lives. Our developments as a project are as much about our ideas as they are about yours, so if you think there is something you’d like to see us do, or think would be a good idea, or even that you’d like to help us with in the future, all you need to do is get in contact. We’re here for you!
I’d just like to finally point towards the future and the works of 1 Bloody Drop(Paul Coker) and Chris Pennell’s type 1 Diabetes Rugby academy to demonstrate the gap and why the work of TDFC has become important in filling a void for people with Diabetes in Sport. I’ve forged promising relationships with both of these projects and I firmly believe we’re all pulling together to improve the lives of people with Diabetes in sport all over the globe. People living with chronic conditions taking part in mainstream sport don’t get enough support to compete and this is what we’re trying to address!
I hope you’ll agree that it’s been a pretty amazing 10 months for TDFC and the future looks even brighter. Keep supporting us, keep sharing your experiences with us and keep spreading the message. We can’t challenge the misconceptions and the structures in society without your support!