In our fourth instalment we feature Zak Brown… Zak is currently living and working in Australia but has been heavily involved in all things TDFC throughout 2018 as a pivotal member of the UK DiaEuro squad, whilst also heading out to Ireland with Chris to observe the Diabetes Junior Cup… Zak’s passion for the project is evident and in this post he shares his thoughts on how being involved has helped him! No more words from us, over to you Zak:
“I think firstly and foremost, the opportunity to meet several other T1D’s with a passion for football was amazing in itself! To then be able to discuss our condition as we went through very similar schedules during DiaEuro was great – having a diabetes discussion with your team-mates was like having 10 nurses beside us, as they added great value through personal stories and specialist advice.
The access to technology was a huge thing for me personally. I was a bit skeptical of the Dexcom G6 initially, as I have been on the same insulin and blood sugar testing strategy for a number of years and been relatively consistent (HbA1c usually between 50 and 61). It took a couple of days to adapt but several months later and I wish I still had the G6. I regularly see T1D’s on social media posting about how much the Dexcom has improved their control in recent times.
The other thing which was highlighted for me was the carb counting. I have generally just guessed my insulin based on what I am eating and knowing how it has affected my sugars in the past, but to see plenty of my UK team-mates measuring the carbs on their packets of food and calculating their dinner plate in the their head was a good insight for me; and pushed me to start making more calculated guesses with my own carb intake as life and diabetes continued after the tournament.
Whilst I wouldn’t say the experience has directly improved my control yet, I think it has acted as a gateway for me to access more information, attend diabetes meet-ups and possibly gain access to modern technology, which I expect will have a direct improvement on my Type 1 Diabetes control moving forward! Only time will tell…
UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”
If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown
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.
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?!
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.
On April 22nd 2018 we began our journey to create the UK’s first all Diabetic Futsal team……
Where do I start… It’s hard to put it into words how proud I am to see this project get off the ground after the hard work and time given up by people behind the scenes at TDFC. I know I personally invested a huge amount of time negotiating, networking and reaching out to people to try and make this happen, and to finally see a group of Diabetic players come together to train, socialise and share experiences has got to be one of my proudest moments I’ve had since launching the community in February 2017.
So in this blog I’m going to try and give a bit of insight into what happened…
So we’d asked the players to arrive between 9:30 – 10 am to give them a few minutes to acclimatise to their surroundings and stretch their legs after a number of them had travelled upwards of 2 hours to get to the University of Worcester ( www.worc.ac.uk ). As the guys all started arriving it was great to see the passion for the project and the idea of playing futsal with a group of people they’d never met! One thing which I spotted as people sat down and got ready for the briefing, was the instant connection and bonding that the guys were doing from the off… Most of them had never really spoken to another type 1 Diabetic let alone a whole room of them all interested in the same sport they were into!!! I’ve seen this happen only on a couple of other occasions at Diabetes related conferences and events but when it’s something you’ve helped organise it’s pretty special to witness.
Myself and Harley, who’d led the organisation of the day at the university, were keen to give the players a short briefing before they jumped straight into the session. We wanted to properly introduce the members of the TDFC team, give the guys an idea of the agenda and ensure they knew the health & safety procedure at the university. But after this “brief” briefing, it was all about the Futsal!!!
As the lads got kitted up and ready to go, I was running around trying to make sure the coaches were happy and had what they needed, whilst checking Elle and Harley hadn’t come across any hiccups! Luckily it was all good and as the lads entered the hall I was confident we were in a good spot! As Will Weaver and Paul McHugh (our coaches) introduced themselves and their esteemed background in Futsal, I was able to relax ever so slightly. As the session got underway I was able to chat with Jodie and Max who’d come down from the Worcestershire FA to support us and capture footage of the occasion (www.worcestershirefa.com), which was fantastic to see. It was also brilliant to see Sue and Lisa, from the local adult Diabetes specialist team, drop in to view a part of the session. I was extremely appreciative of the local support from our partners in the community on this historic day!
As we got into the session itself, I spent most of the time observing and capturing images for TDFC social media. My job will be to manage and pick the team, as well as potentially playing, so it was important I got a good idea of the quality level of the players! With the experience of the guys varying from a former professional footballer to recreational Sunday league, the overall standard was really impressive for an introduction to Futsal and I’m really excited about how they continue to develop their passion for the team and the sport. Luckily, we filmed the whole session so I’ve got the help of video footage to review when picking the squad because I’m not sure it’s going to be an easy job based on the ability I saw!!
The session continued to progress very nicely from technical drills, into sessions closely linked to game play, to give the players an opportunity to try out the things they’d just learnt. I just tried to facilitate our coaches’ ability to deliver the session as well as the happiness of players and our band of TDFC volunteers. I maintained a safe distance from playing (due to a game I’d played the day before) and tried to just take it all in, with everyone seemingly enjoying themselves, I was just so pleased. The observing was the best part! Loved it!
To see the media take an interest in our “new” team was also really positive as it gives us the platform to gain support from sponsors, new players, coaches and the governing body of our sport to continue doing this exciting work. BBC Hereford and Worcester arrived towards the end of the session to do a couple of interviews with myself and the players whilst recording some video footage to use for their social media channels. The below links are showcasing the coverage we received from the day:
A huge thank you to the BBC for all of the support and coverage you have given us!
As the boys finished up with training I witnessed a moment of absolute gold and something I felt summed up the day perfectly. Seeing a group of lads who’d never met before, high fiving, patting each other on the back and embracing at the end of the session like they’d known each other for years is something I’ll never forget. In reality, they’d known each other for 2 hours!!! Sharing a medical condition with someone who enjoys the same sport as you drives an instant connection that most people can’t even replicate with their best friends!! Something just clicks….
This signifies the start of something special!
Post session we grabbed the players, coaches and any volunteers who wanted to stay afterwards (of which most did!) to sit and have lunch. The camaraderie and laughter the lads were having normally takes months of work to create, yet they had managed it in a couple of hours, as they exchanged stories of life with Diabetes and shared the obligatory banter over football. Injections and blood glucose monitoring devices were out on all of the tables and carb counting was the norm!
As we brought the day to close and I reflected on what we’d delivered, I was filled with immense pride. This day had been such a long time in the making and I was so pleased it lived up to the expectations we’d set ourselves. We had some amazingly positive feedback and enthusiasm from the players involved and I think that TDFC did a great job during this first training session.
So it’s onto the next session… Sunday the 17th of June at the University of Worcester Sports Centre. We will be welcoming new and existing players to the session as we continue to work towards getting a team to www.diaeuro.org from the U.K and growing the team beyond this tournament.
Before signing off though, I have to say a huge thank you to Harley, Elle, my parents, Jon, Alex, Bryn, Will, Paul and all of the players for their support in putting on a hugely positive session. I’m sure the positivity surrounding the day will ensure this project goes from strength to strength and I’m super grateful for all of your involvement.
It’s great to be able to share a blog from another member of the TDFC team… I simply asked our squad “Who would like to write something for the site?” and Jon came forward without too much persuasion to share his story with the condition! It’s a great read so I won’t say too much more…. In his own words, please enjoy Jon’s story:
“Having been diagnosed as a diabetic at 5 years old in the mid 80s, playing sport as a non diabetic isn’t something I have ever really experienced. I remember locking myself in the hospital toilet the morning of my diagnosis, scared of the syringe that they wanted to inject me with (we’re talking the size of a 30cm ruler!!). Originally I was on one injection per day, and then soon moved to two; one 30 minutes before breakfast, and one 30 minutes before my evening meal. The dosage was dependant on the size of the meal I would be eating (obviously a bit harder when eating out!). Carb counting came from a big book in 3 sections; red (high in sugar), amber (okay) and green (good to eat).
Because I was so active as a child, it was decided to run my blood glucose levels slightly higher as running about would invariably drop it down again! If I was higher than normal in the evenings, my mum would send me on a run around the block (about 10 minutes) to get it down! When playing football, whether training or a match, I usually had a mini mars or something similar at half time. I’d probably have a slice of toast or a digestive biscuit beforehand. Very rarely did I check my blood glucose levels before, during or after. As I got older, and into my teens, the mars bars went from mini, to fun size, to full size! Again, I relied more on feeling than actually testing my levels, and I wasn’t really challenged by doctors about this.
At about 15, I started seeing Dr Ian Gallen as my diabetic specialist and got moved onto pens for my insulin, injecting 4 times per day. He took an interest in the diabetes and sport, and I started to do a bit more. Mars bars turned to Lucozade, and the checking started. However, I would still run them higher through fear of going low during a match (something I experienced on my debut for my under 11s team!). I wasn’t aware at this point in my life that having glucose levels in range would equate to a better performance on the pitch. I was also playing hockey to a county standard, cricket, rugby and athletics.
However, through my late teens and early 20s, injuries set in, and playing time reduced. By 25, I’d had 3 operations on my right knee and one on my right ankle. The rehab and recovery was (and is!) awful. Being unable to play meant blood glucose levels were going higher, as well as the challenging mental state of mind. When I got back to playing, I would be back to my old ways and not testing. I’d have half a bottle of Lucozade before the game and the rest at half time. I’d have similar when training (half before, half during) and I honestly couldn’t tell you how this affected my glucose levels! Unfortunately, this lack of testing, as well as injuries, went on into my late 20s. I’d lie to the doctors, although they must have been suspicious by my HBa1C results!
In my late 20s, I met my now wife, who is a nurse. Through her nagging, and changing diabetic specialists, I started doing a lot more testing (although nothing like I do now). My pre match, half time and post match or training snacks would differ each week, dependant on the blood glucose level I presented. At 33, I finally gave in and moved onto an insulin pump, which has changed my life. I probably test 8-12 times per day, and my HBa1C is at an all time low. Unfortunately, the injuries didn’t stop. 10 operations in the past 16 years (one on my eye due to diabetic complications) meant that I had to call time on my playing career last summer. However, I have now turned to cycling as I’m still recovering from a condition in my pelvis and hip meaning I struggle to run. Managing my glucose levels for this can still be difficult, and no two days seem to bring the same results!
So, what would I do different, what advice would I give and what have I learnt about sport and being diabetic? I would definitely say testing is so important. In later years, I really noticed how my performance on the pitch would be better the tighter my control was. If I was too high, I would feel sluggish, slow and off the pace. However, having that tight control is important all week, not just on match or training day. If it is higher than hoped, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes it can be high and I have no idea why! Testing during a game or training is also important. There’s no shame in doing it. As a sporty youngster, my only role model was Gary Mabbutt (someone I still look up to), a professional footballer living with type 1 diabetes. However, I wasn’t aware of anyone else who I played against who was diabetic, and always thought I was on my own. Having something like TDFC is amazing, as it enables so many people to share their inspiring stories. Just remember, you’re not alone in being a diabetic!“
Upon reading Jon’s story I wanted to ask him a few questions to delve a bit deeper into his life experience with the condition….
CB: So, there’s obviously a vastly different way of controlling Diabetes in 2018 compared to when you were diagnosed in the mid 1980’s what sticks out as being drastically different?
JP: “When I was first diagnosed as a diabetic, the treatment seemed very basic. One injection per day, one appointment every 6 months to a year, basic carb counting, no real research or good information on playing sport with diabetes, it was all generic, and given to me by doctors and nurses who a) didn’t have diabetes themselves; and b) didn’t play sport!”
CB: You mentioned in your story that you lied to your healthcare professionals… Why did you feel like you had to do that?
JP: “Sadly, I felt I had to lie to the doctors and nurses I saw as I thought I’d get told off for not testing enough. I think I also felt that there wouldn’t be any problems if I could just keep them happy. Long term complications of poor control and benefits of keeping close control were never really explained to me (that I can remember) until later years. Even then, I guess I thought it’ll never happen to me”
CB: What were the difficulties you faced when injured and managing your Diabetes? Was that the hardest part or was it the mental battle with being injured as a sporty person?
JP: “My glucose levels would really rise when I was inactive. Since a young age I’ve been active and on the go, so have always used that as something to bring the levels down, meaning I didn’t have as much insulin as I would if I was inactive. Being inactive was incredibly hard both physically and mentally. Blood glucose levels would go up, so I’d increase the insulin, meaning I’d then go low, then I’d have too much to eat or drink and go back up again! This then had the knock on affect mentally. It was hard being unable to do something that I’d grown up doing (not just football, but physical activity of any sort) and feeling like a gift you’d been given was being continually taken away was tough. Then, as I would be coming back, I’d either suffer another setback, or get a small run of games before another injury. (Ironically, since stopping playing, I’ve managed to shed quite a bit of weight, which would probably have helped me a little bit years ago!). So I’d have the mental side of not playing and seeing all my team mates playing and training every week, while I was stuck waiting for my injury to heal. That combined with the glucose levels yo-yo-ing was tough to take. Better control would have helped me with my recovery. However, being injured did mean that I could spend more time with my family (that was about the only benefit, although I’m sure my wife would tell you that on a Saturday around kick off she’d rather I wasn’t moping around complaining that I wasn’t playing!!) I couldn’t go and watch my team play as it made me cross and angry I wasn’t playing!”
CB: What’s been your proudest moment with Diabetes and Sport?
JP: “I feel that just continuing to play sport for as long as I have whilst having diabetes is a triumph in itself. It should never stop you doing anything, but especially in the 80s and 90s, there wasn’t really any network or support in place if you were struggling or not sure at all. Apart from Gary Mabbutt, there were no real sporty role models with Diabetes to seek out guidance and inspiration from. I’ve now spoken to children and adults (including one family member and a best friend from my childhood who are both active) who have been newly diagnosed and managed to convince them that you can continue life normally without letting diabetes hold you back. They see that I can continue to participate in physical activity, so why can’t they! It has also helped the people around them, who don’t have any knowledge of diabetes, see that you don’t need to let it hold you back, whether in sport, or just life in general.”
CB: What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with when dealing with Diabetes around football?
JP: “Probably other people (coaches, parents etc) knowing what to do or how to act. I was never shy about telling team mates I was diabetic, but also never shouted it from the rooftops. As an adult, I made sure that there were a handful of team mates who knew, but as a child it was a bit more difficult. We had one parent who was a nurse who watched her son most games, so I think that put my parents mind to rest (I didn’t like them watching me for some reason!!). My manager from u11 to u16 asked my parents about what he needed to do, and my best mate’s Dad would quite often be there (although he did go and sit in the car with my supplies because it was cold one game – typically when I needed them!!)
Managing the control in general can be difficult; it can also be easy, but as no two days ever seem the exact same, it just adds to the fun! I could be absolutely fine one game, do exactly the same the next, and it all be completely different. Sometimes I‘d go too high before a game, sometimes after. I’d always make sure my bag was on the side in the dugout fully stocked, and sometimes give a bottle of Lucozade to our keeper to put in his goal.”
CB: What would you like to influence in the future around Diabetes? What was your reason for joining TDFC?
JP: “I’d like diabetics and their families to have as much support as possible and to encourage them to keep active. There’s no reason to let diabetes hold you back. If I can make a difference to one person who is struggling with their diabetes, or even if they’re not struggling, I’ll be a happy man! I’d also like to make sure that people are educated so diabetics can always have the same opportunities as others.
I discovered TDFC through social media. I think I clicked with it straight away, wishing I’d had something like this when I was younger. I want to be able to help and inspire future generations of diabetics, of all abilities, so that they may go on one day to inspire others!”
An amazing story Jon and thank you for sharing it with the community. 😀
To the TDFC followers out there who have asked me and others involved about the management of the condition around Football here are a few videos which I recorded with my friend Paul Coker at 1 Bloody Drop ( click here to check the website out ) ! Hopefully they’ll provide some useful tips around managing a complete game day situation. Remember the suggestions I make are from my own experience and should always be accompanied by the support of your healthcare professionals.
Remember what works for me might not work for you so it’s important you learn from Trial and Error and continue to adapt your own preparation and match day routines to get the best from yourself and enjoy playing!
Key Points for Before the Match:
Loading up with Carbohydrate the day before
Consistency of Routine
Good night’s sleep
Plenty of time between pre match meal insulin dose and starting the game (3 hours + ideally)
Lots of Testing
Key Points for During the Match:
Small adjustments take on glucose if required
Find a quick acting carbohydrate drink (I use Lucozade Sport)
Try to understand what effect the intensity of exercise has on your glucose levels
Key Points for after the match:
Watch out for Hypos especially during the night (nothing to be feared, just keep an extra eye out)
Consider how intense your involvement in the game was and how long you played… This can have a big bearing on how levels respond after. The more intense the more likely you are to dip lower after the game.
Consider reductions in your bolus doses for meals immediately after games.
Eat carbohydrates within your post game meal or snack.
Consider a reduction in basal dosage and think about a bedtime snack.
Be very careful consuming alcohol after a game as it increases the likelihood of hypoglycaemia even more. It can be done but just be careful.
I hope the advice in the videos and the key points from them are useful to many of you out there. A huge thank you again to Paul Coker at www.1bloodydrop.com for creating this amazing content.
As usual if you have any questions. Give us a shout.
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!
Before beginning this blog post I want to dedicate it to my own support network. I’d like to give a special mention to my Mom, Dad & sister whom have had to live with Type 1 Diabetes almost as much as I have.
So I don’t think you can start talking about a support network, without saying “Thank you!”
Without the people who have been involved in managing my Diabetes with me there’s absolutely no doubt that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my life and my sport in the way I have.
These people are the unsung heroes of managing Diabetes. However for this blog post their impact will be celebrated!
So let’s start with probably the most pivotal people in any young Diabetic’s life, your Parents. Not only are they instrumental in understanding the condition and treatment, they will be the people who influence your mental approach to the condition, to tackle everyday life. My Mom and Dad need to take every plaudit I write about them in this post, as without them, I really don’t think I’d have been able to put myself into the position to have ticked off the life goals I have alongside the Diabetes. They’re ordinary, down to earth people that are extraordinary to me.
I’ll start by talking about the “normal” parenting required to support someone like me, crazy about my sport. I’m sure any parents reading this will know exactly what’s coming but it should never be overlooked. The trips to take me to football matches with my club, training sessions, school trips, round to friends to play football, buying my football boots & kit (ensuring you had the latest trend to!), paying to watch the team I supported and all of the moral support it requires to support children in sport. None of that is easy and that’s just the parenting around the sport!
But what about all the other things they didn’t expect to have to do with their child as a result of Diabetes? Those middle of the night hypo treatments, those regular prescription collections, giving me injections, checking my blood glucose levels, the continual worry of whether I would run into a hypo or hyper, the packing and preparation for any holidays or football matches, the hospital appointments, the diet and regime management, the list goes on… But despite all of that, they rarely let it impinge on my ability to do anything in life. In fact they probably made sure I tried things as much as possible to ensure I didn’t build up any fear towards the condition. They’re incredible people and what they’ve done for me over the years I won’t ever be able to adequately put into words, but thank you Mom and Dad for everything.
The physical support and attitude my parents forged in me, from their own approach to the condition is the single biggest contributing factor to anything I went and achieved as I moved from a teenager to becoming an adult. Having parents like mine, I believe, can really make the difference in the way a young diabetic approaches their condition and sport.
I also have a younger sister, who obviously didn’t help with the management of my condition or my attitude towards it but she helped in ways she probably doesn’t realise and maybe won’t, until she reads this! She’s an incredibly talented person, who I believe is naturally more intelligent than myself, which is good, because she pushed me to try harder in the things I was good at. Having that sibling rivalry in a household can be really healthy and can bring out the best in both children, who are fighting for the praise of their parents. Whilst I also have to thank her for putting up with Mom & Dad dragging her out in the cold as a child to come and watch me play. She didn’t ask for that life and she didn’t really enjoy it (it’s put her off football for life!), however by not kicking up a major fuss and allowing Mom & Dad to support me in the way they did, she has had a massive part to play in where I am now. Me and my sister have a pretty good relationship now as Adults, we talk all the time and we both support each other on our different paths in life. She lived around my Diabetes long enough to know when it’s going right or wrong instinctively and I think your siblings and parents will always be able to spot it. A huge thank you to my sister. Had she not been so understanding, I may not have had the opportunities to enhance my control with the support of my parents.
But what about those who haven’t lived with Diabetes around them 24/7? The people that find themselves in your inner circle, but not quite as close as your family. I think your closest friends are the people that help you normalise Diabetes and often tackle those insecurities around testing, injecting and generally showing your condition to the world. I even had friends of mine who would pinch my leg so I could inject when I was much younger (in the days when you were told to pinch the injection site!), which definitely immersed them in Diabetes with me. They bring normality into my life which sometimes allows me to forget my Diabetes, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, but it’s so important to feel like you can get some rest bite from it. My friends go some way to understanding the condition, i.e knowing what to do when it goes wrong, but I’m quite glad they don’t know much more than that as their lack of understanding definitely helps me take a break from it when I’m in their company.
As with anyone who’s ever played in a sports team, it’s important to have a coach who supports and understands you. This is even more important for a type 1 diabetic. My coach Nick was instrumental in those early years following diagnosis. Sure, he got as frustrated as I did when it let me down and affected my ability to play the game, but importantly, he understood that I wasn’t going to get it right 100% of the time but he continued to play me regardless of this fact. Yes, I’m sure it helped that I was a capable player who helped the team win trophies but my lack of consistency must’ve been difficult for any coach to watch… I can only thank him for his patience in those difficult early teenage years. I believe having a coach who can empathise in this way with your situation is so important as you learn and grow into yourself and the game throughout your adolescence. As an adult I’ve not required that level of support, but being up front with my coaches about what the condition is capable of doing to my performance is something I’ve only really talked about recently. Until this point, I concealed the true effect of Diabetes as I wanted people to judge me on my ability and not my condition. I’m sure I won’t be the only one who’s taken this approach but having a supportive coach will definitely alleviate some of this worry.
I can’t undersell the importance of a passionate healthcare professional, who just knows the right words to use when Diabetes is far from your friend. Fortunately for me the nurse that looked after me upon diagnosis and throughout my life in paediatrics was Diane Cluley. Her positive outlook for me and my life with the condition was imperative in those early years whilst adjusting to this new world. Her knowledge and empathy towards my lifestyle, condition and mindset is without doubt the biggest impact anyone from the NHS has had on me. People within the healthcare profession can really make or break lives with their attitude towards the people they care for. Had I been supported by a nurse with a strict “textbook” attitude to Diabetes, I’m not sure where I would’ve ended up with my football.
I also wanted to mention the latest addition to my support network. The Diabetes online community (#DOC) has become a big part of my life in the last year and what a group of people they are. There’s an instantaneous connection that can’t be replicated easily with people who don’t have diabetes. The members of the #DOC understand your hardships, your middle of the night hypo concerns and the small battles you face on a daily basis. I’ve made some great friends already and with the level of support they offer I’m really not sure how I managed the condition without them! I’d advise any Diabetic to get involved in the community and speak to other peers about their Diabetes. I find sharing my experience and talking to others about theirs almost like therapy! I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!
A diabetic’s support network can really be the difference between succeeding alongside the condition or finding it a tough existence. Luckily for me, I’ve had the most amazing parents, family and close friends who have never once made it “difficult” for me to manage it. Sure I’ve had people come and go in my life who haven’t helped or caused problems around the condition, but the “core” has always been there and without them I honestly think TDFC wouldn’t exist! Everyone needs support to grow and develop but those with Diabetes really do need it more than most to enable them to fulfil their potential in life and in sport.