Scott Burrell: My Story with Type 1 Diabetes

Disclaimer – Some of what you’ll read in Scott’s journey portrays difficulties, mistakes and challenges that have shaped who he is. As human beings we cannot go through life without making difficult decisions, but through doing this, we learn and evolve into who we were meant to be. But please be warned that some of Scott’s journey touches on some of those difficulties, mistakes, challenges and emotions that some may find tough to read.

It’s an extremely powerful, emotive and truthful account of how life has been for one of our own and we hope you enjoy the read.

Over to Scott to take us on his journey…

“My name is Scott Burrell, I’m 31 years old and have been a Type 1 Diabetic for 20 and a half of those 31 years! I remember my diagnosis day/week incredibly well considering I was only 11 years-old. It was the October half-term (so yes strictly speaking I’ve been T1 for longer than 20 and a half years now!) and I wasn’t going down to the village green to play football with my friends. I hadn’t been on any day of the break as I’d been laid on the sofa at home, this was very much out of character as usually I would be down that green every single evening in the summer and every day during school holidays playing football. I was drinking ridiculous amounts, drinking things I would never usually drink and even at one point freezing fizzy drinks (all full sugar in those days!) in an attempt to ‘freeze out’ the acid! The crazy mind of an 11 year old child! It had got to the point where I was going for a drink every 5-10 minutes and going to the toilet 6 or 7 times an hour. My parents called a doctor out on the Wednesday night as I had deteriorated again quite quickly, I did a urine test which was no problem at all as I was going to the toilet so regularly and as soon as that was done the doctor advised my parents to take me to the hospital ASAP. My dad drove the three of us to Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Lincs (fantastic hospital for T1 care by the way!) and before I knew it I was on the ward strapped up to many drips and cables looking very much like a scene from Casualty was about to be shot…without the tomato sauce for blood! My mmol on the finger prick was 34.7 (normal range between 4 – 10 mmols ) and I was diagnosed T1 straight away. I don’t recall having ever heard the word diabetes before let alone having any idea what it was.

I remained in hospital for the next four nights and left on the Sunday. I’d had to take on so much information during this time I’m sure like everybody in this situation. I remember not being allowed to leave hospital until I’d done an injection myself, I was desperate to leave so reluctantly did one into my right quad which was a favoured injection site of mine for many, many years. This was so horrible and painful but the price I had to pay if I wanted to leave the hospital ward. I was on a twice daily mixed insulin, Humulin M3 and took this before breakfast and before evening meal. It combined 30% fast acting and 70% long acting. My parents were advised to practice on each other with water and I was told I could gain practice by injecting into an orange! I’m sure times have changed an awful lot now!

I would say initially I was doing pretty well as a T1, I tested fairly regularly, always logged my results in the log book, never missed an injection, tried as best I could and my hba1c was always in the 6-8 range so fairly acceptable. I hid my diabetes as much as I could. I always had breakfast and dinner at home so had no need to take any insulin to school with me and this suited me, I was different. As far as I knew I was the only T1 in my year and possibly in the school at the time however if there was another keeping it secret like myself then I wouldn’t know anyway. I had told a couple of close friends that I’d been in hospital and that I now had Type 1 Diabetes but similar to myself none of them had any idea what it was. The teaching staff were aware and I remember the first time I had to discuss this with a teacher, I was petrified. I was in the changing room for PE and was told by the hospital to have a fun size Mars bar before any sport, of course eating was banned in school classrooms and changing rooms so this would have been very out of place. I asked the teacher as quietly as I could if I could have said Mars bar because ‘I have diabetes’ and was greeted with a yes straight away. I tried to conceal eating this as much as possible from the rest of the group and seemed to succeed in doing so. This doesn’t seem like a lot but for me it signified difference. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be a normal 11 year old!

Fast forward a few years and I struggled during my teenage years with T1. I thought I was invincible and that it wasn’t something I needed to be concerned with. I very rarely tested, at my worst I did maybe one or two finger prick tests a month at times when I had played football, all other times I would just disregard testing. I didn’t think it was relevant, I didn’t care what my glucose levels were. I did however take my injections and never missed a single one. Before any appointments at the hospital with the DSN I would just make up readings (different coloured pens for authenticity of course!) in my log book and if I felt myself going hypo I would just eat, usually chocolate as we were told that was good for hypos then or Lucozade tablets which were very similar to the Lift tabs now. I recall one poignant day was actually on a family day trip to London, I would have been about 13 years-old at this point and we were in McDonalds having dinner, my dad had ordered a selection of items and we were to take what we wanted from the table in the busy upstairs seating area. I went to the toilets to do my injection only to find that they were out of order. I went back to the table and just sat down, I didn’t take any food and started crying. My dad was asking me what was up, but I didn’t answer, I continued crying and was very upset. I had nowhere private to inject so therefore made the decision that I would just not eat. I was that insistent on keeping my diabetes a secret I wasn’t prepared to sit in a restaurant and allow people to see me doing an injection, that’s not normal, or so I thought aged 13. Jumping ahead slightly here, I later found out much later that a lot of my injections were almost a waste of time anyway as I was injecting into non-recommended sites on my body. Looking back, I would imagine I was high (mmol above 10) for a majority of the time. If/when I did do an injection into a ‘good’ site this would bring me back into range as I seemed to be injecting quite a large amount of M3, way more than what I needed in reality, 40 units twice a day. In today’s MDI terms that worked out to be 56 units of slow release a day and 24 units of fast acting…far too much insulin for a skinny teen!

I didn’t want to be seen as different, I hid T1 from my life as much as I could, I would only ever inject in private and didn’t want to know about it as much as I didn’t want people to know I had it. This really was a complete car crash in how to manage Type 1 Diabetes.

In my late teens and early 20s not a great deal had changed. I was still hiding my diabetes as much as I possibly could, and it was still affecting my life in a negative way. I would tell anybody who absolutely needed to know that I was Type 1 such as employers but apart from that I was still very shy and reclusive about talking about it, showing any sign of it in public or acting on it in public. I have way too many hypo stories from this age bracket and I’m going to explain a couple of the most ridiculous. I say ridiculous in the sense of looking back now and realising how different things could have been had I been more open about having Type 1 Diabetes, of course at that age I still wanted to be seen as ‘normal’, I was just the same as everybody else….I was invincible! Mentally I wasn’t strong enough to accept I had diabetes. When I was around 19 years old a good friend of mine was managing the local Domino’s Pizza, he’d offered me some delivery work at weekends which was ideal for a bit of extra cash. I was getting on fine with these deliveries but recall one specifically. I was driving to do the delivery but suddenly realised my glucose was dropping very low and very quickly. I never carried any hypo treatments with me in those days, I didn’t want to be different and have people question why I was carrying sweets or glucose tablets. I was struggling to find the address for this delivery because I was going hypo and having no treatments on me the only option, I had was to start eating the delivery myself. I tucked into some of the breaded chicken wing type things which really are a terrible hypo treatment as they’re a very slow release carb and that’s just on the breaded part…I had no other option though it was a case of needs must! I waited around for a little while, found the address and delivered the food, I don’t believe any complaint was made about the box of chicken wings being a few short! Looking back that was an utterly absurd moment for myself as a human, I could have dealt with that so much easier if I’d had hypo treatments in my car or on me, still fighting that mental battle of not giving diabetes the respect it needs of course I didn’t take that easy option. Going into my 20s I still had battles with myself against diabetes. It became a battle, me verses it. I’d have hypos on nights out and am incredibly grateful to the wonderful group of friends I have around me as I’ve been helped on many occasion, I’d have hypos during games of football, I’d have hypos during work, to put it simply I could have a hypo any time through lack of care. It was type 1 diabetes that ‘thing’ I refused to accept. I’m sure during these times I had many, many hypers (high blood sugars) too but of course these are less noticeable and as I wasn’t prepared to give diabetes attention, I wasn’t testing so I wouldn’t know what my levels were. In my head I thought the way to ‘win’ verses diabetes was to simply ignore it! I’m very sorry to say that on three or four occasions I’d had hypos where ambulances had needed to be called and paramedics would ‘save’ me. I always apologised profusely to them once I’d come round and felt very guilty that tax payer money was being wasted on me purely because I wasn’t strong enough mentally to accept I had a condition which needed care from myself.

Scott Waving
In my mid 20s I had attended the regular diabetic retinopathy screening (photos to look for potential nerve damage in the back of your eyes) at my local hospital and later received a letter to say that I had the very early stages of retinopathy. This was my first encounter with any potential complication from diabetes and I became very worried. My eyesight has always been very good so to receive that was a huge shock and a big wake-up call that I must now start taking care of my diabetes. Losing my sight at such a young age was something I didn’t even want to consider. I did some research online and spoke to some other T1s I’d found online who had had the same letter and was advised that it was nothing to worry about too much as it was a generic letter sent if you had even one slightly enlarged blood vessel in the back of your eye. All you can do is keep good control and things shouldn’t progress any further. This was my first engagement with the Diabetes Online Community (#GBdoc #doc) and I was so pleased that I’d done that. This was the first time I’d ever had any contact with any other person with Type 1 and it had helped me a lot, talking about diabetes was something I’d never done before.

Just after this I’d seen posts from a guy called Chris Bright looking for people who were Type 1 and also played football. This was ideal for me as I met both criteria massively. I was a Type 1 diabetic and a football nut! I’d messaged Chris a few times and discussed his plans with starting TDFC and was thrilled when there were enough people and interest for us all to meet in person over at the now base, University of Worcester. I was quite nervous and really wasn’t sure what to expect but set off early morning and got myself over to Worcester. There were around 19 in attendance and after some introductions in one of the meeting rooms we got into the sports hall and began a well-coached session. Other than a work colleague from my early 20s I’d never had a conversation with another T1 before let alone played football with one! This isn’t an over the top saying but this day felt like the first day of the rest of my life. I’d had so many conversations with so many different people about diabetes, something I’d never ever done before. I was no longer alone, I had a support network, there were other people out there just like me, they loved football and also had Type 1 Diabetes. There were also some sections of the media in attendance and I’d ended up doing an interview for the BBC which later appeared on their Facebook page! In the space of a day I’ve gone from seeing diabetes as the enemy, something I’d let hold me back in life both mentally and physically to engaging with it for the first time and speaking openly to a TV camera & journalist regarding it! The clip itself has had over 9,000 views which still shocks me to this day, you can catch it yourself here – https://www.facebook.com/bbcherefordandworcester/videos/2003662723039459/

Scott in Sofia

Driving home from that session I felt so infused, I’d learnt so much, met some great people and taken in so much information about how I can manage my diabetes better. This started an overhaul for me with the condition. I was still on the mixed insulin, the same stuff I was given on diagnosis day 18 years ago and had now seen first-hand that life would be so much better changing this. I did this and noticed a difference immediately. My control was better, I was aware of new technologies to track blood glucose which made it easier to track hypos and generally manage my condition better. I genuinely could not speak highly enough of what this session did for me. For the first time ever, I was comfortable being diabetic. I would inject in public, I would talk and engage about the condition rather than just ignore it, I would seek to improve wherever I could. Anybody new coming into my life I would make aware very quickly that I was a Type 1 Diabetic, this really was a watershed moment for me. I’d now taken control of a condition which for many years had completely taken control of me.

We had further meet-ups and training sessions with The Diabetes Football Community and I loved these sessions, great friends were made amongst the group we and we all loved the fact we were in the company of other Type 1s. We were lucky enough to be able to represent the UK at DiaEuro in 2018 and 2019, I was very fortunate to be selected in both of these squads and that for me was incredible. I was now being selected on a national level for an international sporting competition for people with Type 1 Diabetes. Three years ago, I refused to accept I had the condition, now I’m representing my country with it! Spending a week in Bratislava in 2018 and a week in Kiev in 2019 with the squad competing for the UK helped my mental health massively. I was with other T1s 24/7, seeing how they lived their lives with the condition, what could I learn, what could I do differently as well as playing futsal and having a lot of fun.

To summarise my relationship with Type 1 Diabetes since getting involved with TDFC would be quite hard to put into words. I love football/futsal but it’s completely changed my life for the better regardless of the sport. I’m happy injecting anywhere now, I’ve done injections on the Tube platforms in London, I’ve done injections on planes, I’m completely open with everybody I know and meet about my diabetes and I discuss my diabetes. Friends I’ve had for 10-20 years plus have also commented on what a positive change it’s been for me. I’ve even had the privilege of meeting a younger Type 1, Ollie Carr and having a really good chat with him and his mum about the condition. If someone had told me four or five years ago I’d be publicly speaking about my diabetes and going around others houses to do the same I’d be shocked, I’m so pleased this happened though. It felt incredibly fulfilling to pass my knowledge and information on how I manage T1 and sports to a young family.

Scott with Ollie
I’ve met many other T1s through the online community and also been involved in some T1 running events which is something I’ve really gotten into over the last year. I took part in an attempt via Paul Coker and OneBloodyDrop to break a world record for the most people with Type 1 Diabetes at the Swansea Half Marathon, I somehow finished the first finisher out of the Type 1’s with virtually no specific running training and this gave me a real boost to take up running more seriously. I’ve ran with other Type 1s outside of that event and met some other amazing people through running (as well as ran with amazing people!), my diabetes has never been so well controlled because of this too. If I’d never got involved with TDFC I’m not sure I would have taken up running too so it’s another massive positive for me.

Scott in Copenhagen
To sum up I’m proud of who I am now, I’m proud that I control the condition rather than it controlling me and I’m very happy to have met so many amazing people through TDFC. If it was not for these people and having that community, I’m not sure I’d be here today. It’s given me opportunities I never thought I’d have but most of all it’s made me a better, healthier (both mentally and physically) person and that for me is absolutely priceless.

It’s good to talk.”

#DiabetesWeek 2019… See Diabetes Differently

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks,

TDFC Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zak Brown

UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 2 (Scott Burrell)

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.

Chris Bright: Reviewing the 2017/18 Season

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

I won’t go into much detail about how the final went as you can read all about it on the previous blog post (https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/03/18/the-cup-final-can-you-ever-get-it-100-right/)…

 

 

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!

Chris

#SporT1Day Reaction: One of the Speakers (Alex Richards)

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.

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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.

Thanks,

Alex.

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#WalkInOurBoots (24 hours in the life of a Diabetic Footballer)

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.

Chris

 

 

Psych Series: Just Relax (Chapter 2)

Considering Chris’ fabulous display in his futsal cup final recently, I’d like to write about playing football with the right amount of intensity. Nerves are a funny thing and if you let them control you it can be tough to get the best out of yourself on the pitch. Nerves get your body pumping and you can feel the adrenaline throughout your body. When you play an important game, nerves will be there, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, without practice your nerves can get the best of you. Nerves can have two effects on your performance, mentally they can distract you from your task and physically they can tighten your muscles, raise your heart rate and impact your blood glucose levels. So, being able to reduce the nerves that you feel before a game will have an impact on your ability to regulate your diabetes and let you play your best stuff!

Sport psychologist have suggested that anxiety is different to arousal. Put simply, anxiety is the negative perception of arousal. Arousal can be thought of as the body preparing itself for either fight or flight. So when your hands are shaking or you can feel your heart beating faster, this is the body preparing itself to perform. It does not necessarily mean you are nervous, you could be excited. What’s more is that sport performers often suggest that they need a little bit of nerves to play their best.

It is possible to have too much arousal which can lead poor performances. In a football match, if you are too psyched up, you might make reckless challenges or perhaps give the ball away because you try and get rid of the ball as soon as you receive it. Or even worse, your blood glucose levels may shoot up. Over arousal or playing with too much intensity can be a problem and can get in the way of playing your best football when you most desperately want to. For a moment, think of arousal on a scale of 1-10. If you are not up for the game at all, say a one or two you probably won’t play your best. On the flipside, if you’re a 9-10 you may run around like a headless chicken or play hot potato with the ball, or your levels may be to high. Not the best way to allow your talent to show, you need to relax.

Now, relaxing can be easier said than done and I don’t think that anyone ever calmed down when someone told them, just relax. However, there are somethings you can do to help bring your arousal down and give you a chance to play your best.

TIP ONE: BREATHE – It sounds simple I know. However, when we feel under pressure and stressed, our breaths become shorter and our bodies become tense. When this happens it’s harder to produce the free-flowing footwork that allows you to beat a defender. Or the co-ordination you need to control a pass from your teammates. Before you step on the pitch, take some deep breaths, concentrate on inhaling and filling your lungs with air. Then, when you exhale, try to feel the stress leave your body. Do this for 30 seconds and then return to your regular breathing.

TIP TWO: PROGRESSIVE MUSCULE RELAXTION – This technique requires a little more time and regular practice to master. However, if you practice it frequently, it can really help you relax and perform on the big days. Progressive muscular relaxation (PMR) is a series of tensing and relaxing your muscles. When you are under pressure, your muscles can tighten and one of the best ways to loosen them is actually to tighten them some more first. Just as an example, right now try tensing your fist for 10 seconds, then relax it. Notice how loose your hand feels and compare it to the difference you felt when your fist was clenched. PMR usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete and can help calm yourself down when you feel nervous. Chris and I will also go over this on our podcast so stay tuned for that!

TIP THREE: SLOW DOWN – As I mentioned earlier pressure can cause us to speed up and rush. Sometimes we play as if we want to get it over as fast as possible. This can happen even when we have worked really hard to get ourselves to this point. Remember, nerves can be a sign that you care. So when you find yourself in a big game, try slowing down. Take a little longer on the ball, get your head up and have a look around for your teammates. You probably have more time than your realise. Even though you may feel like you’re in slow motion, you probably won’t be far from your normal playing speed.

TIP FOUR: FOCUS ON THE PROCESS – Thoughts about winning, losing or anything outside of the here and now is a distraction and can cause anxiety. This anxiety then takes you out of your normal game. You become focused on things that make you worry and not things that make you play well. So try and focus on the here and now. Take a moment to think about when you play your best stuff, what do you do? Do you get on the ball and find your teammates, run in behind the defenders, win tackles? Whatever you do on the days you play well is your game. Focus on playing your game, if you play your game well, you will give yourself the best chance of winning.

Right sorry for the long read, I’ve tried to make it as short as possible but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Until next time!

Have a great week,

Alex.

The Cup Final… Can you ever get it 100% right?

The first word that springs to my mind after my most recent experience is…… WOW. (Videos & Images courtesy of my Instagram profile: brighty08)

Opportunities to play in cup finals are special. They’re a culmination of a season’s worth of hard work, good performances and often quite a bit of luck. You have to appreciate and enjoy them, because as I know, it can be years until you play again in the next one, or you may never get the chance again! That only dawned on me after this one though…… If it is the last one, at least it was one to remember!!!

For the purpose of this post, I’m going to try and encompass everything about preparing for a Cup Final weekend from my experience living with Type 1 Diabetes. These moments matter and hopefully after a good performance in this most recent match, I can give a bit of insight about what it was like, how I prepared and the reactions to hiccups which allowed me to still get out there and enjoy the experience.

So for me it started on Friday night ( the cup final was 3pm on Sunday!) when the squad met up for Training as we do every week. This session was a little different though; the team had suffered a shock defeat a couple of days beforehand and we were keen to feel more prepared leading into the final. So we spent a good half an hour discussing preparations before doing a session that focussed on breaking down our opposition’s tactics. We knew how they played having beaten them at their venue in the league just 2 weeks before (8-6 to Worcester). It was a good session that we all wished we’d spent a bit longer on but we felt positive we could get the job done. I was slightly concerned my hamstring was tweaking but I got in and sat in an ice bath, sorted the glucose levels out (which were pretty good!) and went to bed feeling positive about the weekend.

Saturday comes around and inadvertently I managed to keep my thoughts around the final to a minimum all day. In typical male style, I’d left the purchase of my Mother’s day gifts until the last minute so I spent the morning getting those! I was with Alex (our TDFC sports psychology guru) grabbing lunch and consciously aware the final was coming up but the only reference I was making to it was ensuring I ate plenty of carbs and tried to stay in safe blood glucose ranges throughout the day.  I spent the evening just chilling out with my mates, with my mind away from the game, having a laugh. It kept me relaxed and stress free. Something Alex keeps telling me is important to get the best from myself.

However…. I made a major mistake on Saturday.  In my attempts to “Carb Up” I ate pretty late that evening and I messed up the carb counting….  This led to a middle of the night Hyperglycaemia (21mmols), requiring an injection and a disruption to my sleep!  Definitely not the best preparation but if we had it all our own way it wouldn’t be so rewarding to achieve the things we do as Diabetics!

Sunday… Game day! I started off a bit later than usual following the sleep disruption. A period of stretching the muscles and foam rolling out the niggles started the day before a reasonably sized brunch. In the car on the way to the game was the first time I really started to think about the next few hours. I could feel the normal feelings associated with big games building up; the excitement, the nerves, the anticipation and general buzz of an occasion.

For me letting those feelings come into play on the way to the game was the best time for them. You have to let them do their thing but knowing how I tick, I also needed to remain calm. If I allow myself to pile pressure on my performance, I play a bit too quick and the anxiety can drive my glucose levels up, which again affects the output. I like to remind myself I’m here to enjoy it and play the game for fun. If you don’t enjoy it, why do you do it? It also keeps the glucose levels more predictable… The mind has a huge impact on the body!

Upon arrival and with the hamstring not feeling too clever, I was stretched out and massaged in the changing room before we went out onto the court. My glucose levels were looking good and as we left the changing room you could feel the buzz around the team, as for some it was the biggest game they’d played in! We rolled out into the venue and as we started the warm up you could see the focus and intensity was there, which is always a good sign early on! I was feeling sharp (apart from the hamstring tweak) as we started moving the ball around on court and the warm up went by with a smile on my face and a growing sense of excitement for the game to begin… I’m not sure whether this excitement masked what happened next though!!

As the whistle blew to kick off, I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just wanted to react to what was going on around me and play the game as I saw it. Futsal is played at such pace I don’t think there’s much time for anything else anyway! Our starting 4 began the game with a lot of composure on the ball and making some chances. It was always going to be a tight start to the game playing against a team who were the biggest challenge in our league and in the first few minutes it looked like the game was going to pan out that way. A couple of minutes in I was lucky enough to see the ball drop at my feet with a chance to break forward, I took it, beat a couple of players and nutmegged the keeper to make it 1-0 (GOAL BELOW).  A great start to the game for us and on a personal note it gave me a lot of confidence to continue effecting the game and getting myself on the ball. After my first 5 minute stint on court the score was 1-1 after we’d conceded a soft goal. Nonetheless a solid start!

I then witnessed 5 minutes where it didn’t go well at all for us. We conceded a number of soft goals and we’d lost our organisation… This summed up much of the rest of the first half until the final few minutes but the damage was done. We were 5-1 down at half time. That kind of score isn’t quite as dramatic as it would be playing Football, but it did give us a very big mountain to climb in the second half. I was feeling pretty good out on court but there was no doubt I was concerned we had a little bit too much to do to get back into it! The glucose levels had recovered and now sat at 8.4mmols going into the second half so I didn’t make any adjustments over the half time break.

So with a big task on our hands, the boys kicked off the second half. We started it well, with plenty of possession and we drew a number of fouls (6 fouls wins you a 10 metre penalty). This made it very interesting as the half progressed but without making too many chances we knew the next goal was crucial… Fortunately we got it! Sam got a poachers effort under the keeper’s nose and it was game on. Following the first 10 minutes of the half playing with the same 4 players and the goal to make it 5-2, we threw some fresh faces into the action to chase down the deficit, of which I was one.  Coming back on I knew that we were one foul short of a penalty and the momentum was very much in our favour. Sure enough the persistence told! 5-3 via a 10 metre penalty from Vytas. Now we could sense the tide was turning…. With 5/6 minutes left on the clock I picked up the ball, slowed the play down, created half a yard and took the shot on, 5-4 (GOAL BELOW). The belief was growing but time was running out. We kept plugging away with chances but was the comeback all in vain? As the clock ticked down towards 1 minute, I picked the ball up for a kick in and played a firm pass across the court to Ally deep inside their half, he took a touch and dispatched the ball through a crowd of players into the bottom corner. Queue mass celebration! We’d come back to level the final with barely any time left on the clock but the job wasn’t complete… I noticed their team dropped their heads at this point as they were trying to hold out for the result. The momentum was with us and as the full time buzzer went we were full of confidence that we’d go onto complete the comeback in extra time!

The turnaround for extra time was fast and I felt good so I didn’t check my glucose levels. I was happy to just keep going… Despite the flow of the game with us, Warwick took the kick off and immediately scored to make it 6-5. Surely we couldn’t throw away all of the hard work now?

NOT TODAY! From a kick in Vytas set me back for a strike which I hit hard towards the back post and via a small deflection it ended up going in (GOAL BELOW!). 6-6 and we went into the half time interval in extra time knowing we still had every chance of completing the crazy comeback! At this point I was desperate for us to get the job done with our momentum as no one wants the lottery of penalties!

We pushed forward and controlled the second half of extra time. Just a minute in, a neat one two with Paul found me in the area on my own and I dispatched the ball into the bottom corner…. Pandemonium from our bench followed, because for the first time since the 5th minute we led the game!!  Just a minute later we were 8-6 up following a nice move involving myself, Alessandro and Harry who despatched the ball at the back post. A typical Futsal goal now had us just 3 minutes from taking the cup!

We defended like trojans and shut down every Warwick move and even under the press moved the ball well and played with composure. Our positive approach allowed us to finish up with 20 seconds on the clock by making it 9-6. Vytas worked himself some room via a corner and between us we managed to get the ball home after some last gasp Warwick defending…. In scoring my 5th of the game, we’d secured the cup, 3 goals in 20 seconds was too much for us to throw away and we knew it!! After a remarkable game we’d done it (VIDEO BELOW FOR FINAL GOAL AND FINAL BUZZER).

I haven’t given Diabetes all that much air time during the game, because guess what….. It didn’t get much air time during that final. Once I sorted out the pre game hypo, I did 1 check at half time to ensure things were fine and that was all that was needed.

After such an awful 12 months with injury, and with my family watching, it was a pleasure to play like I did and help the Uni get their hands on a cup. You don’t get many chances to play in cup finals and win trophies so when you score 5 and have such a positive effect on the result it’s special. I was just so pleased for the lads after witnessing their development across the season to see them all be rewarded with a cup final win was great, after they’d supported me in coming back from my injury problems every step of the way.

To answer the title of the post… I don’t think it’s about getting it right 100% of the time, it’s about making sure Diabetes doesn’t impact the important parts! It came together when I needed it to but not without the challenges. Remain calm, react appropriately and enjoy every moment! I definitely left the Diabetes on the back seat of the car during the game and allowed myself to enjoy the occasion and express myself. Diabetes or not, nothing was holding me back on cup final day.

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 My Cup Final Top Tips (From my experience, not endorsed by a Healthcare Professional):

  • Keep your mind off the game until the hours before it. If you focus on it too early, you may put too much pressure on yourself or get over excited.

  • Test as regularly as possible.

  • Carb load the day before.

  • Hydrate well on the day.

  • Remember to take it all in… Win or Lose you’ve done amazingly well to get there and it’s a match you don’t want to forget.

  • Keep a consistent routine with your Diabetes. Play this match just like any other, however be prepared that levels may be erratic due to the emotions of a final having an effect.

  • Try and enjoy the occasion rather than get nervous about trying to perform. It’s just a game of Futsal/Football and you’ve probably played hundreds before this one! (I’ve made this mistake before!)

  • Smile and tell yourself you’re there because you deserve to be.

Chris