Our First Training Session (DiaEuro)… Making History

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:

Radio:

 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0638fgt#play ( 1 hour 37 minutes 36 seconds for the feature)

 Social Media:

https://instagram.com/p/Bh9AFV3hQLS/ 

https://www.facebook.com/bbcherefordandworcester/videos/2003662723039459/

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.

Until the next time,

Chris

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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

Jon’s Story…

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:  

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“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.

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 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!

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 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!“

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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. 😀

Reflecting upon 2017, whilst looking forward to 2018

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 playing football. 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!

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 that TDFC 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!

To an amazing 2018 and beyond…My best wishes.

Live. Play. Inspire.

Chris