Another leading member of The Diabetes Football Community and a veteran of the UK Diabetes Futsal squad wanted to share his views on 2020. Zak has been living a long way from home, with the pandemic unfolding in a completely different way in the country of his birth, to the country he’s been living in…. A really interesting insight from Zak and we want to wish you all a Happy New Year wherever you are in the world and thank you for all of your support. Over to you Zak:
“It’s obvious that many people will be glad to see the back of 2020. However, reflection is an important part of every cycle or transition to a new period.
And with any reflection, it is important to acknowledge the positives of the year just passed.
Despite challenging circumstances, I have seen so many friends on social media starting up a side-business this year, whether it be selling hand-made gifts, homemade cakes, or launching a company they had been thinking about for years, and had finally been given the time to turn a vision into action.
Secondly, I have seen some seriously impressive 5km, 10km and further run times from people who had barely ran those distances before. The ability to get out in the fresh air and to explore the local environment will always be free, and for that we should be grateful. It also shows how quickly we can improve at something if we just put the time and effort in.
My situation is different to most right now, as I moved to New Zealand at the end of 2019 from Sydney, where I had been working on an overseas visa for the previous three years. The events that were about to unfold meant that it turned out to be a fortunate decision in many ways, with New Zealand containing the virus for much of 2020. However, despite the relative freedom, it still affects me in a similar way to others as I don’t know when I can next fly home to see my family and friends (I was due to see them this Christmas).
The main challenge for me this year has actually been diabetes-related. The health care system here isn’t quite as advanced as in the UK, meaning diabetes care options are much more limited. For example, only one type of long-acting insulin is government funded (Lantus) and CGM is mainly self-funded here too. Due to my current visa status, I am not eligible for any discount on prescriptions. The full price of insulin, the thing that keeps me alive on a day-to-day basis is eye-watering at times, and certainly makes me feel some empathy for our friends across the Atlantic in USA, who deal with similar battles over the cost of their diabetes.
Despite these hurdles, I have taken a positive outlook and tried to address how I can combat this challenge. To save some money, I decided to cut back on a couple of other “luxury” expenses. However, I made sure I did not cut back on my diabetes care, as health is so important, therefore I tested as much as I usually would, despite the extra costs. This yielded a positive result, with my HbA1c resulting in 42 at my last check-up; the lowest it has been since diagnosis 14 years ago. I remain hopeful that my new visa will come through soon and that I can then access my insulin, test strips etc. at a more reasonable cost.
Looking ahead to 2021, our CEO at Sport Wellington summed it up quite well by wishing for a “dull and boring” 2021! With uncertainty set to continue for a while, “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” may be a good mantra to live by. For me personally, the current situation just re-iterates how happiness and health are essential to our livelihoods. So, I would encourage everybody to think about what makes them most happy? And think of how you can achieve this in whatever circumstances are thrown at you. And when we think about health, as people with Diabetes we have that extra aspect to think about; but remember that health is holistic and not just physical – mental, emotional, social and spiritual health are all contributors to our overall wellbeing.
Take care everyone and wishing you all a Happy New Year.
It’s always great for TDFC to link in with others who share our passion for sport, exercise and overall fitness whilst living with Type 1 Diabetes. So it’s great that we could invite Daria to share some of her insight as someone highly engaged in an active lifestyle which encourages all of those things as well as a big emphasis on nutrition through her work… So no more words from us let Daria tell you about her work, experiences and her story.
“Fitness, nutrition and medication are the 3 pillars of diabetes management. Sport and exercise can affect blood sugars in different ways, depending on what type of activity is performed. We need to adapt our management to achieve best blood sugar results and top performance in sport. We can do this by altering our nutrition and medication around training sessions.
There are 3 types of exercise that diabetics are to be concerned about:
Aerobic (cardiovascular exercise): Steady running, walking, cycling, non-expulsive repetitive movement. This type of exercise will make blood sugars drop quite drastically and rapidly, if not accommodated for.
Anaerobic (resistance training): heavy weight training, variations of crossfit and similar. Adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones are released as a response to resistance training, which cause the liver to release some glucose into the bloodstream, causing blood sugars to rise.
HIIT Training: any form of expulsive movement or sprint training. Fight or flight (stress hormones) are released, as well which is likely to cause blood sugars to spike during the workout and then quickly drop after the workout.
Fuelling yourself correctly for workouts is not just important for blood sugar control, but is also essential for giving your muscles enough energy to move and perform in an optimum manner. Setting up a routine for each type of workout you perform will massively reduce stress levels, help avoid highs and hypos mid-session or mid-match, and make exercise much more enjoyable.
There is no one way that will suit everyone, but as an example, I want to share my ways of managing the different workouts I do. These are long-distance running and road cycling, spin and boxing classes, as well as my all-time favourite gym weight training. I don’t play football, unfortunately, but from the experience of supporting other T1Ds, I know that matches can be stressful, and that in itself can cause a hormonal spike, which will rise blood sugars. There is no way of getting out of this, accept for using insulin to prevent the rise.
The way I prepare for my training is by keeping the timing if the workout the same: in the morning, after breakfast, as I find my performance is a lot better and I have set-up my pre-training routines for that time of day. I also eat the same old bowl of protein oats for breakfast every day to make BG response more predictable.
For long-distance running and cycling: These always cause a drop in my blood sugars, which I will prevent by either reducing the bolus for the meal prior to the workout or by having a 15-carb snack just before the training session. Most commonly, I will go for a session straight after breakfast, reduce my meal bolus by 20%, have a bowl of oats with berries and go. This will hold me stable for around 1.5 hours of cardiovascular exercise.
For spin & boxing classes: For me these classify as HIIT training, and will spike my blood sugars. Prior to the session, I will either eat a 5-10 carb protein bar piece with 0.5u of insulin or do my regular bolus for my oatmeal breakfast, if done in the morning. After the workout, I will have another 10g snack to catch the drop. Insulin sensitivity still increases during HIIT, despite the hormonal response, so be careful not to inject too much insulin prior to training.
For resistance gym workouts: I tend to need my regular bolus for my oatmeal in the morning. While I get to the gym, the food will already settle in and the insulin will still be active. This helps eliminate the spike. I also do a longer cardio warmup to make sure that I start in the lower BGs, and have some space to rise from the training.
The new year is always a chance to take a fresh look at things and alter the path or journey we’re on…. At the start of every year I try to look at the context I’m surrounded by and set myself new goals or challenges which drive my motivation for what’s ahead.
But what I thought I’d do, to help some of you out there who might be thinking about starting a journey with Football/Futsal & Type 1 Diabetes or taking it up a level, is give you some insight around how I manage my condition. 2019 was a pretty good year for me with my sport so it’s probably a good time to share with you some of the ways I go about trying to get the best from my glucose levels to allow me to play to the best of my ability.
So I thought I’d outline some of the ideas, most of which I shared at the #SporT1Day conference, to hopefully provide some insight and support to anyone out there who might need it.
Here’s my general thoughts on what I try to do or think about for my management before any sport or exercise:
A plan of how to approach the sport/exercise/game – What type of exercise is it (interval, aerobic, anaerobic etc)? Intensity? Duration? Time of day? Timing of meals? Last Bolus?
Consistency of Routine – If it’s working, I keep using it.
Good night’s sleep.
Plenty of time between pre match meal insulin dose and starting the game (3 hours + ideally)
Lots of Testing – As much as you can or utilising a CGM such as the Dexcom G6 which has been the best I’ve used so far. This way you can learn about the effects of types of exercises, intensities, durations etc on your glucose levels.
Small adjustments of insulin & carbs to try and find the right glucose level for your best performance or for you to just enjoy it.
I aim for 7-8 mmols throughout the duration of any game to try and achieve my best performances.
Having my quick acting hypo treatments and insulin available and accessible for any adjustment I might need.
Consider the weather… Is it cold or hot? They usually play a part in how our glucose levels respond.
Am I in good general health? Have I been ill recently? Can play a part in less predictable glucose levels.
Keeping on top of my hydration… I find my levels drop more quickly if I’m dehydrated.
Stress Levels – Do I feel nervous? Am I calm? Sometimes bigger games cause a bigger adrenaline spike in glucose levels. Do I need to account for this?
Have I fuelled up well before the exercise? Have I eaten enough calories/carbs in general for the energy I’m going to expend.
Always consider how much activity you’ve been doing around the particular sport or exercise you’re about to take part in, because the more active you are, the more sensitive to insulin you are!
Below are some of the generic details about my day to day management…
• My daily carb intake is around 180g. ( + or – depending on activity levels). I’m on MDI and CGM, No pump.
• Carb Ratios are roughly 1:15 g breakfast, 1:10g lunch, 1:7.5 g for dinner.
Much of what I’ve said above is linked to a generic way I tackle my Football or Futsal but there are some subtle differences I employ between the two because the intensity of the two sports is very different. This has a drastic impact on the reaction of my glucose levels and the way I manage them during and afterwards especially. So I’ll show you some of the key differences below:
Football (Example is preparation towards a Saturday 3pm Kick Off)
Aiming to be 7-8mmols to start the game and throughout.
Ensuring my pre-game meal & bolus is 3 hours before kick off.
Reducing pre-game meal bolus by roughly 10%.
Half time testing and adjusting based on level. If I’m below 9mmols I’ll take on 10g of carbs to cater for the second half dip and even more if my levels are below 5mmols. These choices very much depend on length of time you’re going to play and how hard the game is. If it’s a tough game with a lot of chasing then I sometimes have an extra 5-10g of carbs. If I’m over 13mmols I’ll take on a unit of insulin.
Post game meal I reduce my bolus by 25-50% depending on how much I’ve played and the intensity of the game.
I try to make my post-game meal both full of protein and carbohydrate to help with the recovery of glycogen stores and muscle growth/repair.
I will have a bed-time snack of 10-15g without a bolus to try and alleviate the nocturnal hypo risk. (If I’ve played a whole 90 minutes, I’ll scale all of this back if I’ve played less than that)
I don’t adjust my basal insulin because I use Tresiba, which is an ultra-long acting insulin and this will have no effect on my risk of a nocturnal hypo.
I like to start the game at 5mmols if I can, because despite being lower, I’m still likely to need a small bolus before the game or at half time to manage my levels rising as a result of the higher intensity and expected spike.
Because of the roll on, roll off substitutions within Futsal, there’s a lot more opportunity for adjustment. So I always come off from the court and immediately check my CGM and look for the trend arrows and glucose level.
I always tend to carry a bit of short acting insulin in my system because for me within Futsal, knowing I have frequent breaks and the likely impact of the intensity (levels rising), I’d rather be lower and taking on some glucose, as it reacts quicker than my insulin, than being too high and waiting for my insulin to kick in. The important factor for me is having a glucose level which allows for performance, not the number of adjustments I have to make.
I will always have a protein bar/snack post game of around 20g of carbs because I tend to have a sharp drop in my levels post game. Probably as a result of carrying short – acting insulin during my sport and the intensity.
I don’t make any bolus adjustments post – game to my meals. Again I’ll eat a meal heavy in protein and carbohydrate.
No basal adjustments as a result of using tresiba.
If I want a bed-time snack I’ll bolus for it with a small reduction of 25%.
I really hope that this is a useful post for people out there trying to tackle football or futsal for the first time, or who might be finding it challenging currently. If something from this article helps someone out there get more from their performance or just allows them to enjoy it more I’ll be happy!! Please give it a share if you can because I’m sure you’ll know someone who may also find this useful.
I’ve also added my slides from the #SporT1Day Conference to the bottom of this post if you wanted to see what I shared on the day, which also has much of this detail in.
Thanks for reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy new year! Please also be aware of the below disclaimer.
Disclaimer – Always remember that this a personal perspective and is not endorsed by a medical professional. So any advice or ideas you take from this post is at your own risk and should always be cleared by your diabetes team.
I suppose it’s taken me a little while to get this written down with the vast amount of things on my plate in the last month but we got there eventually!
A culmination of months of behind the scenes work, emails, phone calls, marketing and raising awareness of what we were putting on came to fruition on November 17th. There was no better timing than to host it 3 days after World Diabetes Day as a statement of support for one of the most important days in the calendar.
Before I talk about the event itself, I need to thank the University of Worcester for allowing us to host the last 2 SporT1Day conferences within their facilities. I have a brilliant relationship with so many people at the university and their continued support for me, the conference and The Diabetes Football Community is incredible. I will always have a strong affinity to my university for how they’ve encouraged & facilitated the projects we’ve come up with and I just hope I represent their values & ethos in the work I now do. A huge thank you must also go to Dexcom & Roche for sponsoring the conference and supporting with refreshments & the programme.
I also must say a huge thank you to Paul, who shares this joint vision to drive education in sport for people with type 1 diabetes. A mate of mine whom I’ve been able to co-create something special alongside. Thank you buddy… We’re on some journey with this and I can’t wait to see what we can do next.
But lastly before talking about the day a final thank you to the incredible speakers, paul’s family and my own family for helping us deliver the day. Without you it wouldn’t have been possible.
An early start for myself, the family and one of our speakers Alex Richards, as we made our way down to the university. I was definitely less nervous than the first time round after having the experience of last year’s conference already under the belt. After setting it up the best we could based upon the volunteers and resources we have available for this kind of event we were all really excited to start seeing people arrive.
As soon as you see people arriving with their tickets it’s an incredible feeling to know that all of the planning you’ve put in place is about to happen but it’s also the moment when you realise there’s a show to put on.
We kicked off the day with the incredible Professor Partha Kar, who really needs no introduction. An amazing man, who through his determination, passion and ability has helped drive a transformation in the way type 1 diabetes is both viewed and supported within the NHS. Partha gave us a talk about the focus and direction the NHS England Diabetes programme is heading in whilst demonstrating the incredible developments and uptake of technology across the country. Having someone of Partha’s credentials attend the conference was a huge compliment and I really do owe him (He’s got me down for a couple of beers the next time I see him!). @parthaskar on Twitter
We’d planned the day to give our audience a chance to take on the recommendations and thoughts of the healthcare professionals at the beginning and end of the day. We felt this would be a good way of allowing people to pick up some tips before listening to some of the experiences of our athletes and people living with type 1 diabetes throughout the rest of the day.
After the excitement of Partha’s opening we then had the pleasure of having 2 of the leading healthcare professionals in exercise and type 1 diabetes within the country, whom lead on the EXTOD programme (www.extod.org), talk to us about the science of managing blood glucose levels through particular types of physical activities and sport. Dr Alistair Lumb and Dr Parth Narendran have been imperative in driving attempts to improve the knowledge of other healthcare professionals across the country through EXTOD and having them share the knowledge and framework at SporT1day was a privilege. You can always tell when a topic and talk has captivated an audience by the response at the end…… Let’s just say we could’ve been there a lot longer with the questions. A huge thank you for coming along guys and I look forward to working with you in the future on some exciting ideas! @DrAliLumb & @parthnarendran on Twitter.
Following an opening of theory from the healthcare professionals we started to delve into some of the experiences of those living with the condition, who are putting this knowledge into practice day in and day out. So first up was Brian Hoadley or Type1Bri ( www.type1bri.com). A really top bloke, who encouraged me to share my journey and who had a huge impact on me personally as I became aware of the diabetes online community. He’s been a great friend of mine who’s always supported the work of TDFC from the very beginning. It was an honour to have Bri share his own inspirational journey of running the London marathon less than a year after being someone who didn’t do any exercise. To do that in under a year is epic for anyone, but made even more special and inspiring when you’re able to do it with type 1 diabetes. Bri shared the journey he went on, how he did it and the effect it had on him and his diabetes. A brilliant talk and achievement from Bri. So pleased we all got to hear it. @Type1Bri on Twitter
Next to the centre of our SporT1Day stage was Alex Richards. A very good friend of mine who’s work in sports psychology has taken a special interest in the experiences of people with type 1 diabetes in sport and exercise. Alex gave us a talk about perfectionism and it’s challenges to both athletes and those of us living with type 1. It was very poignantly linked to the goals we set ourselves and how most of us look towards outcome goals rather than process goals. Interestingly, those outcome goals are often out of our control to some extent, as winning trophies, representing teams or qualifying into tournaments relies on coaches, other players and beating the opposition which you can’t actually impact upon. His talk fascinated me having spent much of my life with this idea of perfectionism rooted inside of me and my focus on outcome goals, that I couldn’t always impact upon. Top work Al and I think there was a large proportion of the audience desperate for a chat about the presentation and keen to grab hold of the slides afterwards! It says it all about how interesting the talk was. @alex_acr on Twitter
Then we moved onto the incredible Melanie Gray. Now Mel will always have a special place in the history of TDFC as she was someone I spoke to when I was thinking about putting myself out there to share my individual experiences as well as creating TDFC in the early part of 2017. So to have her along to speak at our joint conference with 1BloodyDrop was an honour. Mel has been an inspiration to so many within the diabetes community as an international sprinter with the condition who has gone onto share her story widely through her renowned blog, advocacy work and now her role as a dietician. As an experienced speaker with a vast knowledge of her sport and how to manage type 1 diabetes within it, it was a brilliant watch and listen. I think anyone in the audience on the day would’ve enjoyed the insight surrounding Mel’s management which complimented talking about her work, which has had her featured in a nike campaign during the London 2012 olympics, seen her become a London 2012 olympics torch bearer whilst also developing her own peer support group Blue Circle Diabetes. If you want to take a closer look at what she’s up to head to www.lifesportdiabetes.co.uk to check out her blog and thank you Mel for supporting our conference.
We then had a chance to take a breath! It was lunch…. Now for everyone else it means take a breath and grab some food but for me, paul and a couple of the speakers who’d already spoken it was an opportunity to speak to members of the audience. So lunch went in the blink of an eye but we had so much more to come….
Our afternoon had a heavy tinge of football within it as 2 of the UK Diabetes Futsal squad shared their stories about getting involved in TDFC and their feelings towards the team. Having Tim and JT, share their thoughts so publicly about how TDFC has helped them through their involvement in our team was pretty special. I didn’t tell them what to say either!!! So for them to show their overwhelming support for what we do and showcase it so brilliantly to the audience was amazing. The power of peer support for people with chronic health conditions should never be overlooked and I firmly believe that its power can drive holistic improvements for people with conditions like type 1 diabetes. Listening to Tim and JT certainly made me feel that this is the case. After they’d both shared their stories it was a chance for me to briefly talk about how I manage my condition around my sport, some of the techniques and ideas I’ve adopted, as well as showcasing what TDFC has been up to and what’s planned for the future. To be honest, it was quite nice to just have a small part in the talking side of things such was the level of organisation required! Hopefully my small snapshot in the day was a worthwhile 10-15 minutes amongst the stars of the show. As we grabbed our coffees, we readied ourselves for Craig Stanley to take to the stage. If you wanted to hear more on JT or Tim’s journeys you can follow them on twitter under @Tim_Ward07 & @JonoTyrrell
I’m biased as a Football/Futsal player but Craig (Staners) talks so honestly and openly about his journey in professional football with type 1 diabetes that it just fascinates me every time I’ve heard him share it. Professional sport and the “elite” are supposedly supported by infinite resources, in the way of money, people and specialists, but Staners shares a story that despite his day job being to play in front of thousands of people playing Football, the support he had throughout his career was limited. I’d always felt this with my experiences in the part time game but you just assume that the added professionalism would improve the experience that players with type 1 diabetes had. Instead talks like Craig’s continue to demonstrate that mainstream sport still hasn’t got it right from the grassroots through to the elite for people living with chronic health conditions. This is where I hope campaigns like the #WeAreUndefeatable campaign created by Sport England goes some way to addressing the issues we face. Despite what Staners has faced he’s had an amazing pro career of over 500 appearances, a Wembley playoff victory and having the opportunity to captain the England C team. All of this despite living with type 1 diabetes. He’s a very down to earth guy but what an example he sets for us all. A massive thank you buddy for coming to share your story with us again. If anyone wants to follow Staners on social media you can find him on twitter under @staners6 and on instagram under @staners10.
Our last lived experience of the day came from my partner in crime Mr. Paul Coker. His experience of living with the condition for over 40 years which combines feats of endurance along the way always provides an insightful and inspiring listen. This time we had the pleasure of listening to the story of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for JDRF with a number of other type 1s. I’ve heard Paul talk a few times but not on this topic with so much depth. It was really interesting to see the impact altitude had on himself and others managing the condition and certainly provided some important insight into how to go about tackling that sort of challenge. Paul’s experiences of Kilimanjaro provided yet another valuable varied talk for our audience whom I’m sure gleaned so much.
Another member of our healthcare profession came to round up the day with a specific view of what it’s like as a diabetes specialist nurse (DSN). Emma Innes talked us through some of the specifics of how we should work with our specialist team, some of the recommendations from healthcare professionals for sport & exercise and how technology is making it easier. Emma now uses her experience in the field to lecture at the University of Worcester for the nursing cohort of students. Her talk helped to remind us all of the importance of working with our healthcare professionals to achieve our joint goals together. A big thank you for sharing your insight for us Emma! You can follow Emma on Twitter under @emmainnes3
Finally we finished off with a Q&A session for the audience and as I stood at the front with my fellow speakers, providing answers in the best way we could, I knew we’d delivered something special. The engagement, the faces and the thank you’s we received told us that. Now we need to consider where we go from here…. The magic of what we’ve started needs to be built upon and myself & Paul need to go away to think about how we make this grow and work for the future. Nevertheless SporT1Day was an incredible success which I certainly will look back upon with a huge amount of pride!
If you’re interested in where we go next make sure you follow @SporT1Day on twitter for updates and news from the conference. Our plans are always ongoing and if you think you’d like to see us in a different part of the country or you have an idea you’d like to share with us, you can contact TDFC, 1BloodyDrop or the SporT1Day twitter account to get through to us.
Thank you for all of the support with our conference & the wider work of TDFC and I hope you all have an amazing Christmas!
A day that I remind myself to thank the great Sir Frederick Banting for the gift he gave me, a chance to continue living my life despite being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. His co-creation of Insulin in the 1920’s has saved millions of lives, including my own, from a life cut short by this condition. This day is about you my friend, as we celebrate your birthday and the gift you gave us.
With that extra time you’ve given me, I hope I’ve done you proud. I’ve done my best to defy the pitfalls of Diabetes and use the experiences I’ve worked hard for and been fortunate enough to have, to help others that share this condition with me. I feel that your gift to us all is one I won’t overlook or take lightly, and if I can gift anything back to others like me, then I will at least be living in a way which befits your legacy. I know I’m lucky I’m still here, with the developments of science, and in particular the incredible NHS, to thank for the life I’m able to live in 2019. Others round the world still aren’t as lucky as we are here in the UK and I’ll always be grateful for what we have.
Through the work of TDFC, the honour of representing my country within Futsal and my advocacy work for the condition, I hope I do what I can to ensure the time I’ve been given back is not wasted. I’m able to live a life which I decide upon, not my condition, which is all thanks to you, Sir Frederick Banting. There is another person I want to talk about though today…
A man whom I’ve rarely mentioned publicly when talking about Diabetes is my grandfather who also lived with Type 1 Diabetes. He was diagnosed at the age of 21 in 1956 and lived 40 years with type 1 before he died in 1997. 40 years of living with the condition whilst having only the use of animal insulin and without the medical support/devices we have nowadays to help us control it. I think to do that was pretty amazing and even though we met for just a short period in my life, I’m just glad I got the chance. A man with an incredible story, who defied the odds more so than I have in my opinion, that I wish I’d have had the chance to get to know more. I was very young at the time of his passing and at this point I hadn’t been diagnosed with Type 1. I’m grateful he never saw a day where I was diagnosed with the condition (My Mum is too!) , which had potentially passed on a generation to me, because I know he’d have been devastated. But more than ever I wish he’d have seen the work that has been done through The Diabetes Football Community. In the face of what we both lived with, I’ve tried to tread a positive path, which I’m hoping many others can follow. I know he will have been extremely proud of this project and I’m sure he’s looking down smiling upon it all from wherever he is.
I wanted to talk about both of these men, whom never knew I lived with Type 1 Diabetes, because of the lasting impact that they have had on my life. A day of remembering Sir Frederick Banting felt like the right time to remember my Grandad too. A day full of positivity surrounding Diabetes that I want to dedicate to them both.
My life now consists of ensuring I do them both proud by ensuring I live a life full of positive experiences, whilst sharing the journey and helping others with the condition fulfil their potential in sport. If I can do that I’ll be a happy guy and I think they would be too. I’ve now lived with the condition half as long as my Grandad did, with this year marking 20 years. I hope by the time I hit 40 years since my diagnosis, diabetes will be something we remembered we lived with not something we continue to.
So what’s my lasting message for World Diabetes Day?
Be grateful for what we have, treat the time we have as a gift and don’t let Diabetes define the way you live your life. See it as an extra hurdle to jump not a mountain to climb.
This one is for you Grandad & Sir Frederick Banting…. I hope I’ve done your legacies proud.
If you want to see an incredibly inspiring story from Katie McLean who’s sharing her story publicly with us for the first-time head to the below link:
And make sure you don’t forget to pick up your tickets to #SporT1Day this Sunday at the University of Worcester (17th November 2019)… We still have a few left and you can get your hands on them on the below link:
It’s strange being asked to put down in words what my experience was like in Kiev. When Chris Bright asked me initially to say a few words for the TDFC website I said yes immediately, “that’s grand, no problem”. But fast forward a week and I still haven’t written anything down yet (sorry Chris).
So here we go……
I heard about trials taking place for the first ever Irish Diabetic football team in November 2018. My manager from my 11 a side team made me aware of it and said I should go for it. My initial reaction was to say no. At the ripe old age of 34, my dreams of pulling on a green jersey and representing my country were just that….. dreams. I don’t know what changed my mind but I decided to head up one night and check it out.
Driving home after that first session I thought to myself, ‘My god, Futsal is NOT like football at all’. But I loved it.
We met up and trained once a month after that. I would’ve loved to have trained every week but it just wasn’t a viable option. People were making huge sacrifices to make it even once a month, coming from all over the country to be there.
There was so much work to be done and literally no time to do it. All of the players had played football at some level, but I don’t think anybody had played Futsal before. The differences in both games are huge. It’s essentially like playing basketball with your feet. Trying to get used to Futsal as a team was very challenging and we suffered big time when playing friendly matches against experienced Futsal teams.
My respect and thanks have to go out to Alban our coach, because he had the patience of a saint. I’m sure he had thoughts of strangling one or two of us at times (not naming names).
The final squad was announced a couple of months before the tournament. I was buzzing to be apart of it all but to be honest it didn’t seem real to me at that stage.
Because the team wasn’t recognised by the FAI or Sport Ireland, we had to do all of the fundraising ourselves to get to Kiev. This was something I hated having to do as it meant broadcasting it all over social media and I didn’t like having to go on Facebook with the cap in hand, and ask for donations.
To be fair, the response we got was nothing short of incredible. I was overwhelmed by it. I expected people to throw maybe a fiver or a tenner my way. But we had loads of donations of €50s, €100s etc. A guy I went to college with who I hadn’t seen in 10 years, donated €100. Absolute madness. I mailed him straight away to thank him and said it was too much. He mentioned to me that he had cousins who were recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and he knew it was hard. So a massive thank you to all who donated to us.
Looking back, it was strange during our training sessions because we never really mentioned that we were all diabetic. Any conversations about insulin or hypos or Libres were brief and short. Because our time together was so limited, it was all about the football, or all about the Futsal I should say. Towards the end we had a running joke where we wondered if we were even diabetic.
That all changed once we set off for Ukraine. When we met at Dublin airport in our Ireland tracksuits, it finally hit home and it felt real. We were going to the EUROS!!!
I had never been in an environment before where diabetes was openly discussed by everybody in the room. Bloods were checked, insulin injected, pumps were being used. It was an experience to say the least. Everybody followed the same general guidelines and principles of what should be done being a diabetic, but each person had their own little way of doing things. There was no definitive right way or wrong way to do it.
I bombarded the lads with question after question, and we swapped loads of stories of how diabetes has affected our day-to-day lives. One of my favourite topics was discussing favourite foods to treat a hypo, and I got some weird responses in return.
It was refreshing to see everybody so open about it, and honestly it was the first time since I was diagnosed 4 years ago where I actually felt normal.
Kiev was brilliant. I don’t think I have laughed so much in my life ever. Our free time consisted of walking to supermarkets looking for food, and winding each other up. The two lads I roomed with, Mark and Aidan, were straight up mental cases. Although we’d essentially just met, I felt like I’d known them for years and nobody got a free pass when it came to being made fun of. It was brilliant.
Each night at 11pm, everybody would come down to Room 36, gather around one mobile phone to watch a dodgy stream of Love Island and drink cups of tea. Looking back it was all very romantic.
The tournament itself was just special. I was asked by Alban to captain the team and I was bursting with pride to lead the lads out. Hearing Amhran na Bhfiann belting out before each game was a memory I will never ever forget.
Our first game was against the reigning champions Bosnia. An excellent team with tons of experience. It finished 3-0 but we were happy with our performance and we gave a good account of ourselves after a nervous start. The next morning we faced Portugal, a very skilful and tricky team. We scored first and played really well throughout. Ultimately their class shone through in a 6-2 win, but we did have chances.
Later that day came the UK game. It goes without saying that it was a huge match and one that neither team wanted to be on the losing side of. They came out of the blocks really quickly and hit us with everything. To our credit we hung in and defended well as a unit. Our gameplan was to keep it tight and take our chances on the break. We went 1-0 up with a well worked goal. Again the UK hit us with everything they had and equalised towards the end. It finished 1-1. The UK lads will say they deserved to win it, and they could have easily won it. But we also had chances too and I think a draw was a fair result in the end. Until next time.
Having played almost 2 full matches with no breaks, I was physically exhausted and just delighted there were no more games that day.
The last game of the group we played Slovakia. A strong physical side who wore us down in the end. We took an early lead again but the game finished in a 3-1 defeat. That was the only game I felt that got away because I thought we were evenly matched.
Physically we were drained going into the last day playoff games. We came up against a very good Hungary team and just didn’t have the energy to compete. It finished 3-0 but we gave it everything.
In our last game we beat Bulgaria 4-0 to finish 7thplace overall. I didn’t want the tournament to end and felt we were improving as each game passed. I was proud of every single one of our lads. We left everything out on the pitch and couldn’t have given anymore. We did the country proud.
On a personal note I was delighted to chip in with a goal against Portugal and Slovakia.
I also particularly enjoyed at the end of each match, where both teams would pose for a photo together. Regardless of the results or when tensions boiled over, we still did it with a smile. It showed a togetherness and great sportsmanship and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
As a team we didn’t get to do much sightseeing in Kiev but we did manage to do a stadium tour of the Olympic Stadium, which was very cool. After feeling the effects of the post tournament celebrations, it probably wasn’t the best idea to run a 100m race on the track in searing heat. It felt like we were running with parachutes on our backs, however I still managed to pip them on the line to win in a ‘respectable’ time of about 20seconds, ahem (video proof below!).
Before I go, I want to give a special thanks to Cathal Fleming who made all of this happen. The time and effort he put in to organising the squad and getting us to Kiev was amazing. When he first thought of the idea to make an Ireland Futsal team, I’m sure he had aspirations of playing outfield and scoring a few goals. But we had no goalkeeper and he ended up playing in goal for us. By the end of the week he was deservedly voted our player of the tournament, which is a testament to the man.
He is currently trying to develop our team further by entering us into our national Futsal league, which can only make us better. If there are any diabetics reading this who live in Ireland and love football, please come and try it out, and thank me later.
I had one of the best weeks of my life and I have genuinely made friends for life in that Ireland squad. An incredible bunch of lads. Can’t wait for next year already.
Ps. I guess this means I’m a blogger now? BABY WE DID IT!!!
I have just fulfilled the dream of every schoolboy and girl who loves sport. I have represented my country at an international tournament. Belting out the national anthem before each game as loud and proud as I could, wearing the union Jack on my kit – this is something I have always dreamed of, but never really thought could happen. But it has. And it has happened with an amazing bunch of team mates, all with the same thing in common. Diabetes.
Since I was diagnosed with diabetes age 5, I have had a love hate relationship with it. When I’m on top of it, and I’m winning, I love it. However, far too often it gets the better of me and I hate it. However, if it wasn’t for diabetes, I wouldn’t have met such an amazing community of people.
A year aģo, I watched on as Chris took the first ever UK team to the 2018 DiaEuros. I hadn’t kicked a ball in 3 years and had retired due to persistent injuries. 10 operations had taken their toll on my body and I’d had enough. However, this was an amazing project that he had set up, and one I wanted to be involved in. But my knowledge of futsal was incredibly limited. However, I didn’t want to be going along all the time if I wasn’t playing. So I decided to rejoin my old 11 a side team in Bristol as well as coming along to all the training sessions with TDFC. I had no intention of putting myself forward for the DiaEuro squad, but wanted to be part of the project. I was enjoying going along to the sessions, and when Chris asked for the final time who wanted to be part of the squad, I had a decision to make; did I want to put myself forward?! I’d heard so many positive things from the previous year that I thought I would. I had no expectation that I’d come close to going, but the thought of it was too good to not try out for. Fast forward a few months and I had been chosen to go to the Ukraine!
My only experience of going away with other diabetics was a kids camp I went on with my family when I was young. While I don’t remember much about it, I didn’t really enjoy it!! This was different though. Every one of us was type 1 diabetic, but we also loved sport, especially football, and in this case futsal. We were able to share stories and help each other out where necessary. Advice was always there if needed, and there was such a range in terms of years of having diabetes. We talked about levels before sporting performance, treatments, different types of insulin….In fact diabetes was quite often one of the main subjects we talked about (as well as football!)
Meals were a challenge, as it was a buffet every meal, we weren’t entirely sure of the carbohydrate content. Some managed it better than others, which was great to see. There was often talk of how much insulin people had given themselves, as well as at what point people gave their insulin.
Going in to the tournament, I thought my bloodsugar control was fairly good. However, being around other diabetics 24-7, I learnt that there is always room for improvement. People who felt 9 was too high to have our blood glucose for a game inspired me to think differently. Whereas before, I might have ignored that, I soon realised that this wasn’t okay, and starting a game with a blood glucose level of 10 might impact upon my performance. I also learnt better treatment of hypos. Too often I over eat and then end up shooting sky high. However, watching other diabetics being patient having had a couple of tablets or some of the amazing lift liquid products we’d been given helped me massively.
We were also incredibly fortunate to have the use of the dexcom G6 for the tournament, which helped my blood glucose levels no end. I started off setting the high alarm at 16, but by the end of the tournament, I had moved it to 10.5. This wasn’t necessarily to treat, but to be aware. It also helped by having arrows, single and double, showing which way my levels were going and at what rate. We have been able to keep this going since returning from Ukraine, and I’m now aware via an alarm when my levels are getting to 4.2, meaning I can treat it before I actually go low.
So after a week where I’ve been so proud to represent my country at futsal, I have also got tips and seen first hand how others also manage their diabetes. Inspired by others, not just from our team and country.
On the playing side of the tournament, sadly the results didn’t reflect the performances we put in. We were well beaten 5-1 by a very good Portugal team in our first game, but the second day was a tough one to take. We outplayed Slovakia but went down 1-0, then again outplayed Ireland, but only managed a 1-1 draw. We had chances, but just couldn’t seem to score the goals. We moved the ball around and the rotations that we’d worked on were going well, but not the results. The next day we were soundly beaten 11-3 by eventual champions Bosnia. By this point we were struggling physically having played the last game on day 2 (our 2nd game that day) and then the first game on day 3. But that’s sport, and we all love it!
The organisation and management was great. We’d get a text the night before telling us our plans, meeting times and what we had to wear or have with us the next day. We then also got one from the amazing physio, Milly, asking if anyone needed treatments, fixing or taping up the next day. As I was sharing a room with fellow old man and captain Tim, Milly spent her fair share of time in our room sorting us out so we could even get out of bed, let alone play!! We had enough kit to be able to have some taken to the laundrette whilst still having enough to wear around and about, train in and travel to and from matches.
There was also a bit of time for sightseeing. We looked around Kiev, and some of the squad were lucky enough to visit Chernobyl on the last day, which was an amazing cultural experience. Without doubt, this is my sporting highlight of my career. Representing my country at a major tournament. But with an amazing group of people who just seem to bond so well. And we all happen to have shown that diabetes can’t hold you back!
Now the dust has settled on the recent DiaEuro’s, I thought it would be a good time to summarise the experience…
It was an unbelievable feeling to pull on the kit and represent the United Kingdom in an international tournament. I have never felt any feeling like the feeling when we sang the national anthem before every game. To score was a bonus, from my own half and against the holders and eventual champions was even more special.
The standard of Futsal was phenomenal at times, especially against the likes of Portugal and Bosnia, they are light years ahead of where the UK as a whole are with Futsal, although to be fair, it is played far more commonly across Central and Eastern Europe, along with South America, than it is here in the UK, but, we are finally making moves forward to somewhat closing the quality gap. We received many comments from opposition managers and players, stating how we were much improved from last year, even if the eventual results did not show this.
We were beaten 5-1 in the opening game against Portugal, although we felt the scoreline was pretty harsh, we had no argument about the loss itself. The day after we then lost 1-0 to Slovakia, after dominating the game, which was disappointing and then, in the afternoon, we drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland, again, after having the majority of chances.
We were truly up against it as we then required a result against the holders, Bosnia & Herzegovina, to have a chance of progressing from the group stage. They blitzed us in the first half and we were 8-1 down at half time and 11-1 down within 2 minutes of the 2nd half beginning…! To our credit, we dominated most of the second half, which included my goal, but the game was long gone by then…Bosnia went on to beat the hosts, Ukraine, 1-0, in the final, therefore retaining their title.
It has been great reading all the messages of support from home whilst we were over there, thanks so much for those, it meant a lot to the team and pushed us even further to take pride in representing both our country and condition. It was great to have my Dad supporting us up in the stands for all the games too, along with family members of other players and also people from other nations, who took to our fight and determination on display.
I can genuinely say that it was a pleasure and a privilege to line up alongside each and every one of you lads in the squad…the spirit we showed to play for each other, our country and condition was second to none…at 11-1 down against the tournaments best team, we rallied round and promised each other that we would hold strong and use that first half “schooling” as a lesson, to then play out the rest of the half at a score of 2-0 in our favour was exactly what was needed, even if it was too late to rescue anything from the match.
We formed bonds with many of the players from other nations, including Portugal, Ukraine and Croatia, something that will help us both at future DiaEuro tournaments, and, as a team as a whole.
The main message overall was to prove that Diabetes should be no barrier to playing sport and competing at a high standard. I never thought I would represent my country at this level in any sport but now that I have done, I am very proud to say that. The team as a whole was really supportive of each other, helping each other out when low – many of the guys provided me with the Lift glucose tablets when I hadn’t any left over and the Dexcom G6 CGM allowed constant monitoring for the whole squad, the beep became a famous notification amongst the squad, meaning nobody could avoid correcting their levels!
Despite the results, the experience was absolutely first class, I am very proud of each and every one of the team, including the management staff and our supporters who came out to Ukraine to cheer us on…simply the best!
As a Diabetic, there are no barriers to what you can achieve – whether you want to represent your country or just simply play sport with your friends in the park, you can achieve any of this…Diabetes will not stop you from participating or achieving your dreams. Some days are certainly tougher than others but with constantly improving technology, awareness and support groups, like TDFC, the boundaries and barriers are becoming smaller and the world is becoming more aware of Diabetes…
I hope we as a squad have inspired and motivated many of you back at home and those of you who are a part of the TDFC community. The results may have not gone our way this year, but, our main goal is always to spread the word and pass on the message that Diabetes creates no barriers to achieving what you wish.
At The Diabetes Football Community we love to share the storiesofthose of you who follow us. With the diverse nature of the community we support it’s always amazing to share stories from all over the world. So here we are bringing you a story from Kendall who’s based in the USA. No morewords from usother than to say if you enjoyed reading Kendall’s blog please give it a share. Over to you Kendall…..
“My name is Kendall Higgs, I’m from Loxahatchee, Florida , and I’m 20 years old. I fell in love with the game of soccer at four years old. I remember feeling unstoppable with the ball at my feet. On August 3rd, 2009 my world changed. I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 10 years old. The first three questions I would ask anyone who came into my hospital room was 1. Can I still play soccer 2. Can I still drink milk 3. Am I going to die.. in that order 😂 to some people, my priorities may have been a little off.. but for me, if I couldn’t play soccer anymore, I might as well be dead. Even though most doctors told me I most likely couldn’t continue to play, I did it anyways. I refused to allow something to take over my life. I traveled to Costa Rica at 14 and Brazil at 16 to play soccer with region 3 ODP (Olympic Development Program)
I graduated early from high school and went to University of Pittsburgh in 2017. After 3 semesters there I transferred and now play at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. Soccer has been my way to connect to people, to new places, and to different cultures. When I’m not playing soccer, I feel out of place.. and at first my T1D contributed to that “out of place” feeling. I didn’t want to embrace my Diabetes..I wanted to pretend I didn’t have it. It wasn’t until this past year that I really started to take care of myself and to fully embrace my disease. I recently started T1D1 Diabetic Athletes as a way to spread awareness, give a platform to other diabetic athletes, and to show young, aspiring T1D athletes that it does not limit, control, or lessen their ability to be successful.
Within this journey I have realized that soccer isn’t my only way to connect to people.. T1D has allowed me to connect to others battling the same illness, to learn, to empower, and so much more. I am so grateful to be apart of the T1D community.”
A big thank you from all of us at TDFC for sharing your story Kendall and if anyone else would like to share theirs please get in touch !
A year on from the first time we sent a team to represent the UK and Type 1 Diabetes we’re now just a few weeks away from doing it all over again!!! I can’t believe how quickly the year since the last tournament has gone….
This project comes with a huge amount of workload and responsibility but it’s worth all of the effort! My hope is that this team continues to inspire, dispel the stereotypes around Diabetes and comfort those living with the condition. I am a firm believer that with the right support, education and mentality Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t have to be a mountain to climb, more an extra hurdle to jump.
On the 21st of July 2019, 11 men all living with Type 1 Diabetes, will be boarding the plane to represent our condition and our country at the European Futsal Championships for people with Diabetes……. To know we’ve set about bringing that to life fills me with so much pride that I find it hard to explain. I believe it’s the greatest achievement of my life creating TDFC and being able to share it with others in the way we do now is beyond what I thought was possible… We now have a committed group of people helping to make the project happen that believe in the direction and work we do. A special organisation with special things to come!
We now look towards our final training session ahead of DiaEuro on the 14th of July… As our last session before the tournament we’d also love FOR YOU to come and meet the team that will be representing YOU…. So if you’d like to drop in to the University of Worcester ( WR2 6AJ ) between 2 and 4pm on the 14th of July you can watch the team train, catch up with the management and meet the squad! Just let us know that you’re thinking about attending by sending us a message…
I hope you’ll support our journey to the tournament and help us by liking, commenting and sharing our updates on social media. The squad will do everything we can to make you proud! The team will be playing their games in Kiev, Ukraine from 22nd – 26th of July whilst taking part in a number of championship events to support the awareness and education surrounding the condition. If you’d like to send the team any kind of good luck message we’d love to see it… I know it will fuel their motivation even more to know that their example is helping you.
Here you can see the UK Team announced by England Cricket Legends Michael Vaughan and Jimmy Anderson:
Tim Ward (GK)
Head Coach: Harley Simpson , Content & Logistics Manager: Rosie Williams , Physiotherapist: Milly Webb
Congratulations to everyone selected as it’s a huge honour to represent your country and one of even greater importance when you’re also representing those living with your medical condition.