Supporting the aim to provide fully inclusive football throughout Essex is an important target for the Essex FA and local club Saffron Walden have recently seen growth in accessible football at their club.
The club have been running Soccability sessions for three years and the sessions now run every Saturday afternoon. The sessions are aimed at children between the ages of 8-15 who have some form of physical and/or learning disability. The sessions include basic skills and drills to improve the children’s physical abilities as much as their footballing skills. Importantly the sessions also help with their communication and social skills, as well as improving their confidence.
Essex FA Equality and Inclusion Officer Milly Morgan, recently spoke to Club Secretary Matt Clare and lead Soccability Coach Calum Ewing about the growth of Saffron Waldon’s Soccability programme. Calum spoke about the number of players regularly attending the sessions. “We now have between 8-12 children attending on a regular basis, but this has been as many as 20 sometimes.” Calum pins the recent growth and success down to a number of factors, including kits, 3G pitches and the fun sessions. “Almost all the kids have been given strips and this has helped foster a sense of belonging and pride. The 3G facility is fantastic and the kids and coaches alike love playing on it and more than anything else, the Saturday afternoons mean an hours’ worth of fun, laughs and enjoyment for all.
Calum believes the impact the Soccability sessions have helps increase the confidence seen in the children. “I really believe that the main benefit is the confidence I’ve seen grow in the children. This is not just relating to football skills although that is an important part - but more so the fact that they all have a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement and that this hour is their time!” When asked about the highlights and rewarding factors of running Soccability sessions, Calum said “Some of the key highlights for us all is undoubtedly the fun that everybody has during these sessions. Also, it’s great to see the children develop relationships both at Soccability and via the other inclusion groups - where the friendships that have developed have allowed them all to become more confident.”
As the parting question, Saffron Walden were asked for any tips and advice for clubs who may be interested in setting up a Soccability session. Calum gave these tips and advice. “Firstly, you should think about the schools and other inclusion and support groups locally. Other coaches who run these groups will be able to help identify potential attendees and will be able to help guide any new coaches. Of course, make sure you link yourself to a local football club - that is pretty essential. Ensure that you take some coaching courses - not just Football courses but also relating to special-needs sport. From such a course I realised early on that you need to be able to adapt sessions, split groups of children to ensure that all skills and experience can be provided for, but most of all to appreciate that even the smallest of achievements by certain children should be celebrated. Something as simple as scoring a simple, even contrived, tap-in can feel like winning the cup final for some kids.
Essex FA Equality and Inclusion Officer Milly Morgan discussed the growth of disability football across Essex and the rewarding factors it brings. “Disability football across Essex is growing and we are very proud to have supported a number of new provisions to start up recently. In October 2022, we kicked off our Disability Roadshow, offering disability specific CPD to clubs, coaches and volunteers. Investment into disability football is increasing and we have a number of key opportunities to support the development of new provisions, including our current recruitment for Disability Football Ambassadors. We want to support clubs to provide football opportunities and an inclusive environment for everyone within their local communities.”
As Saffron Walden and Calum have confirmed, running Soccability sessions and increasing opportunities for disability football is incredibly rewarding for not only the players, but also the coaches too. We are committed to helping and supporting clubs in Essex to provide as many chances for inclusive football as possible.
If your club are looking at starting or increasing the offerings for disability players, please click the button below and fill in the form to register your interest and we will be in touch to support you through the process.