Alex is 12 years old. He has go an intellectual
disability, so Global Development Delay. His involvement
with football is, without an alarm clock, he’ll wake up
at 3.30 in the morning to watch any football series that
there is going – Manchester United or any other football team.
Therefore my passion is to help these children by helping
to develop a sports program. At the end of the day it’s
not about a label it’s about helping these children.
These children are special like any other child
is special. He (Alex) has given my whole family an incredible
strength and courage to do things. I play for Freeman Sports Club. The (Football4All) program started about two
years ago when we realised how many children were playing
disability football in New South Wales. We realised
how many clubs there were that had started up
programs for disability football and we brought those clubs and program coordinators and formed
a group called Football4All. We lost three, nil and we drew, five all. IT’s important to involve all groups with
a disability in all sports. It’s like any
other child. Everyone needs to be a part of something.
Everyone else has got the opportunity to be able
to go football, basketball, swimming and any sport
that they choose. So too should children with special needs. It’s their right as much
as it is any other child’s right to have some
sort of a sport and a recreation. I love playing football because I lave scoring
goals. With Alex there is an opportunity within football.
It will help him with fitness and his gross motor
skills. All the types of activities they do help
with gross motor skills, which in turns helps with
the development of any child – not only special
needs children. Probably the most rewarding part of it is
to see the kids and the players enjoying themselves,
enjoying the games. Their families also have an
opportunity to get out and enjoy football with
other people who share the same issues and love
the game. The rewards as a parent is just seeing the
smile on him (Alex_ and also having the inclusion
of him being able to play a team sport like his
brother. To be able to get out on a soccer field
and to say he scored or whatever. Even as simple
as putting on a uniform and a pair of boots like
his brother; like any other child that wants to
be part of a team. Not sure about a career path but it will certainly
give them an opportunity to develop through the
football pathway. We have some fantastic links now with Deaf Football Australia – the national
deaf football team and Cerebral Palsy New South
Wales and that is hopefully going to provide a
pathway for children within our programs to further themselves and possibly, one day,
represent the state or the country. As a parent the type of challenges I faced
were trying to find a club; trying to find somewhere for him to play. Although society,
allows you to go into a club and play with a
disability, he is not at that level. I can’t interact him into another team when
he is not at that level intellectually. It’s not fair on him and it’s not fair
on the team members. I think the main challenges for the programs
is to get enough volunteers to help out and to educate those volunteers on simple,
basic coaching techniques and anything extra they need to be aware of when working
with people with a disability. Some of the barriers also are different
behaviours. You’ve just got to make it about fun. Just being there and being repetitious
– getting them there on the field. Some of the strategies, I think, that clubs
and coaches could use doing some basic courses even through Sports and Recreation
which are really great. These are basic course on disability sport. What is a
Disability? Putting yourself into a position of what it’s like to be disabled
yourself. Making it fun and also modifying and going with the flow. If something is
not working – change it, turn it into a game. Turn it into a fun game because
it’s about fun at the end of the day. I think certainly the first thing you
need to do is consult with your membership and contact local disability groups to see
whether there is a interest. If there is then form a group and create some awareness
of your interest in developing disability sport and kick it off from there. That’s
really where it started off for us and then it just grows. You then start providing
that group with all the resources that they might need to be able to develop
themselves and to enable you to develop within your sport. With sport organisation they also need
to get that awareness out, having specified programs. It’s important not only just to
have a sport say ‘yes we do have a soccer program and yes you can come in and play
as part of our team’. Parents with special needs are a bit more protective of their
children so they actually need special programs to be going ahead for them and
the sport needs to make the awareness and to give that to them I think you need to be mindful of the time
restraints that are sometimes necessary. The children may not be able to play a
full game of football in your 45 minute game (format). Today we are playing 10
minute halves for the sixes to 11’s and the 12’s to 16’s. The feedback that we’ve
got – we do a lot of consultation with our program coordinators to make sure
that we’ve got it right on the day. Just being aware of those time restraints and
giving the kids other things to do outside of just playing games. Today we have
activities, skills and frills on as well to get them to experience other things
that they may not be exposed to at their club. As a community the parents with
special needs need a network. They need to get out there and not be isolated.
They need to know that there is somewhere out there for them to be as well. Not
just being at home. It’s all about being active and being out there as well. Within Football NSW we are limited at the
moment. We don’t cater for people in wheelchairs but we are looking at that
down the track. Outside of that everybody should be able to play the game. We try to
accommodate people wherever we can and as much as possible. Lucy Reggio: “It’s great to see people
like Football NSW who have supported us and put on such a great gala day to show
that awareness and to show what we can achieve. We would open up any opportunity to any
volunteers or coaches or anybody interested in working in our sport in
an administrative role whether they are able bodied or disabled. Then those
opportunities are certainly available at club, association and state level. In the future when Alex has the
capability of being a little more independent, I hope that one day he
can be a volunteer or a coach for children with special needs and take
on the passion as well as helping out. It is about helping everybody.