FA & McDonalds Grassroots Football Club of the Year for 2022 Howden AFC are one of a number of clubs in our region to offer Pan Disability Football. They are also an East Riding FA All Play club and an England Football Disability Recreation Centre.
During #AllPlayMonth we caught up with Damian Sharp, Roy Atkinson and Brendan Byrne who are all coaches at the club to find out more about pan disability football at Howden AFC.
Where did the inspiration to deliver pan disability football at Howden AFC come from?
“We were invited by Rebecca Bolton who is the East Riding FA Participation Officer (Inclusion) to go and visit the Beverley Town Pan Disability Football session which is run by Paul Adamson and his son Olly. We attended about a year ago and realised that not only did those guys love what they were doing, so did every child who attended.”
“After a second visit, we decided that running our own local session was an absolute must for Howden AFC. It also became very apparent that all our initial concerns about specialist equipment, bureaucratic hoops and other difficulties that we envisaged were simply not there.”
What was it like in the early days?
“Adverts were run on our social media pages and local press, but the Interest was slow at first with only maybe eight to ten kids registering. The parents of children with disabilities are sometimes very cautious about introducing them to new things which we know from personal experience.”
“Two taster sessions were arranged in our local school sports hall and as the first children started to arrive, we, as coaches, were excited and nervous in equal measure. The sessions went really well and we had a mix of kids with differing disabilities and vastly different ages, from about six to fourteen. We quickly learned early on that these kids were here for an hour to have fun and football was simply a catalyst to get them there.”
Did you any source any specialist equipment for the sessions?
“An empty hall, a few footballs, cones and vests were all we needed to get started. Since the group started, we now have three volunteer coaches and twenty plus kids registered who all show up on a regular basis to play.”
You have been delivering pan disability for over a year, how is it going?
“Although football is always our main focus, we have created a community of parents, kids and club that we are immensely proud of. We have sponsorship from generous local business and as a result all our kids have the Howden AFC home shirt with their name on, we have an annual presentation afternoon in which all the kids receive a trophy, and we are currently planning their Christmas party with help from a small committee formed by some of the parents."
What advice would you give to other clubs in the region who are thinking of offering disability football?
“If you think football can make a difference, then you are right. We now have a community of children, coaches and parents who stay in touch via a social media group and help each other with advice and personal experiences that goes above and beyond just meeting up once a week. It's not as hard as you think and the rewards to everyone involved are immeasurable."
If you would to learn more about disability football then join us on Tuesday 17th January 2023 at Howden Secondary School as we host our latest Pan Disability football workshop. Click here for more details.