Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities – a day which aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.
We talked to Tess, a member of our Women’s Ability Counts team and found out how playing for the team had helped her.
Tess, 26, first linked up with CCT at a Devon Partnership NHS Trust sports day event during the summer. Tess, who has dyspraxia, autism and mental health problems, was the top scorer on the CCT target inflatable that day with over 100 points. The focus of the event was to highlight the positive impact of physical activity to mental health and try out a variety of different sports with local community organisations.
Will Allan, disability officer at CITY Community Trust, said: ‘Tess shared her passion for the game when we first met, and she followed up on an offer to attend CCT’s Women’s Football For All training session.
‘She went on to sign for the team and attends weekly training sessions and represents Exeter City in competitive tournament matches in the county disability league.’
Key to supporting Tess in making positive steps along her pathway has been the relationship established between CCT and a local care provider.
Will added: ‘Through knowing Tess, we also met her one-on-one support worker Ben. Ben was keen to support us in whatever way he could and offered to get involved. He now volunteers as a coach to the team that Tess plays in. Having someone she knows outside of football, a familiar face encouraging her from touchline, has helped Tess integrate into the team and raise her confidence and self-belief.
‘Being involved with the team has helped Tess to take on additional challenges. Since the summer she has moved from the mental health trust to supported accommodation and more independent living.’
Tess says being involved with the Ability Counts team has made a huge difference to her life.
She said: ‘I do feel happier and it makes me feel like I could get a job in football. Because I’ve got special needs it puts me in more chance of getting out there and not being judged for being different. This group is important as it is inclusive, and everyone is treated the same. It has also helped with some parts of my coordination.
‘I’d say to people to join a group like this, you can get out in the world and prove how beautiful the world is by enjoying what you do in life, I want to have the chance to show everybody that women can do what they like. I am trying to be a role model. Go for it and you’ll make the best friends you’ll ever make in life and they will support you as well.’
Ben Crook, Exeter City Women’s Ability Counts manager, said the changes in Tess’s behaviour had been noticeable.
He said: ‘I have noticed a vast improvement in her behaviour, it has been such a positive improvement in a short space of time. She is communicating better, thinking about what she is saying more, rather than immediately reacting to things she is becoming more fair and more empathetic.
‘It is all about inclusion. I’m extremely pleased and proud to be manager of the team who are all fantastic. The whole team is developing, they all have their different attributes and they all support each other and the main thing is, it is great fun.’
The charity, which is the partner charity of Exeter City Football Club, recently received continuation funding from the EFL Trust to deliver their Every Player Counts sports participation programme for a further two seasons. Launched in 2016/17 the initiative focuses on creating opportunities for people living with disabilities to access sport.
A total of 28 EFL clubs run Every Player Counts programmes tailored to the specific needs of their local community. CITY Community Trust (CCT) offers activity including wheelchair football, football for visual impairment, learning difficulties, amputees and autism, giving many disabled people access to football for the first time.
The landmark Every Player Counts project is supported by a donation from Wembley National Stadium Trust (WNST).
For more information contact Will Allan at email@example.com