All Ability Football Club – Case Study

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Entrust Bears is a football group that is set up for disabled young people and runs on a weekly basis during term time. Below is a case study that they shared with us about the tackling inequalities fund:

What was the impact of the project on the individual/group/organisation?

We have lots of players that we could tell you about, but we would like to introduce you to John. We believe that a case study is the best way to bring our football club to life and demonstrate the positive outcomes that have been achieved. We first met John between lockdowns, he joined our face to face football sessions. His parents had been looking for a suitable group that he would be able to join for some time. As you can see his parents were very anxious. “John” is desperate to come – would this be possible? I have no idea how he will cope, or what to expect! But I’m all for giving it a go and he is very keen”. After week one, this is the feedback that we had “John absolutely loved football and would love to come again next week”. Unfortunately, after just 4 sessions in Coventry, due to a combination of Tier 4 and National lockdown Covid 19 restrictions, we were forced to put our sessions on hold. We were really keen to maintain links with our families and the young people, so introduced online sessions via zoom. (See next section). John’s parents were really not sure that zoom was for their son, however they gave it a go. This is what they then had to say, “ Well that was a total success as far as we’re concerned. John was really engaged and animated, he’s really struggled with lack of socialising, and really enjoyed it. He was rabbiting away the whole time – I kept muting because otherwise that’s all anyone would be able to hear he’s just said what time next week! John has struggled with the unstructured times at home – he now has a focus for the next week, which will be to practice those set things from today’s session, on his breaks from home learning during the day. This will really help both of us!! Well done all, and a huge thank you. We resumed our sessions again soon after lockdown ended, after another 6 sessions this is what the parents had to say: “Football club is literally what our whole week revolves around – Our son adores it, he has grown & developed so many skills since he has been attending. His resilience and team skills are the most notable changes. Attending football club also helps incentivise him to make positive choices, he understands his actions have consequences, so football club is a great bargaining tool! It is such a breath of fresh air, to stand with all the other parents & carers in any weather, just doing a ‘normal’ parent thing! Having a special needs child you soon realise that although awareness of disability is growing, accessing appropriate clubs and activities for children can be difficult & quite limited, which can mean parents, carers & children miss out on what most people consider a very normal day to day opportunity. Being part of entrust bears has given all of us a sense of normality and consistency, particularly through such testing times. We are thrilled to be a part of it. Special thanks to all the fantastic staff/volunteers who help out, making the experience for the kids as enjoyable & beneficial as possible”. As you can see form above the football club can benefit the whole family. We really believe that having a member of staff on the side to chat to parents about their day/week, perhaps informing them of other opportunities we have available as an organisation is really beneficial.

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Other feedback (All names have been removed):

“The football club has been a real success for ***** . A year ago he disliked football and found playing at primary school a real chore. He didn’t know any of the basics and was wrong footed every game he played. Now he actively gets involved in football at school and even volunteered to play a game after school with his class. So a big thank you to you and your amazing team for building his confidence on the pitch, helping him to understand the rules and enabling positive social interactions”. “Thank you so much again for tonight. ***** is already looking forward to next week. She’s got her bag ready. She’s so animated when she gets home. Not bad for a selective mute! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We would never have known the young lady above was a selective mute, she has developed a really good friendship with another player, they chat and interact throughout each session“

Any successes, challenges and key learnings?

We would consider Entrust Bears football to be a huge success. When we look at our outcomes, to learn new skills, to improve confidence, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. To develop a sense of belonging, to improve independence and decision making – we can demonstrate and evidence that for every young person on the pitch, that they have begun that journey.

The comments above demonstrate that we have also had a huge impact on parents, giving them an opportunity to build new friendships “It is such a breath of fresh air, to stand with all the other parents & carers in any weather, just doing a ‘normal’ parent thing!”.

It would be very fair to say that the project has not been without it’s challenges. We used to meet in Warwick, but the venue had a fire which meant that we were unable to use it for reasons of Health and Safety. Covid 19 hit and then we were in in lockdown. When introducing Zoom Sessions we needed to be creative and learn new skills very quickly. How do you play an active and physical team sport over zoom? To us it was all about maintaining contact and a sense of connection. Jake from the Sky Blues was amazing, we played games and lots there were lots of balls skills activities – which when we were back on the pitch you could really see them all using.

In order to try and prevent breakages young people were sent sponge balls, they loved receiving a parcel in the post with their name on it. We also invested in individual reversible bibs (we knew sharing was no longer going to be possible), this allowed for team games both off and on the pitch when we returned.

When returning to face to face, it needed to be outdoors as indoor team sports were not permitted. Availability of venues was very limited, this did mean that some of our Warwick players were able to make the journey each week to Coventry

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