DSActive was created in response to the awareness of the sedentary lifestyles of many children and adults with Down’s syndrome and the subsequent health problems including obesity, resulting from lack of exercise and participation in sport. It was evident there was a need for specific Down’s syndrome sport.
DSActive is a sports programme for people with Down’s syndrome administered by the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA).
DSActive currently have over 40 football sessions and 20 tennis programmes that run over England and Wales.
All of the programmes are easily accessible and cater for ALL ages and ability.
The sessions that are offered have massively increased the satisfaction of taking part in sport for players. More impressively, the programme has offered sport to many individuals who previously had limited opportunities.
Click here to download an information flyer or read more, below.
What the programme does
DSActive supports and works in partnership with the coaches to deliver football & tennis sessions to people with Down’s syndrome, as well as advertising new teams to its members. The programme provides on-going support through a dedicated team that is available to provide specialist advice and guidance, frequent visits to football & tennis sessions, coach resource pack providing reference material on Down’s syndrome and suggested session plans, and DSActive website which offers information about each club. DSActive also organises frequent National Festivals for both football and tennis that brings participants from various DSActive clubs.
Common knowledge and research studies show sport and exercise can produce physical benefits. This principle also applies to individuals with Down’s syndrome, and the DSActive programme has already yielded some astonishing results.
- A University of Cambridge PHD examined the benefits of sports participation on individuals with DS. It found that 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity was hugely beneficial providing health benefits towards diabetes and obesity – two common illnesses experienced by those with Down’s Syndrome.
- 76% of parents/carers in a recent study have stated that their loved one was not very active before they started attending DSActive, which implies that the football and tennis sessions are important means of raising activity levels.
- One parent gave a very clear example of how DSActive had improved her son’s physical health. Three years previous to him starting DSActive sessions he had been diagnosed with diabetes, since then there has been a notable improvement in his blood glucose levels.
- Many players that have been a part of DSActive, have significantly improved their weight management & fitness, increased their level of co-ordination and seen a noticeable ease of movement.
- DSActive offers players an opportunity to spend time together in an active environment. Association with certain clubs has also created chances for participants to connect more frequently and freely with their peers at school. Consequently, the vast majority of participants have seen great development in their social and emotional development.
- There are no limitations for participants joining the sessions; they are quick, easy and accessible for anybody to join.
In 2006, the DSA teamed up with Fulham FC Foundation to deliver weekly recreational sessions for people with Down’s syndrome. The sessions quickly transformed from an informal kick-a-bout in the park to structured sessions delivered by experienced, professional coaches from Fulham FC Foundation. They provided a comfortable and safe learning environment for players to develop and after a remarkable two years, word began to spread and new clubs began to form across the country.
Football clubs through England and Wales now run the football sessions, providing coaches, venues and equipment. The Disabled Footballers Development Found (DFDF) is a fund specifically targeted at supporting the growth of disability football and they support a wide range of counties.
There are now over 40 football sessions over the UK. The programme is of huge benefit to both the clubs and the coaches who provide the sessions. We are lucky to be working in partnership with such a wide variety of clubs, ranging from grass-roots community clubs to some of the biggest football club foundations. Every club and team has had a huge impact on their local Down’s syndrome community and in turn has seen many benefits from hosting sessions.
The national football tournament provides a fantastic platform for teams to showcase their football talent and compete with teams of a similar ability. As well as the competition side of the day, players and parents get the opportunity to interact and make friends with families from areas of the UK they usually wouldn’t communicate with.
The tennis programme began in 2010, and now has over 20 tennis sessions across the UK. DSActive work in partnership with the Tennis Foundation who provide continuous support to the programme. Each DSActive tennis session is run by qualified coaches and a dedicated workforce of volunteers.
Tennis sessions provide lots of different activities for players to take part in from balance and co-ordination drills to exciting matches. As the tennis sessions offer a wide range of activities, individuals find there is always something they enjoy and can focus on.
In 2014, DSActive hosted the first tennis festival at the National Tennis Centre. The event saw players from all over the country take part in fun drills and skills that were run by experienced tennis coaches. The popularity from this festival has meant demand came to host similar festivals across the country.
DSActive continues to provide regional opportunities for players to compete in fun festivals. In September 2015, DSActive hosted a South Regional Tennis Festival at the Portsmouth Tennis Centre which saw players from all over the south of England attend. The day was a huge success and comprised of fun activities to improve player’s coordination and technique before moving into age specific matches. The festival was led by LTA qualified coaches who lead on the Portsmouth DSActive session and were supported by staff from the Down’s Syndrome Association.
Why it works
Working closely with many community and professional clubs, DSActive staff offer continuous support to everyone that is involved. During the start-up phase, clubs will be advised on the best way to organise and deliver a session to ensure the highest participation levels are achieved. Before any clubs begins their programme, they will be provided with coach education which is a workshop advising coaches how to work with people who have Down’s syndrome. Attendees of the workshop are not only qualified coaches, but are also volunteers, parents and staff at the club. This means everyone can get involved to form a tight community.
These weekly sessions have allowed players to develop in a number of ways and have showcased many examples of the benefits of the DSActive programme. Along with the obvious improvements in coordination and cognition, players have seen great enhancements in their physical and emotional health, and the sessions regularly highlight the change in confidence and self-esteem.