The Down’s Syndrome Association’s (DSA) connection with Cardiff City FC Foundation began in January 2011 when DSActive started working with the club to set up a football team specifically for people with Down’s syndrome. Since then, the Cardiff Bluebirds have gone from strength to strength. The number of players has grown and they have been a feature of six consecutive DSActive National Football Festivals. It was through this long term relationship with the Foundation that the DSA’s WorkFit project got involved.
Luke has been part of the DSActive Bluebirds team for many years. He is a talented player, a formidable striker with an eye for goal, and a big fan of Cardiff City. Through DSActive’s coach-ability course Luke, and two other players, completed their FA Level 1 coaching badges. Luke had shown great coaching potential, taking on board the skills he’d learnt on his course and putting them into to practice at DSActive Bluebirds training sessions. He had also expressed a real desire to work for the Foundation as a volunteer football coach.
Josh Law, the Health and Disability Co-ordinator at the Foundation, got in touch with the DSA to see if WorkFit and DSActive could work together, with the Foundation, to give Luke the opportunity to become a volunteer football coach.
WorkFit provided Down’s syndrome awareness training for the Foundation coaches, as well as describing the typical learning profile of a person with Down’s syndrome and how best to support Luke in his role. Simon James, the WorkFit Employment Development Officer, explained that as a visual learner, Luke would need to be shown new tasks and jobs and would then benefit from doing it himself.
James Medder from DSActive provided the coaches with support and guidance on how to ensure best practice is being achieved in each DSActive training session, making sure that each player is learning and developing, regardless of their age, gender or ability.
Feedback on the training was positive. Many of the coaches said they felt more confident in planning and implementing training sessions for people with Down’s syndrome.
“I gained more of an understanding of Down’s syndrome. I learnt best practice when dealing with young people and adults with Down’s syndrome”
“I will cater for the needs of the participants involved with our sessions by using the information and techniques that have been provided today”
“It has made me consider key steps that are needed to be able to make tasks fully inclusive and successful”
Luke has really taken to his volunteer coaching role, which he has been doing since September 2015. Luke works with Josh every Friday to deliver junior learning disability football coaching to 3 to 11 year olds at a special educational needs school. They also deliver training at their after school club. Luke has a wonderful way of engaging with the children. He naturally understands their needs and has a wonderful calming influence during the sessions. After coaching at the school Luke and Josh coach at another venue in Cardiff for an older group of players (13 years and above), all of whom have a learning disability.
Luke said: “My favorite thing has been helping the kids in the school. I like being a volunteer, I’ve been able to learn new skills and do new activities and I am very proud of my achievements so far. I love football and being able to help others.”
Josh said: “Luke has been such a great help to me during the training sessions, he has a way of breaking down barriers and really understands how some players need support. Luke has benefited from seeing me deliver the sessions and then slowly becoming more and more involved. His confidence has grown over the last 6 months and now has a much greater understanding of our coaching methods. All of the players respect his coaching and many are inspired by what he has achieved.”
Luke has recently become an ambassador for Cardiff City FC Foundation which is a huge achievement! Well done Luke and keep up the good work.
We would like to thank Cardiff City FC Foundation for seeing the potential in Luke and for giving him the opportunity to pass on his skills and knowledge to young people in the Cardiff area.
WorkFit and DSActive are proud to be supporting Luke and the Foundation and look forward to working with them again in the future.
WorkFit supports people with Down’s syndrome to access meaningful work opportunities that can benefit the rest of their lives.