Richard Fitzsimmons is a 26 year old man with Down’s Syndrome who lives in Croydon with his family. Richard is a participant on the Crystal Palace FC Foundation’s Learning Disability football project and has been with us for almost a year now.
Richard grew up and went to mainstream schools in Croydon, where he didn’t feel that his Down’s Syndrome presented him with any additional personal challenges that made his life more difficult. However it was how he was treated by those around him that had a negative and lasting effect on him. Richard was bullied when he was younger because of his condition. This resulted in him not feeling comfortable to speak out when things upset him and had a negative impact on his self-esteem and well-being.
When all the siblings had finished school Richard’s family moved to Spain, an experience that Richard liked as the weather was so much better then back at home! After 3 years the family returned to the Croydon area where Richard found that there were limited opportunities for him to actively participate in a wide range of sporting activities that interested him. He was able to play football with his brothers but he found this a bit limiting and often it would be outdoors in cold, wet locations with not a great deal of space.
Richard’s family made contact with Croydon Mencap who were able to direct Richard to, and support him in, the types of sporting activities that he craved. Due to the past negative experiences Richard had as a child he still had difficulties with social mobility and interacting with people.
Richard began to attend weekly football training sessions delivered by the CPFC Foundation in partnership with the Premier League/Professional Footballers Association, Special Olympics Great Britain and Croydon Local Authority. He loved these sessions from the start and appreciated the indoor facilities and the large playing space. Richard feels this has helped him to become fitter and leaner, whilst improving himself as a footballer. Richard loves to play attacking football, he is a Man U fan who idolises David Beckham, and he really enjoys scoring, and making, goals for his team mates.
Richard would encourage anyone who is in a similar situation to him to come along to these sessions and give them a try because they will love the company and the football. He now feels far more confident in his everyday life and is able to speak out about situations that affect him as he feels that he will now be listened to. He feels more relaxed now, has a greater sense of well-being and has learnt not to let people bring him down.
Richard says that there is nothing similar to this in his local area and that he is pleased that this is being run by a Premiership Football Club. Even better for him is that this is his local club, as he has always looked out for Palace’s results.
The Crystal Palace Foundation are constantly reaching out to vulnerable people of all ages that need a helping hand to find people similar to themselves. We give these people a way of expressing themselves in an environment they feel comfortable in and a chance to engage with people who might have similar experiences to them. Importantly, these programmes are a way to give participants an enjoyable and happy experience, meet new people, learn new skills and play some football along the way.
This project, fronted by Michael Harrington, Foundation Disability Officer, has given Richard a new lease of life and a big step into an accommodating community.
If you know of anyone who shares a similar story to Richard, or are interested in being involved in one of our sessions, please get in touch with Michael Harrington at the Foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning Disability Local Football Festival with Special Olympics Great Britain
22 local Croydon men and women with Learning Disabilities took part in our first local Football Festival held at the prestigious Crystal Palace FC Academy Dome. The players have been training with us as part of the Great Britain Special Olympics and Croydon Local Authority Learning Disability Commissioning Service weekly football sessions that we deliver in Croydon.
We had a fantastic day with a small sided matches that were held in a suitable environment for people with multiple and profound Learning Disabilities. Our highly experienced coaching team, and the support workers from Croydon Care Solutions, Croydon Mencap and Croydon Day Opportunities, made sure that all our players got time on the ball and our ‘5 second rule’ gave the ladies and gents who needed that extra time and space the opportunity to be totally involved in the matches.
CPFC Foundation coach John Harney led the tributes when saying’ What a great day we all had. It was a pleasure to be involved with a group of people who really wanted to be part of something special and who played the game with smiles on their faces. We are now all asking when can we do this again as the benefits are clear to see for a marginalised and often miss-understood part of our Community’
Pete the Eagle also flew in to make a guest appearance and to show off his football skills proving to be a great hit with all the players, who each received a Special Olympics Great Britain Goody Bag so they can always remember this great day.
For more information on LD football, or any other aspects of our Disability program, please contact Michael Harrington on 020 8768 6047 or email@example.com
Lee Chung-Yong visits Bensham Manor School
Crystal Palace midfielder, Lee Chung-Yong, takes some time out of his training schedule to visit the football enthusiasts at Bensham Manor School in Thornton Heath.
Bensham Manor is a special school for young people with a mixture of learning difficulties and Crystal Palace FC Foundation disability lead officer, Michael Harrington, delivers two football sessions in the school once a week. One for the girls in connection with the school and one for the councils LDD youth club- which consists of young people from all ethnic backgrounds, ages and genders.
The partnership is also aided by Croydon Council’s Early Intervention Support Service’s (EISS)- Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Project (LDD) as well as being funded by the Council’s Housing Community Investment Team. Both Council teams share a similar philosophy to the CPFC Foundation: a commitment to supporting all children, young people and families who live, work and play in the local borough in order to enjoy equality of opportunity and realise their full potential.
The Foundation run a comprehensive Disability programme across several local boroughs with the aim of making sport inclusive and representative of the entire community. This is supported by the Premier League/Professional Footballers Fund, which sees a steady investment over a 3-year period into the Foundation’s overall disability programme.
Lee Chung-Yong held a question and answer session with the participants who were keen to know about his footballing background and the differences between playing domestic football in his home country of Korea and now playing for Crystal Palace FC in England.
It was especially rewarding to witness the young people taking inspiration from a Premier League player. Lee Chung-Yong was also kind enough to referee some small-sided games where the young people played in a roll-on roll-off tournament format. This set-up allows all players an equal opportunity to play and emphasises the Foundation’s ethos of inclusivity.
Paul Funnell, from the Croydon Council, commented that before the Foundation was partnered with the school and EISS, some of the children didn’t really enjoy or have an interest in football. He also mentioned that the transformation on the field, in terms of skills learnt, fitness and ability also transcends in to the classroom and youth clubs where participants are displaying greater levels of communication, teamwork and confidence.
Paul also mentioned that these types of sessions are great for raising awareness and dispelling some of the myths surrounding disability. He said: “These sessions are a fantastic way for the children to express themselves. The physical advantages are mirrored by the social benefits and it clear to see that the children are gaining from the weekly interaction on a sports field. There is a noticeable difference in both the children’s physical ability and general self-esteem, which is exceptionally rewarding to see. It is quashing the misconception that children with learning disabilities cannot succeed within sport, these young people are excelling.”
Lee Chung-Yong, Crystal Palace FC, said: “It is great to get out in the community and experience what the Foundation delivers in the local area. It is clear that these sessions make a huge difference to the participants and I hope they continue to enjoy the unique benefits that football can offer for many years to come.”
Celebrating the first Learning Disabilities Football Festival
The first Crystal Palace Learning Difficulties School Football Festival took place on Thursday 12th February in the CPFC Academy Dome. Specialist Schools the Carew Academy, from Sutton, and Baston House, from Bromley, came together to play in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere that allowed all the players the opportunity to showcase their ability on the pitch.
This great day was put on by the CPFC Foundation as part of our ongoing partnership with the London Special Olympics which aims to give every child and adult the opportunity to take part in quality sports training and competition, to improve their lives and in turn, the lives of everyone they touch.
The boys and girls played their hearts out and all players got plenty of time on the pitch to be able to enjoy the experience of playing in this rewarding environment.
Selwyn Walmsley, Head Of PE at Carew Academy, said ‘Great opportunity to witness skills, physically and socially, from players I hadn’t seen before. Fantastic day for all involved’
Mams Miah, SENCO at Baston House School, told us his thoughts, ‘considering this was Baston House’s first outing as a team they have been amazing. They have worked well as a team and showed great sportsmanship to the opposition. This event is a good introduction to working in partnership with other schools.
CPFC Foundation coach Martin Hills refereed the festival and thought it was a ‘thoroughly enjoyable day. Good quality football. Nice to see young people playing together in good spirit.’
Our Disability Officer, Michael Harrington, is busy developing our LD school sports program and this promises to be the first of many events he will be arranging for our local specialist schools. You can contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 020 8768 6052 to discuss the schools program, or any other area of our Disability Program.
The English Learning Disability Sport Alliance; a partnership between Special Olympics Great Britain and Mencap formed in 2011, invited Crystal Palace FC Foundation Disability Officer Michael Harrington to be a VIP guest at the ELDSA Activity Festival. This great event was held at the Copper Box in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Tuesday 25th November 2014 and was well attended by people from all areas of London and the South East.
A Learning Disability is a reduced intellectual ability, normally caused before or shortly after birth. Almost all learning disabilities are permanent and can impact a person’s life in a number of ways. A person with a learning disability will tend to need more time to learn new things. This means they may find aspects of daily life, such as carrying out basic household tasks or making friends, more difficult.
There are 1.2m million people living in England with a learning disability, 32,000 of these have profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), and the number is growing. The level of support someone with a learning disability needs varies. For someone with a mild learning disability they may only need help with things like finding a job. However someone with a severe learning disability may need full time care and support with every part of their life.
The ELDSA and the CPFC Foundation share the same goal in aiming to create equality of opportunity for every person with a learning disability to participate in sport. The benefits that this brings include improved motor skills, physical fitness and functional ability and the opportunity to develop self-esteem, confidence and gain family interaction with new friends and the wider community.
Our Disability Officer Michael Harrington has been at the forefront of establishing the CPFC Foundation as a leader in disability sports provision, providing the best possible opportunity for all disabled people to participate in and enjoy sport in a fun and safe environment. Michael is seen here with the ladies and gents from Croydon Mencap who had great fun at the Copper Box event that showcased Athletics, Badminton, Basketball. Boccia and Dance along with many other ‘come & try’ sports such as netball, rowing and table tennis.
For more information on our work with people with a learning disability, or any of our other disability projects, please contact Michael@email@example.com
Sutton LD Football Festival
The Crystal Palace FC Foundation held its first Sutton Learning Disabilities Football Festival in the CPFC Academy Dome last week. 50 players from in and around the Sutton area joined us for a great day of matches played in a super friendly, safe environment where all got the opportunity to make new friends and put into practice the skills that they have been learning over the past few months.
This great day was hosted in partnership with Great Britain Special Olympics who have been funding the weekly LD football training sessions we are currently putting on in Sutton. A Learning Disability is a reduced intellectual ability, normally caused before or shortly after birth. Almost all learning disabilities are permanent and can impact a person’s life in a number of ways. A person with a learning disability will tend to need more time to learn new things. This means they may find aspects of daily life, such as carrying out basic household tasks or making friends, more difficult.
The CPFC Foundation is aiming to create equality of opportunity for every person with a learning disability to participate in sport. The benefits that this brings include improved motor skills, physical fitness and functional ability and the opportunity to develop self-esteem, confidence and gain family interaction with new friends and the wider community.
The Foundations Disability Officer Michael Harrington, whose post is funded by the Premier League and Professional Footballers Association, gave this insight into the Festival.‘It was great to see people from all the sessions that we put on across Sutton come together for this day. It can be a hard thing for some of our players to attempt new things and go to new places. However the warm and friendly atmosphere enabled the players to feel comfortable, and when we started playing it was the joy of being able to play football that really put a smile on the faces. These events are a real treat for the players but also a great way for their carers, teachers, family members and support workers to meet each other and share ideas and information that only helps this often marginalised area of our Community.’
For more information on LD football, or any other aspects of our Disability program, please contact Michael Harrington on 020 8768 6047 or MichaelHarrington@cpfcfoundation.org