Date: Mon 13 Nov 2023

By Andy Poole


Pan disability football provision thriving

The past 12 months has seen the tremendous work done by Pitching In Southern League Division One South outfit, Evesham United, on their pan disability football provision start to bear real fruit.

“We built from the ground up just over a year ago,” said Disability Pathway Coach, Alex Poole. “The journey began with a vision to foster inclusivity in the realm of football and what started with just three players, has now evolved into a thriving pan disability team, making waves not only on the field but also within the local community.”

From the outset, the focus was clear – inclusivity. The club dedicated itself to creating an environment where everyone, regardless of ability or background, felt a sense of belonging.

Games were not just matches; they became a platform for fostering camaraderie and breaking down barriers.

“To understand the emotional nuances of the players, we took a unique approach,” continued Poole. “An Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) core board, tailored specifically to football, was introduced.

“This innovation allows players to express themselves even in emotionally charged moments, enhancing communication and emotional well-being.

“We also send out videos of our planned sessions each week to parents and players to help reduce anxiety and increase confidence for when they attend each session.

“Additionally, in the next few weeks we are continuing to invest into the team by going into the hall for winter training. This is to support the wide variety of needs within the youth and adult teams.

“When we go into our local sports hall, we will be providing social stories which are short narratives that describe a specific social situation, event or skill. It includes information about relevant cues, perspectives, and appropriate responses.

“The goal is to help individuals to navigate social interactions that might be challenging for them. Additionally, to support the youth players we will have ear defenders, a dark den tent and other regulatory items to support our youth players if they become overly stimulated.”

A significant milestone was achieved last summer with the hosting of the adult pan team's first tournament, something that Poole is extremely proud of.

“What started as a modest initiative blossomed into a gathering of eight teams from across the county,” he added. “The tournament not only showcased the team's progress and the fantastic training 3G pitch facilities that Evesham United FC have, but also highlighted the growing interest and enthusiasm for pan disability football.

“The team's growth has transcended the boundaries of the pitch. Recognising the need for support beyond the game, there has been a natural progression. This growth has led to the team's founder becoming the Worcestershire FA Ambassador, a role that extends support to other clubs off the field.

“None of this would have been possible without the support of various stakeholders; Evesham United FC, the Worcestershire FA, our sponsors, parents, players, and the local community. Their collective support has been instrumental in the team's journey and speaks volumes about the power of community engagement in sport.”

From three players to a flourishing pan disability team, this journey is a testament to the transformative power of inclusivity in sports.

“As the team continues to grow and inspire, it leaves an indelible mark on the landscape of football in our local community,” concluded Poole. “It proves that when diversity is embraced, the possibilities are endless.”

Evesham United make the long journey down to Mousehole on Saturday as they look to continue their climb up the table.

Evesham United Web Site

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