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During the Level Playing Field Weeks of Action, the Gillingham Football Club Community Trust (GFCCT) want to celebrate two #GameChangers who are helping sports inclusion in our local community.
Liam Burton has been a coach with GFCCT for two years, and has been delivering disability football sessions for the last year. He coaches at the Gills’ Open Disability Development Centre every week, which is run with the Kent FA, and has enjoyed watching participants at the session develop.
“I like to see how the participants have improved both ability-wise and socially – it’s good to see those who have been coming for a long time develop because of the sessions,” Liam said. “I’d really like to see the sessions grow even more.”
Liam also runs a weekly mixed ability sports extracurricular club for students at Bradfields Academy in Chatham. “The sessions are good because it gets the students out and doing something,” he explained. “Sometimes the children don’t have the confidence to come and join in with sports sessions, but if it’s in a familiar environment like their school, more turn up and join in.”
During the sessions, Liam engages the group in a range of sports, giving the students the choice of what activities they’d like to take part in. “We’re flexible with what they want to do – football, table tennis, it’s their choice,” said Liam. “They get to do different stations and try new things. I really enjoy leading the sessions – it’s very rewarding.”
“At the beginning I’d never worked with disability groups before,” he continued. “Having to adapt my coaching to different abilities was a challenge, but it’s been a good challenge – it’s always a good challenge!”
Nick Lovell is another coach who has been working for GFCCT for nearly ten years. Since being at the Trust, he has led disability football sessions, supported disability football tournaments, and has also delivered school clubs across the county. Alongside currently working with Liam at our Open Disability Development Centre, Nick also helps to deliver our general Player Development Centres across Kent throughout the week.
As well as being a coach, Nick is also a former player himself, having represented England at the Cerebral Palsy World Cup. With his experience, he is a great role model for many of the young participants who join in his sessions.
“I want to help other people do what I can do – coaching the session helps other people come through and get involved,” he explained.
The sessions led by our Nick and Liam have developed over the years to make them more inclusive, and are focussed on encouraging those who don’t have as many opportunities to get involved in football.
The accessible football sessions are having a really positive impact for members of the local Gills community, giving participants something of their own. Parent Brandon, whose son Finn has been coming to the Gills disability sessions for two years, explained; “There’s no divide – where he has a sister with no disability at all, she gets to do loads of things, but [Finn] never had his own thing. These sessions give him his own thing now; he’s got his own friends, and it’s nice because they’re all on the same level, and they all understand each other – there’s no divide. It’s his time to just relax; it’s not all about winning, it’s about him getting out and kicking a football about; that’s what it’s all about really.”
The Gills are aiming to develop the sessions further in the future, with the help of our ‘game changers’, to provide as many opportunities as possible to really level the playing field for all.
Read more about how the Gills are supporting Level Playing Field’s Weeks of Action here.
To find out more about the Gills Community Trust’s disability sessions, contact us via 01634 623400 or email GFCCT@priestfield.com.
For more information about Level Playing Field (LPF) and this year’s Weeks of Action, please visit www.levelplayingfield.org.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0208 621 2403.
Alternatively you may wish to send a message of support to @efl and @lpftweets on Twitter using the hashtag #GameChangers.