South Park Rangers are a Autism development Football Centre.
We asked Head Coach Sam Bell, why he wanted to create his centre?
I wanted to create the Autism Development centre due to me working with young people who had Autism. I saw first-hand how much of an impact it had on young people. I never in a million years could see it being so popular. Not to mention winning the award for project of the year award for 3 years in a row!
What impact has this activity had on your club and its participants?
The smiles on the players at the end of the session is amazing, we have had 4 players graduate from the centre and move into main stream teams. Even the parents say that before the centre their son/daughter would never have done that. We have had one player graduate the centre move into a main stream team and then come back to the centre as a coach. He is one of the coaches that the players look up to as they want to do what he did.
What progress had the centre made since it first started?
As a founding member of the centre along with Gary and his sons, we are lost for words with the way the centre has grew. The young people in the centre are amazing. The impact to the local community can be summed up with the following quote taken from the tournament we held the other year. “Is this the Disability tournament? Wow really I would never have thought this as they look like any other team.” And this one “My son has now started to join in with football at school and without the centre he would never have done that” There are many more examples that I could give as every week before lockdown we would get people coming up to us and telling us how their son/daughter is doing in school and even at home. We would get people messaging the Facebook page asking for more information and then not believing us when we say is free.
Sam’s Top Tips!
- Just remember these are young people who are like your main stream teams. These players just need a little bit more TLC! They want to be treated normal they don’t want to be made to feel different.
- Ensure you keep the sessions fun. If it is bad weather, then cancel the session. Players who have had bad first experiences may not come back.
- Ensure you smile, even if you are having a bad day make sure them players see you smile as this will help them relax, they will look up to you they will react as you react, they will see if you are upset.
- I always fine that if I am showing a drill I sometimes will fall over and laugh at myself. This will help the players know that if they make a mistake don’t get angry just laugh as that is what disability football is all about laughing and having fun.
- Ensure you teach them the aspects of respect and following rules. Be firm but fair. But always remember if working with young people with Autism they won’t always react well to being told no or you haven’t done that right. It’s all about thinking of ways to get them to redo something without saying “no or that’s wrong” I usually get them to retake the shot but pretend to get in the way of the GK (If it is a coach or older player) this helps the autistic player score but also makes them laugh as the GK is trying to get past you.
South Park Rangers Autism Development Centre have 1:1 and group sessions. If you would like to enquire about these sessions, as a player or coach please contact firstname.lastname@example.org