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‘More than just a club’

2 years ago By David Laughlin

Belper Town organises football coaching sessions for disabled youngsters because it wants to be recognised as ‘more than just a football club'

The Nailers have been running the Saturday morning sessions as part of its community football programme for the last four years.

But it is only since it moved to Belper Leisure Centre - thanks to the generosity of its management - that the club says the initiative has really taken off.

Belper Community Football Programme secretary Dave Laughlin said: “Our football club really needs to be the focal point of the community - we don’t run the club for our own benefit or even for the players - it is for the local community and for our supporters.

“A few years ago, we applied to the Football Association to become an FA Charter Standard Community club and in order to be recognised as such, we needed to provide footballing opportunities for the whole community.

“We already provided senior football, youth football, and ladies and girls football, but we thought we should also try to provide opportunities for people with disabilities as well - and become a truly inclusive club.

“We can now honestly say that our club provides an opening for everybody who wants to play football, to play football under the Belper Town FC banner.

Our first disability ‘home’ was at Holbrook School for Autism but we have since been able to move to Belper Leisure Centre thanks to a series of grants from Foundation Derbyshire, the last one worth £1,400.

“Up at Holbrook the hall was relatively small and it was a few miles out of Belper for those without transport.

“Now we have a central location it is much for convenient for the kids and their parents.

“The Leisure Centre lets us have the hall for £15 per session which is unbelievable in this day and age and means the grant we have got can stretch for two of three years.

“We encourage parents to come down and we give the first four sessions for free and it’s £3 per session after that.”

The youngsters have been coached for the last six months by 17-year-old Roya Mehdizadeh (pictured), from Belper.

“We have about ten come down to each session - sometimes a few more and sometimes a few less,” she explains

“There is one lad who is about six or seven and there are a few in year 9 and then we have two sisters who come down who are in college so there is a real range of ages.

“They all just get on really well though.

“One of the things that really helps me is that they all really get along and build each other up.”

As well as coaching the disability sessions, Roya works as a young leader with the Derbyshire County FA and also coaches the Belper Sports under-10 girls’ team.

She says she has never found the disability group difficult to manage but admits having their parents there can sometimes be a help.

“It’s not too serious but for the ones who want to progress with their skills they can.

“Most of the time they come because they really love it.”

And it is not just the kids who are keen on the programme - their parents love it as well.

Mark Ratcliffe, whose son Jacob has Down’s Syndrome, said: “I don’t think it’s possible to underestimate the coaches skills or the positive impact they have had on Jacob and the other young people that attend the sessions each Saturday morning.

“The balance they strike between formality and informality is perfect as is their split between unstructured ‘play’, formal coaching skills and the ‘proper match’ played towards the end of most of the sessions.

“The level of encouragement, engagement, desire to improve and succeed is spot on as is the structure and level of discipline which is no mean feat given the range of ages and levels and types of disabilities present.”

To find out more about Belper Town’s disability football sessions call Dave Laughlin on 07768 010604 or alternatively, just turn up.

Credit: Dan Hayes, Belper News

The current group of players pose for the camera and show their skills

Updated 12:49 - 7 Jun 2016 by David Laughlin

Where next?

FA Competitions – Early Round Draws The early rounds of the FA Emirates Cup, FA Trophy and FA Youth Cup have been made and published today by the Football Association.
Programme Editor and Video Cameraman Vacancies Belper Town Football Club is looking for a Programme Editor and Video Cameraman to join our media team for the 2016/17 season.

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