Football is more than just a game. Many people will have fond memories and experiences when reflecting upon previous football matches and the positive impact it has had on individuals. Having fun with your friends, helping your team mates and learning key life skills are just some of the many reasons football is so fondly thought of by many.
Positivity and inclusiveness are values that can make a huge difference to the experience young players have during their fixtures. A prime example of this is the great work Helston U9s Girls demonstrated during their fixture against St Agnes in the Cornwall Girls Football League, over the weekend. St Agnes have praised Helston’s approach to accommodating their player’s need and requirements to ensure a positive experience was given to all involved.
During the fixture, St Agnes had just 6 players available, one of whom was Connie, a St Agnes player who has Down's Syndrome who went on to play most of the game and managed to score two goals. Mandy Kimmins (from St Agnes FC) expressed her gratitude to Helston U9s and their manager Jeremy Squibb and had the following to say after their match:
“I discussed our team with Jeremy from Helston and his team before the game and we agreed a plan so Connie would be able to take part in a portion of the match and enjoy the experience.
I commend the Helston U9's for their attitude, great sportsmanship and lovely sensitivity around what became the Connie show!
In fact, Connie was having such a great time we couldn't persuade her to come off for the whole game, she scored 2 goals, had us all cheering (emotional tears) and even Jeremy was wishing her a hat-trick!
Moments like this morning don't come along often and a massive thank you to Helston for helping make it happen”.
After speaking to Jeremy Squibb and he has justified why he approached the fixture in the way he did, expressing that, “As someone who was never particularly athletic at school, I am ever mindful of what it is like to be left out or overlooked. My ability was not perhaps strong either, but without any encouragement or inclusion, it was never going to improve.
Over previous years, we (Helston U9s) have learnt from past experiences and consciously made a decision to always play and behave in a courteous and caring manner to our opponents, whether we win, lose or draw. I believe there is a right way and a wrong way, and the girls can learn far more about life than football during their time with the team.
When Mandy came to me yesterday to explain the make up of her team including Connie, the first and most important thing for us was to help everyone feel included, valued and wanted. None of us knew how much involvement Connie would have in the game, and all of the girls were only too happy to help her football learning journey and support her build her confidence. After outlining this to the team, not once did they need a reminder, not even some of our more enthusiastic and committed players - every single one of them drew as much delight from watching Connie with the ball as us on the side-lines did.
The smile on our goalkeeper's face when Connie scored was genuinely something to behold - genuine love and compassion.
We have such caring players at the Dolphins and that is the really beautiful thing about girls football, it's to play fairly at all costs, not to win at all costs.
The most important thing for all of us to take away, is to do right, not be right, to offer the hand of friendship, support and encouragement, staying grounded, dignified and full of humility”.
This story resonates with many and Vicky Fisher (Cornwall FA Girls and Disability Officer) expressed her joy after hearing about the positive and inclusive environment created over the weekend, “It was fantastic to hear the stories of this weekend’s match and a great reminder of why we’re involved in the game. Football should be a place for everyone to feel safe, supported, encouraged and developed and we thank every coach and volunteer that allow this to happen week in and week out around the county across all of our age groups.”