Joe Boyd’s vision to set up a mixed ability football team in Barnsley came true with the help of Mencap.
“I was a support worker for Mencap for a few years before getting the job as a housing officer at Golden Lane Housing. I worked with quite a few independent adults and young lads who lived within half a mile of each other and never socialised together. People can get quite isolated if they live on their own and don’t have hobbies and making new friends can be hard for anyone.
Football is a common interest for many people whether they are male or female, with or without a learning disability and across all ages. The idea to start a team was something that a particular person I supported had been mentioning for a while. After hearing there was a mixed ability team in Doncaster who were struggling to find opposition it seemed like a good time to make a start.
We met with one of the founders of Bumbles Rugby Club for a little inspiration and things moved forward from there. I found a venue and started to recruit players. Quite a few people got in touch which resulted in players outside of Mencap joining after learning of the team through word of mouth.
In January of this year we started the team. We had a couple of very relaxed training sessions and with the support of Mencap Management, I attended and passed the Level 1 FA Football Coaching badge, while Mencap also sought funding so that we could buy our own training equipment and kits. The whole thing started to feel more like a proper club.
It’s all gone so well, exactly what I was hoping for and more! So far we’ve got around 16 players who train every three weeks on a Saturday from 11am-1pm at Honeywell Sports College in Barnsley. If you’re interested in football and can make it down then you can play. A few people come to watch their partner or friend train, everyone gets on well and there’s a real team spirit building.
Aside from developing football skills, the team has had a much wider impact on the people involved. Players have found an outlet where previously they had none, a place to blow off steam, people have improved their health, developed friendships and communicated with people who they otherwise wouldn’t have through sport and having fun together. The biggest thing that the team promotes from my point of view is equality and inclusion, and that’s how we play.”
Sign up to Barnsley’s mixed ability football team
For more information and to join the football team, email firstname.lastname@example.org