All the way back in March, Nic and I were fortunate enough to be invited to join the wonderful Breaking Boundaries team for our Blind & Visually Impaired Football at Middlesex University. Breaking Boundaries are raising money for the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust – www.aclt.org – and ACLT’s Gold Challenge Administrator Samantha Walker also joined the session. Which was great news for me (and you) because she writes much better than I do and has given me permission to reproduce her account of the day:
“I am still in awe of anyone living with a visual impairment and ultimately go on to play sports such as Blind Football. We were all totally amazed at how the world changes when you are deprived of your sight…even for a short while. I am actually very short sighted (-7.00 -9.00) but most people wouldn’t guess as I wear contact lenses. Whilst I do notice becoming more vulnerable when I don’t wear lenses, having no sight at all and having to coordinate your actions enough to play a sport at top level is a real shock to the system.
From my observations it was clear that most people despite their level of footballing ability experienced what I call ‘body freeze’ – a reluctance/hesitance to move away from the spot you’re on and explore what’s around you, with hands held out in a protective/defensive stance.
Then we developed the ‘Side-stepping ‘Equestrian Dressage-styley’ Canter or Electric–Slide manoeuvre’ when asked to jog and stop before we hit the wall. Some had hilariously funny postures (Dannii!!) when working out how and when to stop –
Our initial ‘body freeze’ statue stances started to drift away over the 2hour session, as we
· Guided walks and jogs to create a mental picture of the size of the pitch
· Basic ball handling techniques whilst listening to the bell in the ball and following the verbal instructions, hand claps and clicks from our partners
– Ball Stops with feet positioned at ’10-to-2’
– Ball dribble
– Ball shuttles
– Ball passes
· Player & Team Skills techniques
– Short sprints
– Goal shooting
– Learning how to avoid + go around Defenders who shout the Latin word ‘Voi’ to warn of an attack
We could all now understand why it takes Blind Footballers around 6 months to train before they can play in a match – now that’s what I call SKILLS!
RACE 4 LIFE!
Finally we advanced on to collating all of these skills into a two team contest, scoring points for skill, accuracy, speed and team work in 3 challenges.
Danielle, Dan T, Jo, Maria, Ike
Chucky, Nic, Tony, Samuel, Samantha
In the end it all came down to the final sprint races….and that’s when the TENTATIVENESS & INHIBITIONS flew…neh burned away! Every competitive ‘fast twitch’ fibre in each players body fired up and called for Glory as each team wanted to show who would be the fastest blinded sprinter across the pitch and back.
The initial test sprint runs came in around a respectable 12-15 seconds – BUT no we weren’t content with that were we and so it was GAME ON!
As anticipated the lads vied for the top spot – Ike had set the time to beat at 8.9 secs, but he was ‘pipped to the post’ in TV Actor and former Footballers Wives star Chucky Venn’s final sprint who came in at 8.4 secs much to the delight of his team mates! Despite the banter everyone enjoyed the great teamwork and sportsperson-ship.
Pics by ACLT Supporter & Celebrity Photographer Colvin Hazzard and team Thanks Yous lead on to rousing cheers for our splendid coach from the FA – Dan Slaughter
For those who were paying attention there are in total 4 Dan’s involved in the success of the day – Dan Thompson (Gold Challenge), Danni Watson (Team Captain), Dan Slaughter (Coach) and by no means least the ACLT’s inspiration for taking on our Olympic sport challenges the late Daniel De-Gale who trained as a Sports Therapist, was an avid Football and Man U supporter – put simply he would have said ‘GOOD TIMES’ ”
It really was a great session – many, many thanks to Danielle Watson and the Breaking Boundaries team for organising the session and to Sam Walker for the words.
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