Student volunteers are helping make sports inclusive to all
The One City Disability Event brings together children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities from secondary schools across Manchester, to the Etihad Campus, for a day of friendly competition and football, three times per year.
Hosted by Manchester City Football Club’s City in the Community Foundation, and student volunteers from Manchester Metropolitan University, the event offers children who have additional needs an avenue to compete in their own league, and in a professional sporting environment.
Paul Kelly, Disability Lead at the City in the Community Foundation, said: “The One City Disability Event, held at the Etihad Campus, is a unique opportunity for children living with a range of disabilities to engage in an enriching sports programme, specifically designed for their own needs.
“Children with additional needs do not always feel comfortable or do not always have access to universal sports provision. At City in the Community, we believe it is important to provide sports for all young people to support their development, regardless of their disability.
“After all, football is for everyone, and the programme celebrates and encourages inclusivity of all.”
The event is held as part of the wider One City Disability Programme, an initiative that allows children with a variety of disabilities to take part in free football and sporting provision relevant to their specific disability. They host a range of events throughout the year, which also include a disability primary school league and an all-girls league.
Paul added: “If the One City Programme didn’t run these projects and events, some of these kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to engage in competitive sports and it just makes it all the more special that they can come and compete in the same facilities used by professional footballers.”
Students from Manchester Metropolitan, studying on the BSc (Hons) Manchester City Community Football Coaching Degree, a course ran in partnership with the University and the Foundation, play a pivotal role in the organisation of the event and coordinating the schools on the day.
Paul explained: “The degree students plan the league, set up the event, ensure all safeguarding and first aid is in place. They prepare all of the fixtures, engagement and liaison with schools and running the leagues as a whole.
“What’s amazing is that these young people are giving up their own time to give something back to local people. They are using the coaching skills they are gaining on their course to give back to the community. They simply do an incredible job.”
Alehandro Centeno, Manchester Metropolitan student and one of the event organisers, said: “This event is not for me – it’s for the kids.
“They get to come and use all the fantastic facilities here at the Etihad Campus and have an incredible day in which they can tell all of their friends and family about – it is truly a unique experience for them all.
“Through City and the Community I volunteer with a range of different people, from an all-women’s league to helping those who struggle with their mental health, and one thing I have noticed is football brings everybody together and helps them in their development.”
Community coaches of the future
Volunteers were given the chance to put their professional skills into practice on the day, coaching children from five schools and between the ages of 11 and 16.
Chris Johnston, Education Officer at City in the Community, said: “This programme not only provides students with the opportunity to give back to the community, but to also put their own skills into practice and help them become community coaches in the future.”