Arsenal hosts Paralympic sports legacy drive
The first ever summit to boost disability sports participation was held at Emirates Stadium on Thursday April 19, led by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP.
The summit, attended by representatives from the sport and disability sectors, aims to further integrate disability sport into mainstream sports provision, delivering a lasting legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Youngsters from a variety of disability sports sessions coordinated throughout the year by Arsenal in the Community kicked off the event with a penalty shoot-out on Emirates Stadium’s award-winning pitch.
Pupils from The Bridge Primary School, Treehouse, Hackney Learning Trust (Horizon School) and players from Arsenal’s visually impaired and deaf football teams all lined up to take a penalty on the hallowed turf.
The Club also showcased table tennis, sitting volleyball and boccia, and were joined by Paralympions David Clarke, Captain of Paralympics Great Britain (GB) Blind Football Team, Darren Harris of the Paralympics GB Blind Football Team, Billy Thompson, Paralympics GB Cerebral Palsy Goalkeeper, Lisa Wainwright, Samantha Bowen, Hoiyee Rogers, Julie Rogers and Richard Stacey-Chapman representing the Paralympics GB Sitting Volleyball Team.
Head of Arsenal in the Community, Alan Sefton said: “Everyone here today has one thing in common; they love sport and they enjoy participating in sport. Arsenal in the Community works with disabled young people not only to learn football skills but to interact, improve communication and other life skills.
"We’re very proud to invite them to Emirates Stadium to kick off today’s summit and to kickstart the day. Every disabled child should have the right to access and participate in sport and that is what today is all about promoting.”
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP added: “I would like every disabled child to really have the chance to play sport and I think we can do a lot better than we currently do. That is what my speech today is about. This exhibition from Arsenal has set the tone for the day.
"I am here today to talk about disability policy but I wanted to see the incredible work done by Arsenal in the Community. I have been really impressed with what I have seen. We have just seen a demonstration of blind football, bowls, sitting volleyball, table tennis and it is just fantastic to see the way Arsenal is involving itself in the local community.
"The work here is incredibly important. One thing people think about Premier League clubs is that they have a lot of money and it is really great to see them giving something back. I think Arsenal is really leading the way and it is very impressive.
"London is the home of Paralympic sport. It started in Stoke Mandeville in 1948 and we are going to deliver the best Paralympics ever. I think it will be not only a big step forward for Paralympic sport but also for disabled people because it will really make them part of the mainstream, which is what I think they want more than anything else.”
Robert Blair School, Islington - Arsenal in the Community works with this mainstream primary school which has a language and communications Resources Unit (LCR unit). The LCR unit currently has around 30 primary-aged children who have severe speech, language and communication problems, but are enjoying an inclusive education with their mainstream peers. Arsenal in the Community runs a unique project with regular inclusion sessions and also sessions solely for the LCR. The aims of the LCR sessions are to create a module of football sessions combining speech and language therapy and football training with a view to creating a curriculum of activities centred around sport, language and communications. The project is run three times a week.
The Bridge Primary School, Islington - A school for young people with severe and multiple learning difficulties, autism and also other severe physical impairments. They have very limited resources and have never had a PE teacher. When in 2009, Arsenal in the Community began football coaching on Wednesday mornings it was, for many of their children, the only time they did any form of regular physical activities. The aims of the sessions were basic football skill sessions, which also successfully crossed over into teaching social skills. A positive outcome of this project was that once the programme finished in the summer of 2010, Bridge school hired a PE teacher to supplement the work that had been achieved by Arsenal's Community team.
TreeHouse School, Haringey - TreeHouse is a school for autistic children which Arsenal has supported for a long time following its charity partnership in 2007. Arsenal in the Community began its football sessions in groups and one on one. The football sessions were closely aligned to the children’s behavioural plans and individual learning plans.
Hackney Learning Trust - Arsenal in the Community’s relationship with Hackney Learning Trust is in its early stages. The Trust is a not-for-profit company which runs all the education services for the London Borough of Hackney. In November 2011, when they ran their week long School Sports Championships, Arsenal in the Community coached blind football to children from Hackney schools. This is set to take place again in July just before London 2012.
Oak Lodge School - A Secondary School for children with mild to severe learning difficulties. Arsenal in the Community spent one day a week there in the academic year of 2009/2010 working alongside their PE teachers leading specialist football sessions for all year groups. While Arsenal in the Community no longer coordinates weekly sessions, the coaches have kept strong links with the school through organising tournaments, friendlies and also having a presence at their annual ‘Oak Factor singing contest'.
Arsenal Visually Impaired Football Sessions - These sessions have been coordinated by Arsenal in the Community for over a decade. Arsenal in the Community lead fortnightly training sessions at Sobell Leisure Centre and also compete in the Middlesex FA PAN disability league on a monthly basis. Participants take part in the British Blind Sport National Junior Football Championships annually and have done well over the last few years finishing second and third in respective years. Some of Arsenal’s visually impaired players are also taking part in Arsenal’s holiday soccer schools and linking up with local Sunday league teams.