SBitC look at how Walking Football has helped one of their regulars...
Sky Blues in the Community have been delivering Walking Football since December 2014
Under the banner of the ‘InForm’ men’s health project funded by The Big Lottery Fund (the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding across the UK), the Fund aims to enable others to make real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need.
Since starting Walking Football in Coventry, it has grown in popularity with over 160 participants aged 50+ attending across 3 sessions at 2 venues.
As Walking Football continues to go from strength to strength we wanted to have a look at the impact the project is having on its participants.
Lol has been a regular at Walking Football since 2015, this is his story:
“Back in 1999, aged 40 I stopped playing football – the game I love. This coincided with a new job that saw me travelling out of my home town of Coventry to North Leicestershire. All at once I had suddenly lost the friendships of both work and team mates who were all local to where I lived.
"Fast-forward to 2015, when I retired and a chance meeting with an old teammate in Broadgate who invited me along to play Walking Football, organised by Sky Blues in the Community.
"I turned up at St Finbarr’s not knowing what to expect, I didn’t know anyone there and felt a little out of place. This feeling didn’t last long as I was given such a warm welcome by the SBitC coaches and fellow players – I soon felt part of the family.
"After going over the rules and some pointers of how this new version of the game was played I soon felt that all too familiar feeling – pre-match nerves.
"We were sorted into teams with Captains introducing players to each other while exchanging handshakes. The game got going and before I knew it I was back using the skills I had gained from playing all those years ago.
"There was so much variety in ability with ages ranging from 50 right through to 80, and female players too. What was clear though was the energy and enthusiasm shown by every player, along with care and respect. I was in Heaven.
"Over the coming months I got to know everyone in the group, we all had our own abilities – some players are more mobile than others, so need the ball to feet and some of us occasionally forget the ‘no running’ rule!
"Steadily though, week by week we were always improving, impressive for a group of players who are getting older by the day!
"One of the things that has impacted me most is the friendships I have made through Walking Football. This hit home on the evening of the Jimmy Hill Memorial Service. We were given tickets and had arranged to meet up for a drink prior to walking to the Cathedral.
"I walked into the pub that evening and was greeted by more than 20 people, all pleased to see me – this had not happened for almost 20 years!
"As well as the football side of things, the social aspect of Walking Football is just as important to us, our Christmas party last year was a chance for us to get together and have a couple of drinks along with some great entertainment.
"Walking Football has even followed me abroad, meeting up and playing with local Spanish teams whilst on holiday with my wife. Being able to play in the sunshine with friends as well as enjoying food and drinks together after the game.
"This year, in March I was invited to play with SBitC in a tournament in Playa Flamenco, Spain. Taking our skills to another country to represent Coventry City FC was an experience we’ll never forget.
"How would I sum up what Walking Football has given me? Its hard to do in just a few words. As well as the opportunity to play the game I love abroad and at home on the Ricoh Arena pitch in front of CCFC and Bradford fans, it has given me friendship, a reason keep fit and look after my body.
"Oh – and having Ronnie Farmer watch me play for nothing when it used to cost me 2 bob to watch him!”