St Albans FC work with their charity partner St Albans City Youth through their ‘Saints in the City’ partnership. They ran a number of activities aimed at COVID relief during lockdowns including online Zoom sessions for children aged between 7-18 years, and for the Young Adults who are part of their Inclusive Section. City Youth Inclusive Players were formed as part of their support for young people with special Educational Needs. Sessions included skills and fitness sessions, quizzes, baking challenges, fun activities and simple social gatherings, especially for their Inclusive squads. These were organised and delivered in partnership with Oaklands College, the Links Academy and St Albans District Council.
On 23 and 24 June this year, ‘Saints in the City’ partnered with Oaklands College to run a two-day Sports Day and Football Skills Event which was delivered to nearly 100 Oaklands College students, all of whom had Special Educational Needs and a range of physical and learning disabilities. The students who were aged 16-18 years attend the College’s Springfield and Pathway Courses.
The events were delivered by twelve Community Coaches from the ‘Saints in the City’. Over two days the students had the chance to learn new skills, get physically active and make new friends. Throughout COVID many people with disabilities have felt isolated and suffered with their mental health, and these two days of activities were hugely beneficial to the students.
The event was the brainchild of City Youth Inclusive Section Co-Ordinator, Tracy Light, who explained: “We are passionate about Inclusive Sport and giving all young people the opportunity to get involved and take part, and we were all really happy to see how everyone enjoyed the sessions. All the coaches did an excellent job of adapting activities to suit the needs of each individual and we were really proud to see some of our City Youth Inclusive Players assisting and coaching on the day through our Inclusive Player Development Pathway. Our Inclusive Football section at City Youth is continuing to grow and we hope that some of the students we met on the day will join our regular inclusive football sessions.”
Kirsty Armstrong, the Tackling Inactivity Project Lead at Oaklands College said: “The event gave our SEN students the opportunity to go out on a high, and to celebrate the end of their academic year. Despite some last-minute changes required to ensure the Skills Days were COVID secure, ‘Saints in the City’ delivered a brilliant set of interactive skills activities that were inclusive for all disabilities. The City Youth coaches were truly outstanding and took everything in their stride. They maintained a high level of enthusiasm and were continuously encouraging to the students. We look forward to continuing to build the relationship and working with SACYFC in the future. “
St Albans City FC Co-Owner and Chair Lawrence Levy stated: “St Albans City FC is so much more than just a football club. We position ourselves at the very heart of our community with our supporters and the community we serve being very much part of our family. The last 20 months has been such a challenging time for everyone, and we are immensely proud to be able to work alongside City Youth in the ‘Saints in the City’ partnership to help support so many people across the community.
The impact is far reaching; from our schools work and our holiday camps to our Inclusive Football with several participants who attend both home and away Saints games, through to our Walking Football Project on a Monday evening. I think the work we have done over the nine projects that we are running (with six being NLT funded) have been immensely beneficial to the Community. I think our impact during COVID is best summed up by Paul, who has been in the Inclusive squad for 8 years: “I suffer with my mental health in many ways; ADHD, depression, Asperger’s and I also have anger management issues. COVID-19 and the isolation has been a nightmare for me. My football a Saints in the City, my friends, being part of something where I belong and am part of a team keeps me well, keeps my happy. It’s my life.”