Special Olympics St Albans coach speaks out about advantages of sport for disabled people

Liam Dwyer with the team. Picture: Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust

Liam Dwyer with the team. Picture: Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: Archant

A coach for Special Olympians has spoken out about the benefits of sports for disabled people.

Nurse Liam Dwyer successfully coached a St Albans based football team to win trophies at the renowned sporting event - the team was made up of people with learning disabilities.

Although the Herts, Essex and Norfolk players narrowly missed out on a bronze medal Liam said it was a real achievement for everyone involved.

Adding: “I got a real sense of achievement coaching in really top facilities. A lot of work had gone in behind the scenes as well. I had three different counties’ players and it was good to see it all come together.

“It was a difficult situation when the team was disappointed – they deserved to come away with something because they played very well. I said to the players ‘have you improved as footballers during the week?’ and they agreed they had, so I said ‘that’s a great thing you’ve achieved’”.

The team stayed at Sheffield Hallam University for the competition, representing a unique opportunity for the footballers to stay away from home and manage their own medication: “Some [people] were homesick and it wasn’t just coaching on the football pitch that I was doing. There was medication, as some had never self-medicated before and I made sure they were eating well and improving their physical wellbeing.”

“What was lovely was, by the end of the experience, watching the friendships between the players.

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“They still all meet up and keep in contact. For me it was a bit of a learning curve, but for the lads it was a massive experience. They felt like pro footballers for a week, they lived their dreams.”

Now Liam is involved in advocating the benefits of sport for people with learning disabilities.

He said relationships forged on the pitch had widened service users’ support network and helped them to develop: “It is social, it promotes physical wellbeing – it ticks so many boxes.”

Special Olympics St Albans is a branch of the charity Special Olympics Great Britain. To find out more, click here.