Football, Fun and Family...the Perfect Antidote
Updated: May 14, 2022
When I set up Fighting Fit Football back in 2019, my plan was quite simple: find a few likeminded people with Parkinson's, play some football together and make a few friends in the process. Simple.
But over the last 3 years, Fighting Fit Football has become so much more than just a football team. We're a community first and foremost. A life support system for some, which provides our players with a sense of belonging, identity and comradeship. Somewhere to have a casual but often supportive chat in between kicking footballs about their symptoms, their medication, or maybe just about the latest Spurs performance. At our sessions we like to keep the enjoyment levels to the maximum and rough tackles to the minimum, we support and encourage each other, both on and off the pitch, and there is no expectation to perform to a certain level. Equally there is no expectation to talk about Parkinson’s, but they do and it all helps. Healthy hearts and healthy minds.
“Behind our team is an ever greater team of people who support us - we like to call them the Fighting Fit Family”.
One of the happy (but admittedly unintended!) consequences of Fighting Fit Football has been that our community has expanded from the immediate team and into their families, friends and beyond. Friends, wives, husbands, brothers, children and even grandchildren of the players have met and themselves become friends. Meals and get togethers are held and family WhatsApp groups have been set up, expanding their social and emotional networks in the process. Behind our team is an ever greater team of people who support us - we like to call them the “Fighting Fit Family”.
And so it was more than fitting that family played a supportive role in our 5 a-side football event held on Saturday 7th May 2022 at Watford FC's Training Ground, an event to celebrate all that's great about playing community football. An open invitation for people powered with Parkinson's to play or try football, irrespective whether they played it in the last week, the last decade or last century. Bring a friend or family member too we said, as we know how hard it can be even without Parkinson’s to come on your own to a group event such as this, especially for the first time. Adult friends and family were invited to join in the football, as well as watch and support their loved ones.
The day started with a stretching routine targeting those stiff muscles and joints, followed by a series of light drills to get the blood flowing. After this players with Parkinson’s and their family and friends formed four teams of 5 and 6 a-side, and played a round-robin of matches against one another. To keep it fair we tried to keep the range of ages and abilities balanced across the teams, and played 10 minutes per match, with a rest break in between.
The games were fairly evenly matched and, despite the warm temperature in the Dome, highly competitive, but at the same time supportive. Most matches ended with 1 or 2 goals being scored, apart from a high scoring 4-3 between the red and pink teams - that’s a goal every 85 seconds! For those who had the energy we then finished off with a larger 8v8 match for the final 15 minutes.
Although the red team came out unbeaten from the matches, at the end of the day there were no losers, just winners. During the event, dads played daughters and sons, sisters played brothers, and husbands played wives, sometimes on the same team, sometimes against each other. And by sharing the experience with their loved one, watching and playing, everyone can appreciate what we do, and why we do it.
We are always looking for new players with Parkinson’s to join the Fighting Fit Football community. We are a friendly and supportive bunch who will make you feel welcome, and you can always go at your own pace. And of course you are welcome to bring a friend or family member to play and/or provide moral support as part of the Fighting Fit Family.
Together we can give Parkinson’s the boot!