Disability Awareness Month - Club Focus
Southwark Stars – Louis Wickett-Padgham – Founder of the Club
Southwark Stars are all about giving everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the beautiful game. Their goal is to be a true representation of our community, in Southwark, London.
1. Can you explain a bit about your journey so far and what brought you to this point within disability football?
Football has been an incredibly important part of my life and I’ve always been a keen footballer since childhood and enjoyed watching and studying the game too. Coupled with my passion to support those who are less represented and experience working in disability sports development, I’ve got to the point where I’ve been able to combine both passions.
2. Tell us a little more about your work at your club organisation?
I’m the Founder and Manager of Southwark Stars, a voluntary, grassroots football club in London. We provide weekly football sessions, regular matches and social opportunities for over 70 men and women with a learning disability. Like most grassroot football coaches, I fulfil most roles… coaching, marketing, fundraising, match day coordination, admin and more! I’m fortunate to have support too though, particularly from Emily, a fantastic coach who gives up so much of her time to help our players and club.
Watch our London Empowered short video and see us in action here.
3. What is impact of your provision for people with disabilities?
There are the obvious physical benefits from regularly playing football but I think the social impact is greater. Our players are more connected to their community and have made lifelong friendships and found those to share relationships with too. Being connected is so important, so we make sure we provide other virtual and in-person opportunities to encourage interaction.
4. What are the main barriers to people with disabilities engaging in football?
A lack of opportunities is probably the biggest. Our players travel across all of London to come to our club, and that’s because they understand it’s safe and enjoyable. Sadly, there should be safe and enjoyable opportunities everywhere, on their doorsteps. More clubs and more coaches should provide opportunities to ensure there is more choice, just as non-disabled footballers have.
5. What do you think needs to happen to make football more inclusive for all?
To create more opportunities, more coaches need to feel confident and knowledgeable. Providing football for disabled people isn’t that different, you listen and adapt to those you’re coaching, but there is often either a fear factor and/or a lack of interest stopping coaches getting involved. Workforce development should be encouraged, including formal and informal opportunities - I’m always happy to let coaches come and shadow our sessions, offers out there!
Disabled people also need to have a greater voice in the game too. Who better to design, deliver and govern disability football, than disabled people themselves.
6. What are your plans for the future?
We’re working hard behind the scenes to empower our players to be leaders, whether that’s supporting coaching, governance or administration. I’d love to get to the point where our players can run the club themselves.
In the short term, we’re still looking for sponsorship to ensure we can continue to deliver much-needed weekly opportunities and more!
For more details on how to get involved with Southwark Stars, please contact Louis Wickett-Padgham on email@example.com or visit their website here.