Walking Back to Happiness & Healthiness
Derbyshire is leading the way in the development of Walking Football sessions, with Village Games officers helping to set up eight sessions across the county.
The low intensity, high enjoyment sport has proved extremely popular in the last few months, particularly in the wake of the Barclay’s bank TV advert.
Before June 2014, there were just four walking football sessions across Derbyshire, now there are 15. Derbyshire Village Games alone host groups in Heanor, Alfreton, Dronfield, Swadlincote, Baslow and Matlock. Two new groups set to start this month in Ashbourne and Hasland.
Village Games Officers work with a number of partners to ensure successful Walking Football Sessions, including Derbyshire County FA, Derbyshire Sport, District and Borough councils, local councillors, leisure centres and football clubs.
There’s no age limit for people to take part in walking football sessions, because anyone can play the game. Both men and women can take part too.
Derbyshire Village Games Operations Manager Cathy Rooney said: “Our goal is getting people moving more and living longer by helping local people set up affordable, sustainable activities right on the doorstep. Walking Football is a great activity. We find that for many people – men especially - fitness alone isn’t the main goal. Walking football scores a hat trick – it’s fun, sociable and keeps you active.”
Adult Participation Football Development Officer at Derbyshire FA, Lauren Mellor said: “Walking football has become more popular since the television advert in summer of 2014 and there is far more activity taking place across the UK. The TV advert means people now understand what walking football is. Attitudes and perceptions towards walking football have improved and therefore more individuals are looking for local opportunities to play.”
“The participants do not only come to walking football sessions to play football; players really enjoy the sessions because of their social benefits. Walking football gives predominantly older adults the opportunity to play football again and get out of the house to interact with other people of similar age. The tea and coffee after the game is a chance to form friendships and have a laugh and chat about the football session.”
WHY PARTICIPANTS LOVE WALKING FOOTBALL:
Jim Johnson, 69, from Alfreton said: “I am a massive football fan, I have 2 young grandsons that play and I must admit I enjoy watching them play but I do miss playing so walking football was the perfect solution for me. I enjoy the sessions basically because everyone is there for reasons of their own; some for medical reasons some for the social aspect and some like me because we enjoy playing football and meeting people.”
Participant at Matlock’s Walking Football session, Paul Holmes, 57 said: “Now I have retired I feel it is a good way to get back to some sort of level of fitness, by participating in a sport that is not over physically demanding. It is more strenuous though than a lot of people think and provides a good work out. In the three weeks I have been doing it I can feel the benefits and it is great to kick a ball again after such a long time. It is also a great way of getting social interaction in a fun and friendly environment.”
John Dacey, 66, from Marsh Lane near Eckington said: “I love football and used to enjoy playing 5-a-side. When I retired, I did continue to play for a while but, eventually, there were less opportunities and I felt that I could not keep up with a competitive game, played at a fast pace.”
“When I saw the advert for walking football in Dronfield, I was pleased, if nervous, to turn up. Initially, there were only 4 or so but now, we regularly have about 10 players.”
“After an hour playing, I am pleasantly surprised at how much of a sweat I have got. Despite the early start of the session (8.15am), I love going each week. The people going share my enjoyment and it’s a social event as well. It is competitive but played in a good spirit. It is one of the highlights of my week!”
Paul Jackson, 59, works in Heanor and lives in Leabrooks. He said: “I played regular 11-a-side football until I was 49. I then had some health issues but following a couple of successful operations I was able to return to doing some physical exercise such as swimming and gym sessions. I had missed playing football though so I was very pleased when I heard about walking football and for me this has now become a much more enjoyable replacement for gym sessions.”
For me, the most enjoyment comes from an interest in football, the challenge of trying to play as well as you are able to and maximizing the exercise you get from it. That said the banter and social aspects come naturally from team sports which can only improve the overall enjoyment.”
John Challoner, 68, from Alfreton also enjoys the sport, he said: “I am sure it is helping with my fitness; it is much more fun than just going to the gym and there is the social side of it, making new friends.”
66 year old Bob Duffield from Heanor said: “Since retirement the danger is to sit in front of the telly. I find Walking Football keeps me in reasonable shape; gives me the opportunity to meet like minded people and have a good, fun time. It's great that we can play each week and really enjoy each other’s company and the most important part is to have fun without taking it too seriously.”
WHY WALKING FOOTBALL WORKS:
Village Games Officer for Amber Valley, Beth Turner, holds a session in Heanor and said: “A consultation showed local people wanted activity which was fun, gave them a reason to get out the house for a couple hours a week and meet new people. Opportunities for men to participate in a recreational team sport - particularly older men in Heanor- are very sparse. This has meant that a large proportion of men are inactive because they are just not interested in getting involved in sport purely for fitness reasons.”
“Marketing the activity was a particular struggle I faced. At the time of launch, Walking Football was virtually unknown in Amber Valley. This proved to be a critical barrier in trying to get across to the public what Walking Football actually involved. The immediate assumption was that it would be boring as people didn’t realise there was still skill and pace to it despite the no running rule!”
“Football is a sport which so many older people have fond memories of playing. This initiative gives them the chance to take part again without the risk of impact injuries which are associated with the normal game.”
“There is a great social side to walking football with many participants enjoying the interaction with the other participants just as much as the actual game. A few of the men have mentioned that when you retire, you lose a purpose for your days and they have felt that having activities to get out of the house for during the day is very important.”
Village Games Officer for the Derbyshire Dales, Becky Bryan has set up two sessions in Baslow and Matlock. She explained: “The initial getting people to give it a try seemed a challenge as a lot of men thought walking football sounded too easy for them, so the challenge was changing people’s views on the sport!”
“The sessions have since taken off massively. All participants are generally retired with free time in the day, who used to play football at an earlier age but can no longer play regular football. This is usually down to fitness, injuries and being too old to physically run around for 60 minutes. All attendees love playing and are so grateful for setting up the session.”
Village Games Officer for North East Derbyshire, Nathan Culkin, was involved in setting up a Walking Football session in Dronfield. He said: “The North East Derbyshire sessions were the first Village Games/Community Sport Trust Walking Football sessions to start so I like to think we pioneered it in a way.”
“With the concept of walking football being so simple, it gave those who had played in the past the opportunity to return at lower intensity. Walking Football has the same rules as normal football, just with no running jogging or sprinting, and it’s a great way for older men and women to keep fit and stay active.”
The sessions have proved incredibly popular with participants - not just for the football, but the social aspect too.
More about Derbyshire Village Games and Derbyshire FA’s Partnership:
At Derbyshire County FA, Lauren Mellor provides support and guidance to all deliverers of walking football, including Village Games officers. She works to make sure sessions are consistent in their delivery and although there will be some local differentiations, the guidelines that have been put in place across Derbyshire help to achieve consistency.
Lauren said: “The walking concept helps to put players on a similar playing field and helps different ages come together to play the game."
“Through strategic marketing and session timings, deliverers can target their sessions towards certain audiences without stipulating an age limit. For example, a session during the day time on a weekday will inevitably attract older adults and a session in the evening will attract those individuals still at work who want to play. Generally, walking football does attract players aged 40 plus and the majority of participants are male.”
Derbyshire County FA also want to achieve a consistent Derbyshire brand for walking football and therefore sessions are supported with their marketing and posters have been created for the sessions.
When a delivery partner contacts Derbyshire County FA about setting up a walking football session, there is regular email communication and a meeting is arranged to finalise project details.
The Walking Football sessions are registered as Derbyshire FA Just Play Sessions and when the sessions become part of the Just Play programme they feature on the Derbyshire County FA website, The FA website, and Derbyshire County FA social media. All sessions receive Just Play branded bibs and footballs.
In the future, Derbyshire County FA is set to continue to support all walking football sessions and provide guidance to new sessions. Lauren wants the current sessions to be maintained with the view of making them all self-sustainable.
In 2015, the current Derbyshire groups will be invited to monthly walking football festivals taking place at central venues in Derbyshire. This will be an opportunity for the groups to play against the other groups, whilst also ensuring that walking football remains informal, fun and enjoyable.
Village Games led Walking Football sessions take place -
• Baslow Multi-Games Area – Thursday 10-11am
• Matlock’s Arc Leisure Centre – Wednesday 10-11am
• Heanor William Gregg Leisure Centre – Wednesday 11.30-12.30
• Dronfield Sports Centre – Tuesday 8.15-9.15am
• Swadlincote Green Bank Leisure Centre – Monday 7-8pm
• Aldercar Community Language College – Tuesday 7-8pm
• NEW GROUPS: Hasland Eastwood Park – Thursday – starting Thursday 26th Feb – 10-11am
• Ashbourne Leisure Centre – Monday – starting Monday 23rd Feb – 2-3pm
For more information on the Derbyshire FA visit derbyshirefa.com
- Across Derbyshire