There's never been a better time to get involved and play disability football
Opportunities for players with a disability to access football at various levels has grown incredibly over the past few years and in many ways these opportunities mirror those available in the mainstream game. You may be an enthusiastic grass roots player who likes nothing more than a kick about with your friends and enjoys the social aspect of this participation. Others may have ambitions to develop as a player and to potentially to play for their country – the good news is that the systems are in place for you access football at the level that meets your needs and aspirations.
The purpose of The Football Association’s Disability Talent Programme is to identify young players deemed to possess higher levels of ability and to place them in a developmental programme designed to produce football excellence in conjunction with personal development. The Pathway comprises of FA Disability Player Development Centres (PDC’s), FA Regional Impairment Specific Centres of Excellence and FA England Impairment Specific Development Squads.
The Pathway’s success is ultimately measured on the number of players progressing from County and Regional based programmes into National Development and Elite Disability Squads.
FA Disability Player Development Centres provide a higher level coaching opportunity for players that show signs of talent in grassroots club or school settings. PDC’s operate a 20 week programme and run for 1.5 hours per week and cater for players of 12-16 years of age. PDC’s should be seen as an additional coaching opportunity and should not be the players’ only exposure to football.
PDCs have a focus on recruiting players that can progress to Regional, National Development and Elite impairment specific squads as highlighted within The FA’s Disability Player Pathway and as shown below:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Partially sighted
- Learning Disability.
The FA supports FA Regional Impairment Specific Centres of Excellence for Blind and Partially Sighted Players as well as players with Cerebral Palsy
FA Blind Centres of Excellence have been developed utilising and building upon the existing Area / Regional Blind Teams. The aim of these Centres is to nurture, develop and provide regular, high quality and specialised training programmes for blind players. There is an Under 16 and 16+ Programme in each Centre supported.
Existing Regional Cerebral Palsy Teams (16+) have evolved to provide the FA CP Centre of Excellence Programme in Season 11-12. Regional Centres have identified and recruited an Under 16 Squad to complement the existing adult squad providing a direct route for players into the England CP Development Squad.
FA Regional Partially Sighted Centres of Excellence (Under 16 focus) have been developed across the country. Centres are based at high quality Futsal facilities with supporting programmes focused on the development of elite level ‘Futsal Players’. This provision is linked to Futsal Clubs participating in the FA National Futsal League (desired exit route) and the National Partially Sighted League (additional exit route). A Fixture Programme is provided for these Centres.
Players who have had their ‘Talent’ confirmed may be invited to attend England Impairment Specific Development Squads. Currently, these Squads have a focus on developing players under the age of 23 and cater for blind, partially sighted players, players with cerebral palsy and players with a learning disability. Involvement in an England Development Squad prepares selected players for full involvement in Elite Impairment Specific Squads.
At the pinnacle of the FA Disability Talent Pathway sits the England Elite Impairment Specific Squads for blind players, partially sighted players, players with cerebral palsy and female deaf players. These Squads compete in European and World Competitions on a cyclical basis. The FA also takes responsibility for the Great Britain Disability Football Association which in turn supports the participation of Great Britain Blind and Cerebral Teams in Paralympic Games.
Impairment Specific Provision
The importance of impairment specific provision relates to both the need to increase the number of players involved in appropriate formats of the game but also to further enhance the player pathway and support the effective identification of talented players.
Although County and Regional Disability Leagues provide ‘pan’ disability provision it is important to acknowledge the need for these structures to be complemented by impairment specific leagues. As of season 2011-12 there will be seven impairment specific leagues nationally – please see the Clubs & Leagues tab for further information.