Partially-sighted footballer Bailey Pack of North West Scorpions FC tells his story

North West Scorpions' youngster Bailey Pack writes for as they prepare for their FA Disability Cup Partially Sighted Final against their old foes from Birmingham...

Tuesday 11 Jun 2019
Bailey Pack featured in last year's Partially Sighted Final at St. George's Park and won it in 2019

To be involved in the FA Disability Cup Final at St. George’s Park for the second successive season means a lot.

It’s a chance to play at a fantastic venue with lots of people watching and also a chance for me to show what I can do on the court. We lost against Birmingham last year, but we play them again this time with confidence of reversing that result.

And it’s also a chance to show the children who I coach and those who look up to me, that there is a chance of success and that you can make it to the top level of the game no matter what your disability is.

Taking part and being involved with partially sighted football has given me the chance to play in an inclusive environment and ensures that I can compete in an atmosphere where people around me understand the limitations I may have visually.

The North West Scorpions are back in the Final this year, hoping to go one better this time

It’s also led to me pushing on and developing my technical ability but also socially and improving my confidence.

We come into the Final having just won the league and cup double this season, which is a fantastic achievement for the team and I’ve just been named the Partially Sighted Football League Division One player of the year.

This is a great achievement for me after coming up against some fantastic players within the league, many of who play for the England national team and being involved with that squad is one of my big goals for the future.

As for my own football story, it all began when I was seven and started to play for Spirit of Youth JFC in Blackpool after being invited along by a schoolfriend.

I played for a few months, but when it got towards the spring and summer, I struggled to see a lot on the pitch as my eye condition impacts on light sensitivity.

My parents, who are also partially sighted, recognised that I would benefit in wearing sport goggles with a dark tint to help me to see better when playing in the latter months of the football season.

We played Birmingham in last year's Final and it was a great experience for me

And once I was able to use these, I began to flourish and play some good football with a really talented group of players before I was invited to the Lancashire FA’s player development centre and then the north west’s partially sighted centre of excellence.

It meant training with players much older than me and a lot of travelling after school, but my parents were very committed as I continued to develop.

I really grew up with the centre of excellence too and in 2013, we were crowned as national champions which was a fantastic achievement for us all.

In the following season, I was made captain of the team as the transition was made from being an all partially-sighted team to being partially sighted and hearing impaired. It was a completely new team with only three players from the previous season being able to play but with guidance of the coaches, I was able to make impact within the team. This led to furthering my ability both on and off the court within my leadership skills.

I continued playing grassroots football at Spirit of Youth but as I reached the 11v11 game, I found it harder to cope with seeing the whole pitch, especially as a winger. So at the end of the 2016-17 season, I decided to call it a day on my 11v11 days after playing for Spirit of Youth for nine seasons.

It was then when I really focused on Futsal, as ever since first playing it at the centre of excellence, I always felt it was the format of the game that best suited me.

I enjoy how fast it is and how physically demanding it is, but also how it suits the level of vision I have as I’m able to see most of the court. It’s helped me develop technically but also psychologically, giving me a lot of confidence to express myself on the court in a way I could’ve never done if I just played 11v11 mainstream football.

Playing for the Scorpions has allowed me to test myself against some of the best partially sighted players in the country

It’s meant I can meet and play with players that have similar problems as me and there is an understanding of each other's capabilities.

This is when I was brought in to the senior partially sighted football league, where I’ve played for North West Scorpions for three seasons now.

Aside from playing, I’m also keen on coaching and in 2014, I completed my FA Youth Leaders Award at the Lancashire FA and have since got my Level One and am working towards Level Two.

It started with a view to helping to coach my brother’s age group, which at the time was the youth development team at Spirit of Youth, for 3-6 year olds.

This led me to wanting to coach his team when he reached the U7s and both me and my dad, Dan, took on the team and have now been co-managers for two seasons with two teams in this age group.

With the support of North West Scorpions, we’ve been able to introduce a youth system with a number of Futsal teams in different age groups who are competing in the FY:FUTSAL league in Blackpool as well as their own academy, who provide Futsal provisions for kids aged four and above.

But this weekend, it’s all about the Cup Final, and we can’t wait to get there.

By Bailey Pack North West Scorpions FC