Diabetes doesn’t have to be a barrier to athletic achievement. The Around U Sports Soccer Skills Days, organised by Bayer Diabetes Care and Diabetes.co.uk, are all about encouraging children with diabetes to realise their potential and not let their diabetes hold them back. Following on from the success of the West Ham United event last August, Diabetes.co.uk went to Liverpool expecting great things – and we weren’t disappointed!

The Around U Sports Soccer Skills Day on 08/08/09 was run in association with Liverpool Football Club Academy, and sponsored by Bayer Diabetes Care and Diabetes.co.uk. Over 100 children with type 1 diabetes , accompanied by almost 200 parents and siblings, arrived shortly after 9am to start their day. The day gives children the opportunity to get soccer skills training from Academy coaching staff, and play on the same training pitch used by their heroes.

This year, as well as the football training, the children were given a talk by professional snowboarder Chris Southwell , who has type 1 diabetes. His condition hasn’t stopped him living his dream, and this was the message he passed on to children. Representatives of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation , Professors Neil Hanley and Rayaz Malik, gave a fascinating talk to a packed house of parents and guardians. Understanding diabetes research can be really important for parents, and these educational speeches provided real insight into how the JDRF helps.

Out on the pitches intense training was underway! But a spirit of fun prevailed throughout. The youngsters played outdoors whilst the older children played on the Academy Astroturf, with the coaches running through a variety of soccer skills. The children were following in grand footsteps – both Michael Owen and Steven Gerard started their careers at the academy. The children remembered Academy Coach Phil MacDiarmid’s words to remember the ‘Liverpool Way’ – and held their heads high as they played a series of set piece skills exercises.

Don’t let diabetes stand in your way ’ was the theme of the day, and the children focused on immaculate control – on and off the ball. For children with type 1 diabetes , good blood glucose control is particularly important for ongoing health.

The Academy coaches were well briefed, and delighted in imparting their skills to the eager youngsters. Not only that, there were some genuine skills on the pitch, with many of the kids obviously passionate about football.

Over 25,000 young people under the age of 18 have type 1 diabetes, so support networks are particularly important. This kind of event helps to connect children with peers in a similar situation, not to mention providing support and reassurance. Furthermore, parents were able to talk with each other, and learn from the JDRF speeches. The children, who were selected for the event by Diabetes Specialist Nurses from around the country, had the benefit of meeting and sharing a day with over a hundred others.

Diabetes.co.uk were delighted to co-sponsor the event, which helps to promote the Bayer Diabetes Care Around U programme – launched in July 2008 to support children and young people living with diabetes. With the next Around U Sports Soccer Skills Day on 27th August at West Ham United, we are really excited to be playing a part in making such a great day possible for so many children.

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