Oxford City Casuals won 'Best Programme for People with Disabilities' at the National League end of season ceremony on Saturday 10 June. As well as a trophy Director of Football Justin Merritt and Brian were presented with a cheque for £5,000.
Justin Merritt and Brian Cox receiving the award
Oxford City were shortlisted alongside Stockport County and Sutton United from the 68 teams who make up the Vanarama National League and National League North and National League South. The award was judged on programme of physical and social sessions provided for players and the impact on children and adults with disabilities and in the local community.
At training Manager Mark Heelis and Oxford City FC Chairman Brian Cox addressed players, volunteers and parents to celebrate the fantastic achievement. Thanks to our amazing volunteers there was also cake and refreshments to toast the prestigious award.
Casuals Manager Mark Heelis said "This recognition means so much to everyone associated with Oxford City football club, but in particular with our Casuals volunteers, players, parents, partner organisations and community links. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible".
Some of the Casuals players and volunteers celebrating their success
Who are we
The Oxford City Casuals are a pan-disability team. We pride ourselves on providing a fun, friendly and safe environment to help improve our players social and physical wellbeing through football. We promote the physical well being of our players through regular training sessions, participation at tournaments and social events.
Oxford City Casuals Nomads at the FA Peoples Cup, February 2017
Oxford City Casuals players at Wembley in May 2017
Impact in the community
As well as supporting individual player needs we recognise and take pride in the important role we play in our local community in Oxford.
We take opportunities to join up with our disability partner organisations and colleges and universities. One example of our wider role in our local community is with St Clare's college, a college for international students. We have been working with St Clare's for many years providing volunteer placement for foreign students to integrate into the local community, give something back and learn life enhancing skills themselves.
Celia Angel has been volunteering with the Casuals since it started in September 2003. Celia has seen many impacts the Casuals has had locally. One example is where we have “strengthened the links between parents, players, carers, volunteers and the community”. Celia went on to say “We provide a physical time and place for people to meet, to talk, to socialise, not just to play football. Many players hang around after the session is finished, just to chat to their friends”.
Celia centre with the award alongside by Oxford City Casuals volunteers
It isn’t just a community for our players, Celia explains “We also provide a place for parents to give and receive support but also to hear other peoples experiences and to pick up tips about places, processes, admissions policies, etc to better inform parents and to reduce the feeling of isolation amongst parents”
Making a difference
We regularly gather feedback from players, their parents and support workers and from the volunteers. That way we can continue to provide inclusive football in our local community.
Sam Auty described how Casuals has made to her son George Auty who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of ASD as “socially, there is an enormous benefit. Rules for George are firm and he is supported to follow these rules and enable him to socialise with other children and with adults. He is still finding this a challenge, but is developing in this area”
James Simister has a moderate learning disability; autistic spectrum disorder; difficulties around language and social communication. His mother Sarah Simister explained that the Oxford City Casuals is an “opportunity to increase physical fitness and to socialise with people outside school and home”.
Deborah Turner says that her son Jake Tombs who is epileptic and has learning difficulties “loves playing football and joining the Casuals allowed him to. He loves going to the social activities which I think makes him feel part of the community”
Chris Cillen, father to Cameron who suffers from Down's syndrome explained “Cameron enjoys his time at the casuals immensely and is determined to go every week without fail. Overall it has developed his confidence and physical ability and skills as well as interaction with others. It's great for him too to mix with others of all abilities”.
Thank you to everyone involved with the Casuals who made this award possible.
If you would like to be part of our award winning team whether as a player or volunteer please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oxford City Casuals Manager