CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Coach Paul is in a league of his own

25-year-old determined to give footballers with special needs a chance to play

29 August, 2019 — By Steve Barnett

Paul Davis (in red tracksuit top) with footballers he coaches at Somers Town Community Sports Centre

A FOOTBALL coach who used his love of the sport to tackle his own mental health issues has started running free weekly sessions in a bid to “break down barriers”.

Paul Davis, who was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) four years ago, has teamed up with social enterprise Pro Touch SA to run training sessions for young adults with special educational needs (SEN) at Somers Town Community Sports Centre.

“I just love coaching football, and trying to help people with special educational needs tackle the challenges that they face in every day life,” said the 25-year-old who lives in Castlehaven, Camden Town.

“I was diagnosed with ASD when I was 21, which is quite late on in life. I guess I slipped under the net.

“Football allowed me to develop confidence, and helped me improve my mental wellbeing and actually have a social life. It teaches you a whole host of new skills, like communicating with others and how to work as part of a team. I work full-time in Sainsbury’s and I’m sure if I hadn’t started playing football with friends I would never have had the confidence to get the job.”

Describing himself as “100 per cent a Gooner”, Paul is no stranger to the pitch, playing regularly for Prospects Inclusive FC in the North London Special League, which is held once a month at Market Road in Islington.

Wendy Nguyen, who is an FA Level 1 qualified football coach, shows off her skills during a Pro Touch SA football session on Friday

The team came within a whisker of glory on the national stage earlier this year when they reached the semi-finals of the FA People’s Cup.

Paul is now sharing his experience with men and women aged 16 to 25 every Friday at Somers Town Community Sports Centre in Chalton Street between 6pm and 8pm.

Players take part in a series of fun drills aimed at improving passing, dribbling and shooting, and then play matches to put all their new-found skills into practice.

There is even talk of playing against other SEN teams from a host of professional clubs in the near future.

Paul added: “It makes me happy to be leading this project with Pro Touch. I want to make a real difference in the community, and support all the young people with learning difficulties, mental health issues and autism. Together we can break down barriers and make a real difference.

“It’s about giving young adults the chance to play football and, more importantly, the chance to be themselves and have the confidence to push on and achieve their goals in life. ”

To join the sessions call Paul on 07568 606 560 or visit @protouchsa on social media for ­further details.

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