Olivia Bennett, age 9, is a keen female footballer who plays for Seaford Town Disability Football Team. As well as training each week, Olivia also takes part in monthly fixtures held at Culver Road, Lancing in the Sussex Disability Football League. Olivia faces many barriers just to be able to play football and never lets these stop her. Below Olivia, her mum and Coach tell Olivia’s Story and what a motivating story it is:
At just 8 months old Olivia suffered with Pneuaccol Menigitis . Since then she has been diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardio Syndrome, Autonomic Dysfunction of her Central Nervous System (Dysautonomia) and she has a Low Immunity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
According to Olivia’s mum “Olivia has always loved football and is naturally very competitive but because of her condition she has to use lots of energy to concentrate and we have to ensure her body is constantly hydrated as this causes her throat to dry and has difficulty swallowing”
Playing in the Sussex Disability Football League has provided Olivia with an opportunity to get involved with Football at a level that suits Olivia’s needs. This League has given Olivia the confidence to stretch her boundaries and shorter match times allow her to “complete” a match without dehydrating and tiring too quickly. It would also seem that playing in this league has also helped her to realise anything is possible , so much so that her next challenge is to climb Mount Snowden in September 2018 to raise funds and awareness for her conditions and disability football team.
We were lucky enough to also speak to Olivia and she said “I like playing football because it gives me better health and fitness and I love my friends and Team-mates. I especially like my coach Mark, who has made me a better footballer. Playing in this league also means that I have the chance to play football with people who are all different”
Olivias Coach, Mark Argent has been the driving force behind Olivia’s ever growing confidence on the pitch and has developed such an inclusive team at Seaford Football Club that Olivia now has a comfortable and safe environment to develop as a keen footballer.
Mark had this to say about Olivia “From the beginning, we’ve all understood it would take a lot of time and patience, not only from Olivia but from Olivia’s team-mates and from me as a coach as well. We are a close-knit team and we support each other no matter what. The first part of the process was making Olivia fill part of the team even when she was feeling unwell and unable to play or train. From there we started of slowly only allowing Olivia to play 5 minutes a match and as Olivia got stronger and grew in confidence we were able to build this up to 5 minutes each way. During the games, I not only watch Olivia’s performance but I also watch signs for fatigue and we have an understanding that if she feels unwell she will tell me straight away”
Jade Harker (Sussex Disability Football League Secretary) Added “Watching Seaford come together as a team over the past season has been absolutely fantastic. Mark is an extremely supportive coach and by working with the league, Mark has taken his team to two Tournament Cup Finals where they were Winners and then Runners up, he has provided the team with an opportunity to play in a Tournament at Chelsea FC and has organised for Team Pro to attend the club to produce professional player profiles for the team”
If you have a disability or medical condition and would like to get involved with football there are many opportunities out there for you. Contact Jade Harker at Sussex County FA for more information jade.harker@Sussexfa.com
If you would like to sponsor Olivia’s Mount Snowden Challenge please click here :