Growing our version of the beautiful game…
Jamie Webster is the general manager of a group of leisure centres in the south east, each of which provides walking football sessions to a loyal band of players. The development of walking football at his facilities could be considered as a microcosm of the sport at large, with soaring numbers of competitors and practically 100% retention rates. Here, Jamie writes about his experience so far.
Walking Football is very much an activity based around community and team spirit and somewhere that the tea and coffee after the game is appreciated just as much as a screamer in to the top corner. I’ve been fortunate to watch the game develop from initial taster sessions into what is now a flourishing network, with games taking place across the South Bucks and Chiltern areas.
I think one of the major factors behind its success is the fact that it is completely inclusive. Both men and women can play together and, while it is aimed at players 50 years old or over, there is no upper age limit so you can play for as long as you feel able to.
Many of our players have reported health benefits – we’ve had individuals come to us to help them with conditions such as diabetes or movement issues, but equally others who have used it to get fit or to simply exercise in an enjoyable environment. Others, of course, simply have football in the blood and this is another way they can continue to enjoy the sport they love.
Different people want different things from the game, but walking football is something that they can come together and enjoy as a group.
Part of the reason for this is that walking levels the playing field. This makes for a fun, competitive game for everyone that places a premium on accuracy and technique, rather than your physical condition.
Not that the sport is easy, as I’m sure you’re aware! Walking football works your heart and lungs. It exercises your muscles and moves your joints. It’s one of those activities that both your mind and body will be glad you took up – and while we’re at it your GP will probably be quite pleased too!
Of course, one thing we do find is that walking football can be quite addictive. Once people start coming along we do tend to find they keep on attending every week, with very low dropout rates – which speaks volumes for how much players enjoy it when they get here.
For that reason, I think walking football will evolve over the next few years to become a huge part of how we stay healthy. Through my work, I see the benefits among its’ community all the time. I know players who have lost weight helped very much by now playing regularly and others who are controlling diabetes through participating.
There are those who have regained movement because they have got themselves out there on the pitch, while I know plenty who have simply rekindled their lifelong love of playing football because of it.
Its a fantastic sport and one that I can only see growing over the coming months and years.