Monday, 10 April 2017

The man behind The Diabetes Football Community #GBDoc #Diabetes #DiabetesAndFootball #Doc

The Diabetes Football Community is a recently set-up support group with the aim "to encourage others to share and talk about their experiences with football and diabetes."

Chris set up The Diabetes Football Community following his experiences as a person with diabetes entering into the world of football. He felt there was a 'gap' in the support available to people with type 1 diabetes who want to play football professionally but also for those who play for fitness reasons or just for the love of the game. 
By sharing his story, knowledge and football industry insight, in addition to providing support, Chris believes this is the best way for those children and adults stepping into the world of football, to not let their diabetes stand in the way of them striving for success and to help them to achieve their dreams!

As this community continues to grow and develop, I thought it would be great opportunity to find out a bit more about Chris Bright, the man behind the Diabetes Football Community and to learn more about his personal journey in trying to achieve his footballing dreams, while dealing with some major challenges with his type 1 diabetes.

Here are the questions I asked Chris about his life with diabetes so far, and how this has shaped is career in football... 

Hi Chris, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions about yourself and The Diabetes Football Community. So to start off, would you mind telling me a bit about yourself?
Hi Ros, no problem. I'm happy to give people a bit of an insight. 
Well I'm Chris. I'm 26 years old and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 1999 at the age of 8. I'm a sports graduate, that works in the Buying Department for a large retail company with a side-life as a Futsal player & footballer.

So what made you decide to pursue your dream of playing football?

Ever since I came remember, I lived and breathed football. Most of my childhood was spent kicking a ball around on the streets with my mates and playing for my local Sunday League side (Kingfisher Colts). It was what all the kids did, all of the time, so I just enjoyed every moment of it and, like any other child, I dreamt of making it to the big time to play professionally for the team I support. 

Although I never quite made the grade of becoming a professional, I've not done badly at all in terms of what I've achieved. However the most important thing is I still enjoy playing the game. Without the enjoyment I get from it, it just wouldn't be the same. I will continue to pursue the dream of playing football regardless of the level I'm playing at, because it's what I enjoy doing, and until I stop enjoying it you'll see me out on the court or on the field playing. I'm hoping with a few more years ahead of me I can still go on to achieve more in both Football and Futsal. 

Thanks Chris. So you mentioned that you've had diabetes from the age of 8. How has diabetes affected your footballing dreams?
At the time of diagnosis, it scared the life out of me! I was an 8 year old boy who didn't have a clue what was going on, seeing his mom crying her eyes out while you're still none the wiser as to what the diagnosis means. It was very hard to watch my mom like that and my first thought was 'am I going to die?' Once I knew that wasn't the case....being me, my second thought was 'am I going to be able to play football still?

After a little while of adjusting to the diagnosis and settling into my new routine and life and some hurdles, it was about making diabetes fit into my life and football, and not the other way round! An important distinction to make i feel! If you focus too heavily on your diabetes, you can forget to live and to enjoy the things everyone else is doing. Granted you have to take more care, but I ensured I looked after myself and did as many normal things with my life as I could and my parents always encouraged it.

In some ways it added to the motivation and in other ways it's made it harder for sure. I think the 'chip on my shoulder' that I carry around with diabetes has made me want to defy it's constraints and prove people wrong. I honestly think that without having the condition I might not be as mentally strong or as determined as I am to achieve my goals. It's hardened me up and driven me to some of my successes, but at some points, I also think it has held me back in moments where I've needed it to remain stable. 
The complexity of the condition means you can never get it right all of the time but you just hope that in those moments where you need it to be perfect to allow you to perform, it does just that. I've struggled in a couple of important trials where my emotions have effected my diabetes and ultimately my performance on the day. With the way the control/ medication for the condition has come on in the last 5 years though, I think the opportunities for children that have type 1 diabetes to succeed in football has never been better, and I wish I was born 10 years later in some respects!

I don't begrudge the hardships of the condition and what it's added/ taken away from my life because I'm proud of what I've achieved and continue to achieve regardless. I now think that with the medication and methods of control currently out there and being developed, children growing up with type 1 diabetes have as good a chance as any to succeed. So make it happen!

Have you had to make many changes to your diabetes and daily regimes throughout your career?
Good question and the answer is I couldn't even count them as there's been that many! Probably the biggest change made was the move from mixture insulin at the age of 14/15 (10/11 years ago) to the Basal/ Bolus regime that so many diabetics are on now. It allowed more flexibility in my approach, greater stability and predictability which led to improved energy levels.

I make changes to the rest of my regimes all of the time and the key thing is to try and spot the patterns in what is causing you a problem and implement a change which you think will help. You have to be brave to improve and it's always been about trial and error for me. You learn from your experience and there's certainly been a few occasions where I've walked out onto a pitch at 2:55pm (5 minutes before KO) at 3 mmols thinking how on earth has it ended up like this? You rectify the situation, analyse where it went wrong and try and make sure it doesn't happen again. It sounds simple, but you have to be brave enough to see it go wrong sometimes and more importantly, to learn from it! I'm a big advocate of trying things to improve your performance, because if you don't try something, how will you know? All of this has been done though with the support and knowledge of my Health Care Professionals and Diabetes Specialist Nurse, so please seek advice before you start altering you medication or starting a new sport.

Great advice Chris. So over the years that you've been playing, what had been the highlight of your football career so far?
A difficult question for sure but I'll give you an answer for football and Futsal.

For Futsal, it's easy! Playing for Wales for the first time at the Newport Velodrome against Latvia. The game finished 0-0 which was a great result for us given the world rankings, and it was a huge occasion for me which I will always look back upon fondly and with great pride.

For Football, not quite so easy! A couple of good memories for me include winning Division 2A with the University of Worcester 1st team in 2011/12 and also getting the opportunity to play a Cup Final at the Ricoh Arena for Southam United in the 2014/15 season.

Hopefully I'll get to experience some more highlights, as I'm not finished yet!

I'm glad to hear it Chris! Who has been an inspiration to you in terms of football and diabetes, and have supported you on this journey?
Undoubtedly there have been some key figures within my life that I have drawn inspiration from, as well as with the support I've needed to manage the condition.

I think the most important people would have to be my family, whom without their support, guidance, encouragement and attitude towards the condition, I wouldn't have had the outlook I have on diabetes or would have taken the opportunity to play a sport I love and achieve so much. My mom and dad have been through it all with me and they are my rocks! They've given me everything I've needed to be able to do what I do and have always encouraged me to test myself regularly and to look after my diabetes. They really do deserve a lot of credit and I can't thank them enough for all their support.

Outside my family, there are probably three people that have helped me along the way. The first is a Diabetes Paediatrics Specialist Nurse, who still works at the local hospital supporting children growing up with type 1 diabetes, called Diane Cluley. In those difficult years as a child/ teenager and then a young adult she really supported me in keeping control whilst living my life and playing my football. She had a great attitude to how diabetes should be managed in children and this really set me up with the approach I have towards its management.

Then I would look to the role models who I looked up to and whom I wanted to emulate their success. This would be Gary Mabbutt and Sir Steve Redgrave. Both high profile type 1 diabetics who again inspired me to believe that my condition wasn't a boundary, and that I could get to where I wanted to go with my football.

So based on your experiences and the people who have supported and inspired you along the way, what words of advice would you give to any people with diabetes thinking about a career in football?
Believe you can do it! Diabetes shouldn't be a barrier to achieving your dream. Yes it requires some hard work and management but if you want it badly enough you'll go through the difficulties to get what you want.

In this day and age with technology as it is, and with the way the condition is controlled, it's really up to you to define the level you want to play at.

However, the most important thing is to enjoy your football regardless of whether you're playing for your local Sunday League Team or whether you're walking out in the Football League like Ben Coker who plays for Southend United.
As long as you enjoy playing, keep doing it. 

Definitely! Well we are getting to the end of my questions Chris. Any final thoughts you'd like to share?

Defy the odds! Diabetes doesn't have to be a barrier to your achievements, you set your boundaries not the condition.

Also, if anyone needs any support related to diabetes and football then please come and visit The Diabetes Football Community page on Facebook or ask us a question on Twitter.

Finally, thank you Ros (Type 1 Adventures) for asking me the questions! I hope it provides some useful insight to you and your followers.
--- Please visit and support The Diabetes Football Community group/ social media pages and also Chris by sharing his message and raising awareness amongst fellow people with diabetes.

A massive thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions 😊 and I wish him every success with his own personal football journey and with his plans for The Diabetes Football Community. it is great to see his work already being supported by Worcestershire Football Association. I look forward to seeing the successes in both areas of Chris' life in the coming years.

Thanks for reading a slightly different blog post from my usual one, but I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 💙

Until next time, keep injecting 💉 or pumping 📟 insulin!
Ros x

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