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Coach Mary Barnett named Community Captain

Palace for Life coach Mary Barnett was awarded her Community Captain armband, frame and pennant before the weekend’s match against Burnley, as part of the Premier League’s More Than A Game campaign. Her award is in recognition of her dedication to a huge number of programmes and fundraising efforts for Palace for Life over the last three years.

Clubs across the Premier League, EFL and National League are naming a Community Captain, somebody at the heart of their Premier League-funded programmes who deserves recognition for their commitment and contribution to the game and society.

Mary was presented her award by players on the Women’s Walking Football Team before Palace’s 3-0 win against Burnley on Saturday. She has been with Palace for Life since 2021 when she first joined us as a participant on our Women’s Walking Football Team. After taking part and noticing that she had what it takes to be a coach, she became a regular fixture on our coaching schedule and has, at one point or another, delivered on nearly all programmes we offer, and organises and participates in a number of fundraising activities, like our Marathon March and quiz nights.

Mary was presented her award by players on the Women’s Walking Football Team

Mary’s award is part of the Premier League’s ‘More Than A Game’ campaign, which aims showcase how its wide-ranging investment into all levels of football enables people connected to clubs to have a positive impact on their local communities.

Mary’s story began when she signed up for our Women’s Walking Football sessions which take place at the Crystal Palace Academy every Thursday. She loved it so much that when she saw a job opening for a Sessional Coach, she applied for the role and got stuck into delivering a wide range of programmes such as Premier League Kicks, Premier League Primary Stars, Disability and Pan Disability sessions, Adult Health, NCS, and Holiday Camps.

Over this period, Mary built up her coaching abilities, working with a wide-range of participants from different ages and environments. This experience led her to take on the role of lead coach on the very first programme she joined us as participant on: the Women’s Walking Football Team.

Mary has created an inclusive, supportive and fun environment for the team, and when not training on Thursday nights, they can often be found doing a pub quiz together, watching the Lionesses and taking part in fundraising activities, which help us put on even more programmes for youngsters in south London, like Premier League Kicks.

If you didn’t think Mary already did enough, she’s also a matchday volunteer, running the football competition in the Fanzone before every home match which helps to engage and introduce young matchgoers to our work.

By creating such an inclusive culture at Women’s Walking Football, Mary has upskilled her own coaching skills. In a story from last year, Mary spoke about one of her players, Rosa, who is hard of hearing, and how she has helped Mary to adapt her coaching style:

“We have an inclusive culture at our Women’s Walking Football sessions and welcome players of all abilities. Coaching Rosa has been great and has helped develop my coaching style. Rosa’s hearing impairment has given me the opportunity to develop my coaching skills by adapting my delivery style by explaining drills on a whiteboard rather than verbally.

Over the past few months I have seen Rosa grow in confidence, learn the rules of the game and principles of play. She has adapted well and integrated into the group; enjoying the benefits of fitness, fun and social aspects which these sessions provide. Rosa, the group and myself have all really benefited from her addition to our inclusive group session

Rosa said:

“Mary is so lovely. She comes over and has a chat with me to make sure I know what I’m doing. I also always try and stand opposite her so I can lip-read and listen to her the best I can. The ladies are also a lovely bunch, really welcoming and inspiring. When playing games, they shout my name a little bit louder, and that really helps as I know the ball is being passed to me.”

Since joining Palace for Life, Mary and her Walking Football Team have completed our annual Marathon March, which is a 26.2 mile walk around our home in south London, and have raised over £10,000 in the process.

The Premier League supports football at every level of the game in England and Wales, providing world-leading investment in clubs, communities and facilities to positively impact the lives of millions of people.

We’d like to thank Mary for her incredible work over the last three years and hope she loves her Community Captain armband, frame and pennant.

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