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South London stories: Meet Ruari

Ruari shining for the Foundation's DS Eagles football team

Ruari Coyne from South Croydon has Down Syndrome, and is one of the numerous participants who has greatly benefited from participating in Palace for Life’s weekly Down’s Syndrome football sessions and from playing for the Foundation’s DS Eagles Football Team. He is an ardent Crystal Palace supporter and regularly attends games with his Dad, having both been season ticket holders. Whilst he enjoys playing football as much as he does spectating football, Ruairi only occasionally played football at school or in the park, as he had very few opportunities to play football with other children who have Down’s Syndrome.

That all changed when he received a letter from DSActive about Palace for Life’s weekly football sessions at the Monks Hill Sports Centre in South Croydon on Wednesday evenings. When Ruairi first joined, he had delayed communication skills, which meant he initially found it challenging to interact with the coaches and other children at the session. In addition, he had limited fundamental gross motor skills in relation to agility, balance and coordination. Nevertheless, he continued to attend the sessions every week, which has resulted in significant strides in his physical literacy since he joined.

Ruairi’s mother, Valerie, believes that the Foundation’s structured football sessions has had a profound impact on his personal development:

“Ruairi looks forward to his weekly sessions and thoroughly enjoys meeting with his teammates to play football. He has become much more social and keen to interact with players, parents and staff. He has improved his football skills, coordination, muscle strength and social skills through playing football with Crystal Palace DS Eagles. Ruairi has also learned how to be part of team, which helps him when he participates in events at school. Most importantly, he has increased his self-esteem, and consequently has become more independent, confident and mature.”

The Foundation’s football sessions have also supported Ruairi’s confidence to communicate with his friends in school. As there are many Crystal Palace supporters that attend his school, Ruairi has become able to articulate his experiences to his school peers about representing Crystal Palace in events and tournaments, which include attending the Crystal Palace FC Disabled Supporters Party in December 2017 and meeting the first team players and Roy Hodgson.

“I had so much fun at the Supporters Party. My favourite moment was meeting Yohan Cabaye!” Ruairi stated.

Palace for Life’s Disability Officer, has also noticed Ruairi’s growth as an individual through participating in the Foundation’s sessions:

“Ruairi is an absolute pleasure to coach. Every week when he arrives to the session he greets every single person. As he continues to expand his understanding of football, he is gradually building resilience and teamwork skills, which he evinced through the friendly against Millwall a few weeks ago. It is fantastic to see him developing both his football skills and soft skills through the Foundation’s football sessions.”

Ruari was Made in South London.

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