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World Down’s Syndrome Day 2023: Meet the DS Eagles

Today marks World Down’s Syndrome Day, a day which aims to raise public awareness of Down’s Syndrome, challenge misconceptions, promote inclusivity and support the well-being of those with Down’s Syndrome. We take a look at what Down’s Syndrome is, how sport can benefit those who have it, and introduce our own team at Palace For Life.

What is Down’s Syndrome?

Down’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects around 1 in every 1,000 babies born in the UK. It occurs when there is an extra copy of chromosome 21, leading to changes in how the body and brain develop. People with Down’s Syndrome will have some level of learning disability – some will be more independent and do things like get a job, whereas others might need more regular care.

However, it’s important to recognise that Down’s Syndrome is just one aspect of a person’s identity. Like all individuals, people with Down’s Syndrome have their own unique personalities, interests, and abilities.

The reason why the 21st day of the third month is the designated date for World Down’s Syndrome Day is because it represents the triplication of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic anomaly that leads to Down’s Syndrome.

The theme for this year’s World Down’s Syndrome Day is ‘With Us Not For Us’, which is around viewing people with disabilities as having the right to be treated fairly and have the same opportunities as everyone else, working with others to improve their lives.

What role does sport play in supporting people with Down’s Syndrome?

People with Down’s Syndrome may have an increased risk of medical complications, such as heart defects, and playing sports can help them manage challenges like this.

Regular exercise can help improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as improve muscle strength, coordination and balance, which can be beneficial for those with low muscle strength and other physical challenges associated with Down’s Syndrome.

According to DS Active, in the UK there are almost 14 million disabled individuals, approximately 22% of the population. Research has found that disabled people aged over 16 are twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people (43% vs 21%).

Playing sports can help people with Down’s Syndrome with physical skills, but also allows them to develop their social and emotional abilities too.

Palace for Life and the Down’s Syndrome Eagles

We’re really proud that we are able to support south Londoners with Down’s Syndrome all year round thanks to our DS Eagles football sessions.

Our weekly sessions have been running since 2014, and since then, they have grown and grown.

We asked Disability Manager Michael Harrington what a typical session looks like:

“A typical session will start with plenty of energy – everyone turns up ready to go. We’ll get the footballs out early and start a warm-up. We’ll have a particular focus each week, which might be passing or shooting, and then we’ll finish off with a match.

The best thing about these sessions is that everyone is happy and they’re lots of fun. They come to us for an hour a week which is a good amount of time, and they have so much love for the game, they’re always pleased to see you and to be playing football and the parents are really happy too – It’s a wonderful thing to do”

We went down to a session last week to meet some of the team.

The DS Eagles are our all-star team when it comes to supporting the club. Last year, they rocked up to a first-team training session at Copers Cope road to rub shoulders with Patrick Vieira and some of the players.

And that’s not all – they even gave our Marathon Marchers a boost by handing out medals after their gruelling 26.2 mile walk for Palace for Life.

How can I find out more about Palace for Life Down’s Syndrome football sessions?

Our weekly sessions are based in Croydon and take place indoors. Sessions focus on skills such as passing, dribbling, and shooting, and improving the fundamentals of agility, balance, and coordination. There are also opportunities to play for the DS Eagles in friendly games and at National Festivals.

Weekly sessions are open to both boys and girls aged 8 and above and take place every Wednesday between 18:00 and 19:00 at Monks Hill Sports Centre (CR2 8HD).

To book? Email benperryman@palaceforlife.org

How can I support Palace for Life?

We’re really grateful for the generosity of our supporters and appreciate any donations. With your contributions, we can reach even more young south Londoners and help to give them the right tools to succeed.

If you would like to support our work, like the DS Eagles, please head here.

21 March 2024


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