4. CASTLE JUNIORS DISABILITY GROUP…
Being a representative of all corners of the community is key to Castle Juniors, and the club is proud to embrace this in the form of our disability section. With the support of trained coaches and volunteers, this allows for a world-class standard of integration, building up crucial life and social skills through football in the form of on-pitch communication and competitive action.
New members are always welcomed with open arms, training in the main hall of the Bangor Aurora building, partaking in practice drills and exercises followed by a five-a-side match over the course of an hour every Wednesday evening. Split into the junior and senior sections, the former is the focus from 6pm to 7pm followed by the latter from 7 until 8, with senior players given the chance to represent themselves and their club in a competitive league environment at Valley Leisure Centre in Belfast.
This opens up pathways akin to that of everyone else, being under the unified Castle umbrella, with opportunities to get into coaching down the line and thus influence the younger generations coming through, both on a personal and a playing level. Those who choose to travel up to play league matches can enhance their on-pitch ability, but also understand that a bad result is not the end, taking all their experiences on board in football and in life so to improve in their own way with the helping hand of the club’s coaches.
They pay in as with every other member at Castle Juniors, giving them that feeling of satisfaction that they are contributing directly to the club’s growth, improving the resources available to them and granting them a safe environment where their personality shines prominently. The players have the freedom to make new friends, to evolve in how they interact with others, with some of them present from the very start as they carry these skills into their educational and working lives.
In the past year, the club has tried out extra training sessions the match-playing contingent on astro-turf, the same setting as at Valley Leisure Centre, allowing for new exercises not originally possible in the main hall of Bangor Aurora where Wednesday training occurs. It gives a new sense of familiarity to proceedings, not just with a football and the field but themselves too, as both their ball control and communication grows. The club takes pride in on-pitch success, with trophy wins always valued, though even more so when we see our players succeed in life.
The aim is to put as much into one session as possible, teaching enough skills every week for each player to apply in the real world just as with everybody else, helping them generate friendships if they’re having a hard time doing so outside of the club. Should they choose to undertake a coaching course, their horizons are broadened yet further, and as they advance they can draw back on their experiences with Castle to see their way through new situations.
Through time, the disability sector has done the club proud, a delightful sight when players and personalities pull past their perceived constraints. They are guaranteed to learn new skills applicable both on and off the pitch, treated in the same way as any other member of the club with new members always welcome. Castle Juniors is committed to doing right by the community, giving those with disabilities the independence to express their true personalities and make new friends, likewise learning valuable life skills which they can incorporate as part of their daily lives.
By Lewis Bennett