Paul Nicholls was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014.  Paul has been very active on social media about the impact that the condition has had on his life – he says “People say that Parkinson’s may limit your life – but it depends where you put your limits.  You must keep moving and keep active as it really helps”.

Paul was a member of the We Are Undefeatable Virtual Walking Football team which was headed up by England Over 60s Manager Stuart Langworthy.  “Paul is a remarkable character – he sent me a video before we started the Virtual Walking Football sessions. I have to admit that it was such an eye opener for me.  He shuffled up to a football in his garden with 2 walking sticks. On reaching the football he transformed into a footballer – running around, dribbling and turning, until he was tackled by his dog and then, without the ball at his feet, he transformed back again into the shuffling Parkinson’s person.  I remember thinking, at the time, if a football can do this for Paul, what could Walking Football do for others who suffer with this condition”.  Stuart Langworthy

Paul then explained that he attended a regular Walking Football session near where he lives in Clacton-on-Sea and that the thing he loved most about it, was how ‘normal’ it felt, and just for that hour he would forget he had Parkinson’s..

Paul has since been drafted into the WFA family as Physio and has become part of Parkinson’s Sport UK.  He has made several great contacts, one of whom is John Roche who is based at Marine in Liverpool, who runs weekly Walking Football and Bowls sessions for people with Parkinson’s and people recovering from a stroke.

Between the two of them they came up with the idea of forming Walking football teams for people with Parkinson’s – one in the north and one in the south and that they would play against each other in order to raise the profile of the sport and the benefits it can provide for people with the condition.

Both Paul and John have seen and experienced, first-hand, the improvement in motor function for players with  Parkinson’s – not only during the game but also in the anticipation and reflection periods before and after the game during which scientists tell us dopamine production is enhanced. The creation of a disability Walking Football section within the WFA could be a significant step in both improving the physical and mental health of Parkinson’s sufferers and raising awareness generally.

In July, at Worcester, the annual Parkinson’s Games, which usually involves the Ray Kennedy cup – an international football tournament for people with Parkinson’s is taking place.  Unfortunately, this year, as a result of COVID, The Ray Kennedy Cup is not running, but the Games are going ahead and Walking Football, North v South, for people with the condition is going ahead as a showcase game – purely with the aim of raising the profile of the benefits of the sport, which will hopefully get more people playing for an hour a week. Hopefully, in the future, there will be sessions at established clubs just for Parkinson’s players, creating a community for people of all ages and abilities coming together through their love of football.

Charlie Appleyard, Sports Parkinson’s, says   “It is great to be including Walking Football at Sports Parkinson’s Summer Try-Athlon, of which the footballing competitions are the centrepiece at the Six Ways rugby ground in Worcester. As the main governing principle of Sport Parkinson’s is to be enable where we can and not to be ableist, we are hoping that the event will also allow people to see the great community teams, trainers and creators in action and learn about all the brilliant options to exercise the brain out there and get new contacts – but also to highlight opportunities for the needed development of relevant services.

The Walking Football team is a great example of the PD community working together to find their way to play”

Sports Parkinson’s Summer Try-Athlon – “Find your way to play” will be at the Worcester Warriors ground on the 24th of July, where the PD Community, friends and family will come together to find out how to get the all-important medicine of exercise – in the best way possible for them!

Paul said – “being involved with the England Walking Football teams is a dream come true for me – helping to get more people, suffering with Parkinson’s, up and active and feeling ‘normal’ for at least part of the week would be another dream for me.”

Author: The WFA