Aylesbury coach with cerebral palsy hopes to inspire others in new role at Football Association

The 24-year-old was initially discouraged from playing sport, and now wants to make sure that doesn't happen to others with disabilities.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 2:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 2:52 pm

A coach from Aylesbury wants to use her experiences playing sports with a disability to inspire others in her new role with the Football Association.

Evelyn Roberts, has been appointed as the equality, diversity and inclusion Officer for Surrey Football Association.

The 24-year-old hopes her experiences as an athlete who competes with a disability will encourage others to participate in sport.

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Evelyn Roberts

She has cerebral palsy and changed her life after discovering wheelchair basketball by chance.

Evelyn completed a Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport degree at the University of Worcester, she worked as a PE teacher after graduating.

“I was very disengaged in sport when I was younger,” Evelyn said. “This is why I focus on how as an organisation we can reach all people. I’ll hopefully be making an impact and that’s massive because I really got engaged in sport by potluck.”

Evelyn was 12 when she was told to give wheelchair basketball a go by someone visiting her school.

She took to the sport like a duck to water, Evelyn added: “I didn’t know these things existed. I’ve been advocating for equality, diversity and inclusion across the board, which is why I wanted to go into PE because I wanted to target an audience disengaged with PE.

“But I realised I could only reach the students that I teach, so I wanted to do this on a much larger scale. I also realised that other groups wider than people with disabilities were experiencing difficulties.

"For me it was about expanding that message and a progression in sport, which was quite appealing. Surrey FA is responsible for developing all grassroots football across 20 leagues, including Disability leagues, 700 clubs, 4,000 teams and over 60,000 players. And that’s not to mention, 3,000 coaches and over 1,000 officials and a huge network of volunteers across Surrey.”

Evelyn's disability affects her lower body mobility, since first taking to the basketball court, she has been selected for Team GB training camps when only 16. She's also represented the under 25 GB wheelchair programme.

Not many universities offer a dedicated disability sport degree meaning the University of Worcester greatly appealed to the then sporty Bucks student. She combined her studies at the University with training with the GB senior squad, then based at the University of Worcester Arena.

Evelyn commented: “The specialist course was why I came. It definitely helps to have a specialist degree. I think the best thing about the degree that I did was the fact that anybody looking at my CV can see it was disability specific, which definitely helps me, with the opportunities I got.

"That paired with my lived experience and general passion, I think helps. At the point of starting the degree I didn’t have much awareness of invisible or mental impairments so it was good to learn from that perspective, but also the University had quite good links with futsal and blind football, so that helped in creating links and seeing what was out there.”