The Parimatch Foundation and the indomitable and inspirational coaches of the Yes I Can! and Sports Mentor programs continue to tell the stories of those who, despite all the difficulties of wartime, devoted themselves to children and their sports activities.
Andriy Skumin is a young and always smiling coach of the Yes, I can program that became possible thanks to the cooperation of FC Podil children school and Podil district Sports for All center. The program helps children with disabilities engage in various sports with the help of experienced coaches. This project is an essential part of Ukrainian society because it draws attention to issues related to ensuring barrier-free access to sports.
The coach says that before the war the training program was held regularly. Children with disabilities could try different sports like football, floorball, and badminton. Everyone chose the direction they liked the most and then attended training as part of the Yes, I can program.
We were warned but got shocked anyway
Andriy recalls that FC Podil head coach and director of Podil district center of physical health of the population Sports for all Roman Marchenko warned about the danger a day before the full-scale invasion and told about the well-equipped bomb shelter based at the Sports for All center. But despite this, the explosions on February 24 were not felt as the beginning of hostilities in the Kyiv region.
— My family lives near the Retroville shopping center. When we heard the explosions, we evacuated to a safer region, but when we learned about an enemy rocket hitting the shopping center, we worried about our home. Fortunately, the construction fence near the shopping center saved our windows from the blast wave, – shares Andriy.
A month and a half later, Andriy returned to the Kyiv region and wanted to see the training center he works at. Andriy rode his bike around the Arena Stadium and felt the urge to resume training.
— In addition to my wish to resume training, I was very encouraged by my students’ parents. I posted a short video of our stadium in the chat and received many messages that the children were very eager to resume training. I wished the same because football and coaching are my life. When we received the final permission to resume classes, everyone was happy, – says Andriy.
We always feel support, but now children need it as much as possible
Parents visited the first training sessions of their children after their renewal. Although the coach says he doesn’t allow parents to be present at the classes but now when in the time of constant sirens and anxiety, parents not only watch children’s pieces of training, but also work with them, help, and hold their hands. They could also see a well-equipped modern shelter. The coach tells them that they were extremely lucky as their pieces of training were interrupted by the air raid alarm just once.
Those were the tough months without training for Andriy as he used to do sports and said “I always have to be there where the ball is”. It was easy to come back to the training routine as the body remembers all the loads, but the moment of coming back to the stadium was quite exciting.
It was also important to restore the level of support that the young students of Yes, I can! Program needed. They always feel support, but now children need it as much as possible. And sport gives it. Sport helps a lot, because it is, to some extent, psycho-emotional relief.
– We all didn’t move a lot during the first month but did some exercises with the ball, motor exercises, and teamwork – all of this makes the brain work differently, and adds strength not only for one day but for the whole week. We support each other a lot, always give “five”, joke and smile. And after training sessions, we always share what we liked. We recently tried the game “frozen”. It’s a game for toddlers but our students liked it so much, – the coach says with a smile.
I always say that if today is difficult, tomorrow will be much easier
Colleagues and friends often ask Andriy whether it is difficult for him, a young coach, to work with children with disabilities. The answer is always the same: children are children. It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not. According to Andriy, the public organization “See with the Heart” helped him a lot with Yes, I can! Program training. There he learned the peculiarities of communication, acceptance, and patience. And then transferred this knowledge to the training process.
– I don’t feel like a sports coach, my dream is to be a good example for children. With my work, my worldview. It is not just a job for me but my calling. My task during training is not only to develop the child’s physical abilities but also to understand and feel them. What is this child feeling today? I always make it to the end of the training, no matter how difficult it is. I always say that if today is difficult, tomorrow will be much easier.
Andriy says that he never took the child out of training and never shouted. Нe tries to choose the appropriate intonation for each child, he already knows how to have a conversation with kids, so that the words and advice work. He is sure that all his students are wonderful, and no matter how tired he is after the tournaments, he always tries to conduct training at the appropriate time.
The main advice for parents is to accept your child
When you ask Andriy to share his advice on sports activities with children with disabilities, the young coach suddenly pauses and very seriously says that he has only one piece of advice.
– Please accept your child. The acceptance by parents of their own child’s characteristics opens up a wide range of his possibilities, Andriy is sure.
As for physical exercises, Andriy Skumin advises not to delay and devote time to warm-up every day: stretch in different directions, walk on your toes, jump, and stretch your back.
And the most important thing that the coach advises: do not tell children how to do exercises. Do them with the child. A child perceives physical exercises much better when an adult does everything with him. But be sure to praise your child for his efforts. After all, you have the best kid!