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Jake lives his dreams through the LDSL

Our Inclusive Volunteering Media Club, have been working collaboratively on a project about the Learning Disability Super League (LDSL). It’s called Our Stories. The idea behind the campaign is to tell the unique stories of the players who play in the LDSL, aiming to spread awareness of the benefits to being a part of these incredible teams, and why more people with learning disabilities should try and get involved.

Our colleague Gareth Walker interviewed each participant to find out their stories. This is Jake’s.

Playing Rugby League for his beloved Warrington Wolves and developing his passion for media with some of the sport’s biggest stars – Jake Lindsay, is living his dreams, with the support of Community Integrated Care.

Jake holds a rugby ball, wearing a white rugby top and blue shorts with black leggings underneath. He stands on a rugby pitch, looking to his teammates.Jake, who has autism, has dramatically changed the direction of his life through playing in the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League (LDSL). This unique sport gives people the chance to play an adapted non-competitive version of the game for the clubs that they love and access a range of innovative programs and support from our charity to impact their lives off the field too.

From playing at St James’ Park Stadium to joining a Media Club that has seen him work with leading professionals and icons of the game, and now planning for his own radio show, Jake has enjoyed a journey that was once unimaginable.

By his own admission, Jake was apprehensive about playing rugby league when he was first introduced to the LDSL, a programme created by the charity in partnership with the Rugby Football League and Super League in 2019.

Jake explained how the inclusive and friendly format of the game soon eased his fears: “To get used to the ball coming towards me, my team-mates practiced with me before we started training. This helped ease my concerns, taking away my fright of the ball as it came towards me. This helped me to become a better player.

“Over time, I opened up more with my team-mates, and we’ve really bonded together.”

So much so that Jake now has a host of cherished rugby league memories that he will never forget, including scoring a try at Anfield stadium, the home of his favourite football team Liverpool, back when the sport made its debut at Magic Weekend.

He said: “There’s been so many great moments that it’s hard to choose one. Just the chance to get onto the pitch at Halliwell Jones Stadium and play in front of so many spectators cheering us all on was truly special.

“Then there was travelling up to St James’ Park for Magic Weekend, and Anfield a couple of years before. To play and score a try in front of the Kop was amazing, honestly there’s no other feeling like it.”

Jake’s rugby league story certainly doesn’t end on the field. Through playing in the LDSL, Jake was invited to be part of Community Integrated Care and Rugby League World Cup 2021’s world-first Inclusive Volunteering Programme. With projects designed around the personal aspirations of volunteers, and specialist mentoring, it represents a unique model of changing lives through sport while supporting over 350 people with learning disabilities.

A line of players wearing blue and yellow striped rugby tops, led by Jake, walk through two lines of players in black and white stripes rugby tops. The players from opposite teams are high five-ing each other as they pass.

Kurtis Marsh, Sports Inclusion Team Leader, who supported Jake through the charity’s online Media Club, said: “Jake is an exceptional journalist, with a brilliant mind for capturing a story. We’ve seen Jake nurture his passion for rugby league and his other interests, including content creation and writing. He developed his communication skills, which aided him when leading the social media coverage at numerous Learning Disability Super League festivals, capturing exclusive videos for his YouTube channel, ‘The Jake Lindsay Show’. He’s come so far, but we know this is just the start for Jake!

Jake explained: “Playing in the LDSL has not only helped me to make so many friends, but it’s also given me so many amazing opportunities to explore rugby league, like volunteering at the Rugby League World Cup.

“With support from the charity’s team, I’ve reported live at match days, including the Papua New Guinea v Cook Islands game and co-hosted official Women’s Super League press conferences, interviewing St Helens and England, star Jodie Cunningham. I’ve even chatted with one of the world’s greatest players, James Tedesco, and Australia coach Mal Meninga at the official tournament launch in Manchester. There are not many other sports that can provide opportunities like this!”

Jake is now planning on taking another brave step, helping to produce and host his own radio show, working with some of his friends from the Community Integrated Care Media Club.

When asked about what he would say to people considering joining a team, Jake said: “I’d say to anyone thinking about getting involved to give it a try – no pun intended there! If you don’t like it you don’t have to stay, but if you do enjoy it you can come to as many training sessions and tournaments as you want. It’s helped me to get out of the house and see a completely different side to myself I didn’t know I was capable of.”

Jake represents just one of hundreds of lives changed by the groundbreaking partnership between Community Integrated Care and the RFL – a relationship that is set to grow after the two organisations committed a long-term multi-year partnership extension.

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