Ben Sutton is paving the way for future players with his role in the NSFA Pararoos Development Centre. With a passion for change and equality, this Pararoo from North Sydney United is hungry to create an influential path for the next generation.
The Pararoos Development Centre was founded by NSFA to create playing opportunities for children with Cerebal Palsy. Sutton connected with NSFA CEO, Edward Ferguson, to introduce the initiative.
“The Pararoos Development Centre (PDC) was created after we had a successful tournament in Argentina to create the pathway for the younger generation to hopefully get into the Pararoos,” said Sutton.
“This idea of the PDC was thought of by NSFA CEO Ed Ferguson, as his brother Tom was doing a documentary on our tournament in Argentina at the end of 2016. As I was working in North Sydney United at that time, Ed asked if I would like to help alongside two of my Pararoos teammates, Ben Atkins and Taj Lynch.”
The program aims to create an equal, fair environment where the players can feel comfortable and accepted. Sutton believes that this is the reason as to why the centre has had so much success.
“Honestly, I think it has a huge impact on the players as you can see the improvement of the players, and an environment where the players can be themselves and not worry about being judged.
“You could see this at the last [Pararoos] home game, where all the PDC players were ball boys and ball girls and walked out with the pararoos players before we played Canada in 2019.”
Ben started his football career at Seaforth FC before moving to USA to continue his journey. He is now a part of the coaching team at North Sydney United, where he spent his time playing as a kid. Ben states his passion and desire to make a change was driven from his own personal football experiences whilst growing up.
“I started playing Cerebral Palsy football at the age of 12 and that changed my life. The reason why I got into coaching was because of the experience I had when I first came into the NSW Cerebral Palsy setup, and I wanted that experience for the younger generation. I had an idea when I was about 15 or 16, it was to create an opportunity for children with cerebral palsy to play football like I did with the NSW team.”
Alongside the PDC, Ben is a part of the national Pararoos team. After years of hard work and determination, Ben is making his mark on the team. Alongside their busy playing schedule, the Pararoos have been participating in fundraising events to raise awareness of Cerebral Palsy.
“I was in and out of the Pararoos set up since 2012, but finally got my chance to make my case for a spot in the team in 2017. I have now played at a world championship in Argentina in 2017 and a world cup in 2019 in Spain.”
“We just had a very successful camp in Sydney where we played some youth NPL teams and now we are preparing for a potential tournament next year. We had our very first giving day where we were about to raise $40,000 which was matched by a donor, so the total came to $80,000 and all the money went towards our nationals which is coming up later this year.”
Given the success of the PDC, Ben has a desire for the program to achieve more. He explains the long-term plan and this vision of the centre for the future.
“We run the PDC once a month at NTRA and my plan is to try and make the pararoos development centre a full-time role and like a club where kids can come and play and train together, and then go into a local competition. Most of the kids who come to the PDC don’t play club football and I want to change that and make available for everyone play.”
“Also having more and more Pararoos players coming and coaching the players would be great. I would like this to be all over Australia within the next 5-10 years. The more PDCs we can have, the better it is for football.”
Currently Pararoos Development Centre sessions are suspended due to COVID restrictions. Keep an eye on the NSFA website and social media channels for information once football resumes!