BFL founder carves out new place in the game

As one of the founders of Balloon Football League (BFL), Adam Barry has been involved in the game for 23 years.  After playing for the Wheelie Saints for two decades, Adam decided to concentrate on developing his skills as an official.

Communication challenges

With our Community Inclusion team and volunteers by his side, Adam progressed from boundary to main umpire. However, this move hasn’t been without challenges; the most immediate involving communication.

Adam has always been resolute in using his spell board. However, to retain the flow of the game and to ensure players understand his decisions, he had to adjust his communication style.

An opportunity to collaborate

Brothers Andrew and Sam Micheal with the communication board they designed for Adam
Brothers Andrew and Sam Micheal with the communication board they designed for Adam

When brothers Andrew and Sam Michael, students of Caulfield Grammar, began their community service program with Scope, they were keen to find out more about BFL. Once they learned about Adam’s challenges, the brothers set themselves a task to create a communication board for him, using their Disability Awareness and Tools2Talk training.

Both brothers are footy players and one has umpiring qualifications. Adam worked with Andrew and Sam to develop a communication board tailored to suit his umpiring needs.

Andrew and Sam began by observing Adam umpire. They consulted him to discuss what would be required, then used the Tools2Talk Now app to produce two picture board concepts.

Adam was impressed with what the boys produced and is currently trialing the boards. He says that it has already made a positive difference in how he communicates his decisions.

Adam says he felt an immediate connection with Andrew and Sam. They were easygoing, respectful and were willing to put their new training skills into practice. He says the project has been a good experience for all of them.

“I helped them learn about different communication methods. They then made a communication board that will help me efficiently umpire BFL games,” he said.

“I am proud of the work I did with the boys.”

In recognition of this work, Andrew and Sam Michael received the Community ‘See the Person’ Award.

By taking the time to learn and understand what Adam needed, the students helped Adam achieve his dream of being an umpire for the Balloon Football League.

Challenging mindsets and expectations

Adam with Andrew and Sam Micheal
Adam with Andrew and Sam Micheal

Community Inclusion Manager Emily Buxton-D’Arcy says Adam’s decision to umpire has tested the attitudes and mindsets of people involved in BFL.

“He has provided opportunities for everyone to learn and appreciate what it means to make reasonable adjustments so people with multiple and complex disability can build their capacity to lead,” she said.

As a visionary of BFL, Adam has taken on his pathway in leadership with enthusiasm and dedication.

“Adam’s demonstrated empathy and patience as a mentor, providing the opportunity for two young people to gain insight to the challenges, abilities, goals and aspirations of people with multiple and complex disability.”

Adam was awarded the Customer Leader Award at the Scope Annual Awards, recognising the leadership he’s shown in his journey to becoming a BFL official.