As Stevenage FC Foundation Walking Footballers make their inaugural appearance in the National Walking Football League, Stevenage stalwart Jonathan Sinfield caught up with to talk about the benefits he's seen from being involved in the game.

Player Profile
:  Jonathan Sinfield
Age: 61
Location: Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Walking Football Club Name:  Stevenage Football Club
Favourite Position:  Defence, sweeper
How long have you played Walking Football?  3 years, since November 2014

Why did you first get involved with Walking Football?

Received an email from my son Andrew’s club, Harpenden Colts, that Walking Football was coming to Hertfordshire.  As a ‘lover’ of football I expressed an interest & as they say the rest is history!

How many times a week do you take part in Walking Football sessions?

Three to four

Can you let the readers know about your Walking Football sessions in regards of which age group are they for, are they male only, female only or unisex sessions?

Age range normally from late 40s to 70s.  None of the sessions I attend are designated male only, however in the main they are.  The sessions, culture & ethos of clubs I play for vary considerably.  Different sessions at the same Club can be said to be more competitive and in some regards more physical.  My advice to anyone considering the game would be to find a Club & session that meets their expectations.

When you play a game of Walking Football do you play to the WFA / WFU or FA rules and why did your club decide to follow those rules of the game?

This has been a great challenge in the past, initially there was an absence of ‘agreed rules’ & subsequently tournament organisers would cobble together a set of rules as they saw fit.  But today we have the WFA Rules which are ‘from the ground up rules’ specifically designed for Walking Football.  They are not a set of rules that say just modify or tweak 5 a side rules or the rules of Association Football.

Describe the buzz you get having the opportunity to play a team sport again at your age?

It has been life changing …. I still dream of playing for England! Great comradery and exercise.

What one or two things do you currently do in your training sessions that you think are important to avoid injury?

Warm up exercises are for me the most important, in particular calf & hamstring stretches.  I learnt the hard way!  The other word of caution is keep hydrated, with regular fluid intakes.

Have you played competitive Walking Football, if so which tournaments / leagues?

I have played in a fair number of tournaments and friendlies.  One of the most memorable was one where we took a couple of Stevenage Teams to play at the Etihad, Manchester.  Because of the distance involved we made a couple of days of the adventure taking in the National Football Museum, Big Sam’s favourite Italian restaurant and a tour of the Etihad itself.  My stated aim was to score against Man City and catch Pep’s attention but alas on this occasion it was not to be nevertheless I did score against the mighty Rochdale.

Has your diet changed since you have started playing Walking Football?  If so, what is different?

Yes, partly because of Walking Football & also as a result of taking up the Shape Up programme organised by Watford FC Sports & Community Education Trust. In short, I lost a fair amount of weight & now monitor this on a regular basis. Exercise is key to this & for me this is Walking Football.

Do you feel fitter and healthier since you have started playing Walking Football and if please describe how?

I have more energy & what a great form of stress relief!

Can you describe any injuries you have suffered when playing Walking Football and can you let the readers know how they were caused?

For the first time I suffered from Plantar Fasciitis which is chronic heel pain.  Possibly aggravated by playing on a hard gym floor at a local school.  After some months I am now clear of this but much prefer to play on more forgiving surfaces such as the 3G pitches at Stevenage. Another reason to work on those calf stretches!

Do you always have a club member present who has had first aid training at your games and training sessions, and is there a defibrillator available if needed?

Certainly, this is the case at Stevenage.

Has your social life changed since you started playing, and if so in what way?

Yes, and most recently when I recently visited southern Spain, I had read an article in the press about and contacted the founder Adam Chandler. I consequently played in two games & attended a very lively Paella party all in the space of a week!

Playing the game itself is social….the interaction and banter etc.  

Does your club or facility where you play Walking Football hold any social or charity events connected with Walking Football and if so what were they?

At Stevenage we have a Christmas get together & as mentioned previously we undertook an away trip to Manchester with some fond memories. At Watford my son & I played in a fund raiser for a self-employed player who was injured and was unable to work for a number of weeks. In view of the success, raising near £2,000, there are plans to make this an annual charity fund raising event.

What are your best and worst memories of playing Walking Football?

My best memories are playing every week with a group of likeminded individuals. Special moments include half time demonstration games at both Stevenage & Watford. The fans at both Clubs appreciated our efforts & joined in the fun with appropriate chants and applause. Interesting playing in front of over 20,000 people, I’m sure the coach of WBA thought I could sure up their defence in the second half.

I can’t say there has been a bad memory playing Walking Football but on very rare occasions I have heard other players lambast their fellow players, to me this isn’t on and goes against the spirit of the game. We should be inclusive and encourage all.

How else has playing Walking Football affected your life?

It’s fun, a challenge and great exercise. Friends who do not play have become very curious….I tell them it’s not a bit like the bank advertisements shown on television a year or so ago.

What do you like most about Walking Football?

Playing football, the game I am passionate about, played in a safe and controlled away with a low risk of injury.

What do you like least about Walking Football?

Currently the absence of trained referees and coaches adhering to WFA rules. Particular concerns over running & physicality.

Do you find it difficult NOT to run and what advice could you give someone in how to remain at walking pace?

Yes, at first it is difficult not to run especially if the coach / referee is not calling up players for this.  My advice is if it looks like a run it probably is running. Note the front leg during the action….Straight with the heel planted first….likely to be a walk, bent…..a run (as a general rule). Worth a google search of “Heel to toe walking”

What are your goals for the future when playing Walking Football?

Continue playing & enjoying the game.  Refereeing as needed, perhaps a European Tournament or the planned World Cup.

What advice would you give to someone who would like to play but is nervous about approaching a club or attending a Walking Football session for the first time?

As I believe one manufacturer of sportswear used as a strap line “Just Do It!”. Session tasters are normally offered free, try two or three to find the session where you feel most comfortable.

What do your friends and family think about you playing a sport again at your age?

Immediate family think it has been brilliant for me and are very supportive.  Friends have shown considerable interest, conversations on the line of ‘he is one of our own!’

What are the costs involved in order for you to play Walking Football for foot ware, kit and weekly session fees?

Sessions cost £4 to £5 or 5 euros in Spain.  I wear normal kit, shin pads & astro football boots with moulded studs.  Large sportswear distributors often have flash sales on footwear and I recently paid £27 for a pair of boots, a 50% reduction.

Anything else you’d like to share?

To me the three pillars the game stands upon are:

1) Spirit in which the game is played in.  One of friendship & respect for fellow players & officials.
2) Safety first ….. not “well I got the ball”, this is not Association Football or 5 a side.  You can tackle but this must be clean, not with undue force and there should be no contact with the opposing player even after the ball is won.
3) Enjoyment & inclusion for All …. we all make mistakes, lets encourage our fellow players not criticise them.  I’m pleased to report this isn’t an issue in the vast majority of games I’ve played in.
Finally if you take up the game I hope you Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy.

For more information about Walking Football sessions near you please click here, alternatively contact our Community Engagement Manager, Ozzie Willis via 01438 223223 (Ext. 63)