James got involved with football through the WESC foundation, and joined the Exeter CITY Community Trust through this involvement.
“I have multiple issues – visual and physical impairment and Asperger’s syndrome. I’ve always felt very self-conscious about doing stuff with people in sport when you’re not the same level as them. You always feel the weakest link and that you’re letting people down.
“Here nobody is judging anyone – and that’s why I wanted to come back. Having a proper organised thing gets you out. When you have Asperger’s I’m not a naturally social person – i’s everything that most people do subconsciously I have to do manually. I have to think about everything that’s said, what it means, what it could mean and all the pitfalls associated with that. It’s stressful, it’s tiring and it means that what should be a nice evening out, for me is like walking through a minefield with your eyes shut. So, I don’t tend to go out that much as other people would – I stick to my own friends.
“Football gives me another thing to do, which is fantastic – I get out and I’m doing something and it’s something I enjoy, but am also a meaningful part of the team. Not to forget the health benefit – I’ve lost weight since I started.
“Men don’t talk. As a bloke you’re used to finding your own solutions, you apply it and you carry on. I was lucky – my parents said: ‘you have Asperger’s, and whether you like it or not you’re going to have to deal with it.’ So I was lucky that they started the talk, which I imagine for a lot of people is easier than starting the conversation themselves. I’ve also been lucky that the people I have told have been ok with it.
“You have to be honest - as scary as it is you have to be – to acknowledge that there is something going on. My employer is very accommodating and helps manage things like large groups of people talking to me as I find that really difficult. I’ve really appreciated the understanding and the flexibility of that.”