After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2014 and having to retire early from his dream job as a Police Dog Handler, Paul Nicholls knew that he needed to do something to build back his confidence and remain active to ensure a better quality of life for longer. This is where Paul’s love of physical activity, in particular, walking football began.

“When my Parkinson’s forced me to retire early, I became more aware of my limitations and I started to withdraw from having contact with my friends. I’d lost all of my confidence and would struggle to get myself out of the house, to the point where I would park outside a shop and not have the confidence to be able to get out and walk in, through fear of my legs not working. I kept reading and hearing that physical activity was so good for people living with Parkinson’s, so I decided to do something about it and joined Colchester United Walking Football Club.

Prior to my diagnosis, I had always enjoyed being active and my love of football was reignited when I joined the club. I loved being able to move again and getting involved in team sports was crucial too. The camaraderie and playing as a team was vital for my mental health, and even though I was still too embarrassed to discuss my Parkinson’s, for that hour of playing I felt normal and wasn’t controlled by the disease. This year, I was proudly asked to be a part of the England Virtual Walking Football team in the Undefeatable campaign and have recently been asked to join the England Walking Football Set up as their Sports Massuer, so you never know where that first step will end up taking you!”

Not only has Paul achieved so much through walking football; table tennis, his holiday-hobby turned new sport endeavour, has led him to training for the 2021 World Parkinson’s Ping Pong Championships in Berlin next year, with the help from Andrew Cassy who runs a Parkinson’s Ping Pong club in Ipswich. Aside from the world championships, Andrew was keen to work with Paul to encourage more Parkinson Ping Pong clubs around Britain, and with the help from Active Essex and Table Tennis England, Rowhedge Table Tennis Club has set up Parkinson’s sessions which are due to start in early 2021. They hope that this will be the first of many but in the meantime, Paul is practicing hard and getting himself fit in the hope of being selected for the world championships, something he never dreamed would be possible!

Paul is an absolute inspiration, particularly to those living with a long-term health condition and therefore we are delighted to award him as our November One in a Million. In his own words, Paul said; “Getting started is always the hardest thing, but if you can be brave and just take the first step, you never know where it will take you. If you find something you love doing, it will never be a chore.”