iCanCoach: Paul Gorman
Tell us about how and why you got involved in disability football?
I was first introduced to disability football as a result of a phone call from West Riding County FA back in 2009 asking if my then club Seacroft Colts would be interested in working alongside Leeds Deaf FC to support them going forward.
We developed together a number of initiatives that are still ongoing today. It was a huge learning curve for me personally, learning basic football sign language, attending Deaf Awareness courses and adapting sessions to meet players needs for both adults and younger players.
You could say my personal introduction to disability football came in 2013, almost 3 years after I became a wheelchair user. I had continued to coach with both the Deaf players and my local mainstream club, but access to pitches and away venues made attending matchday games almost impossible.
My other half spotted an article in the paper for a local powerchair football club looking for volunteers to help deliver football to disabled/wheelchair users. I knew nothing about the game and was greeted as a potential player on my arrival. The game was relatively new, no coaching manuals, no formal coaching courses, a perfect opportunity to start afresh.
What do you enjoy about coaching disability football?
Everything, the whole ethos is different to the mainstream game. Being indoors, no cold winter mornings. Supportive parents, no side-line heckling of players or referees.
Players seem keener to learn, maybe it’s because many of them never believed they could play the game due to their disability in the first place, then the realisation kicks in that they can and that they are able to achieve great things.
What are your greatest achievements in disability football and why?
- Developing Leeds Powerchair Football Club into one of the leading clubs in the north of England
- Developing the Yorkshire Powerchair Football Federation to promote and deliver powerchair football, ultimately leading to the formation of the Yorkshire League and the development of numerous new teams across the County
- Producing 3 players who have represented WFA England at under 16 level
- Having 4 players on the England Player Pathway
- Part of the coaching team on the RETP for powerchair football
- Promotion to the Premiership, playing against the players who are all involved in the full England squad
- Winning “Young Team Of The Year” at the 2018 Sport Leeds award
What is your best memory of coaching?
This is an easy one, I can recall a cold November morning 2017 and we had most of the players at the session. Taking a moment to sit back at the top of the hall and look down at all the activity going on. Players of varying abilities working together with a variety of coaches and assistants, parents and carers sat on the side lines discussing and supporting and engineers tinkering and tweaking chairs to meet individual needs was a humbling moment. Realising I had played a part in these people’s lives through the medium of football was a moment I will never forget.
What are your personal goals for the sport and in particular disability football?
I would like to see more joined up work between disability and mainstream football. More CPD around disability football, more disabled players in mainstream football rather than segregation. Can Powerchair football become a Parasport?
Personally, develop as a coach further, watch, learn and interact. Learn from other sports, adapt and absorb some of that good practice across to powerchair football. Ideally become part of the England set up.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in football?
As a disabled coach, access to relevant CPD. Funding, the costs relating to disability football are greater than mainstream, you need higher coach to player ratios, powerchair football is a small team game but requires lots of indoor space. Encouraging coaches to become involved in disability football is difficult, it seems if you don’t have a disabled child you coach in mainstream.
Who’s had the biggest influence in your coaching career and why?
In the early days, in mainstream football, the two John’s. Hall and Conway here in Leeds. Great advocates for coach development, club development and developing CPD events that challenged coaching methods.
I attended a session at Leeds United Academy way back delivered by a coach called Horst Wein. He was working with Barcelona and Nike at the time and delivered a session coaching young players. It was so simple but so effective, players encouraged through games, simple exercises lots of repetition. I still use some of his stuff today with the powerchair football, not forgetting he started out as an international German hockey player and coach yet his methods made the transition to football with huge success.
Let’s not forget Wiel Coerver a genius who simplified the technique of the world’s greatest players and enabled coaches to pass on the skills onto players through his coaching method.
What advice would you give to people wishing to get involved in disability football whether it be playing or coaching?
If your told you can’t, you don’t. However, if you are encouraged to give it a go and supported through the process there’s every chance you will succeed. Everyone should have access to the “beautiful game” regardless of their impairment and coaches should educate themselves to deliver a session for anyone. If 1 in 6 of the population have a disability then even in mainstream football there are players with disability out there. Not all disability is visible so we make sure as coaches we know our players and enable them to learn by their preferred style rather than a one style fits all.
Disability football has opened a whole new world of coaching for me, a different challenge at every session, every new player brings a new set of challenges that ensure I learn and develop as a coach and include all in our wonderful game.
Could you follow in Paul's footsteps? We have a Coaching Disabled Footballers Course running in February, a Coaching Deaf Footballers Course in June and we're also running a Disability Football CPD Event on Tuesday 1st October 'Disability Talent ID'.