Andy – My Coaching Story
I am Andrew Steel, I have had CP since birth affecting my Achilles tendon, calf muscle and hip mainly in my right leg, this impacts my mobility. I have always loved football and have coached with Oldham Athletic in their Community Trust and Academy, as well as spending some time in San Francisco. I am now Second Team Manager for AFC Oldham, an amateur football club, and I also help coach in their Academy and the Women’s Team as well as various other roles within the club. In 2018 I won Greater Sport’s Volunteer of the Year for Greater Manchester, after being awarded the same for Oldham months before.
How I got into Coaching
My love of football lead me to working at Oldham Athletic running the Ticket Office, it was there that I got to know coaches, players and managers. My fears that my CP would hold me back in coaching were eased after talking to people at the club, they just advised I would have develop a style away from doing demonstrations myself. After completing my Level One, Oldham Athletic allowed me to volunteer for their Academy and Community Trust where I was lucky to work under some amazing coaches. I moved to San Francisco for two months to mentor and support Grassroots coaches, before being brought in to manage AFC Oldham’s Second Team.
What it is like coaching with CP
I knew from the start I wouldn’t be able to do the majority of the things I was asking players to do, so rather than show I had to explain. This means making sure my sessions are simple to explain and understand, I may have to take questions from players whether individually or as a group. I see this as a positive as my aim isn’t just to help players’ technique but also how they think about the game too, I tell my players that I may never be able to show them to shoot into the top corner from 30 yards, but I can help make them smarter and read the game better. Players want to have fun and improve, if as I coach I am providing that, then I am happy.
Advice I would give to others who have CP who may want to get into coaching or volunteering in sport.
I sincerely hope anyone reading this who is considering doing it, goes for it. It is without the best decision I have ever made, before I started with AFC Oldham I could never deal with or understand my CP. I grew up feeling it was the reason I felt different to everyone else, I was in a mainstream school, college and University but unable to do what my classmates were able to. I felt alone and isolated, it affected my mental health and I fell into a dark place.
Volunteering in sport has given me something to do that I love, it has helped me come to terms with my disability. I cannot speak highly enough about the positive impact it has had on me, for years I felt resentful towards my CP, every reminder that I had it (which there were a lot) would be a lurch in my stomach. I used to try new ways to improve and fix my legs and walking, convinced every new attempt would be the right one.
Simply put my advice would be to find the right sport, the right club and dive in. CP affects so many people and I think many of us feel alone or confined to parameters set for us, not by us. CP is an obstacle, not a wall and obstacles are conquerable, you just have to find your own way.