In too many instances, the disabled or hindered less by their own physical condition than they are the limitations placed on them by others. It wasn’t long ago that most disabled people were nudged away from athletic competition, or placed in leagues or events where not much was expected of them.
Now we have the paralympics where disabled athletes where participants are running as fast, jumping as high, and scoring as many points as their able-bodied peers. There should be no doubt that disability isn’t necessarily a roadblock to participating in sports, but can the disabled coach? Football coach Sohail Rehman would say yes.
Rehman was born with a disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. In spite of the fact that it made it difficult for him to walk, he played football until the condition landed him in a wheelchair at the age of 13. Many would have given up on sports entirely at the point. Sohail decided to stay involved, and as more than a spectator.
That’s not to say that he wasn’t a spectator. Rehman was, and a spectacular one at that. However, in addition to watching the games, he also joined the Manchester United Disabled Supporters Association. Not only that, he studied sports technology in college.
Along the way, he received encouragement to pursue athletics professionally. It shouldn’t be surprising given his knowledge and passion for the game. Still, he had his doubts. Ultimately he decided to go for it, studying sports development and getting the credentials he needed to become a coach.
It’s worth taking a step back and considering the weight of this accomplishment. Faced with the usual challenges of college, his physical disability, and self-doubt, Rehman still made the effort to pursue his dreams. It’s undoubtable that there are some unsung heroes who supported him along the way. He may have had a quiet mentor, used best college writing websites to assist with his school work, or a family member willing to act as a sounding board. Keep reading to learn more about the way that support can really keep someone going.
Sohail received a letter of encouragement from no other than Sir Alex Ferguson. The letter encouraged him to continue to pursue coaching at the highest level. Rehman felt inspired to do just that. He began coaching tournaments and weekend leagues. He also developed a descriptive coaching style that allowed him to get across in words what other coaches could demonstrate.
Don’t write Rehman off as a one off oddity, or minimize the potential of disabled people to coach because he hasn’t reached pro level. Instead, take a look at retired NFL coach Doug Blevins. Inflicted with cerebral palsy since birth, Blevins has never been without a wheelchair. He has never played NFL football.
In spite of this, he became a kicking coach in the NFL, and a well-respected one at that. In fact, he recently the keynote speaker at disability awareness week at Northeast State. He’s also been nominated for the NFL hall of fame.
There’s a simple answer to the question posed in the title above. That answer is an emphatic ‘no!’ If you have a disability, that in no way should act as a roadblock to your ability to coach sports. You may have to be creative in your approach, and show lots of persistence, but the truth is others have done it before you.