OUR CHAT WITH THE DYSPRAXIC FOOTBALL COACH
Hi Steve , thankyou for agreeing to chat. Firstly could you tell us a bit about you, when you first discovered you had dyspraxia and when did you start playing football.
Hi, no problem my name is Stephen Lewis I am 22 a footballer and a quaifled football coach, I belive that Dyspraxia was discovered very early in my life and not really known much different to be honest, I first started playing football as a very young child in School but fell out of the game during my teenage years due to overcoming the physical issues of growing up with Dyspraxia but now back involved and having some success as an Adult.
Most boys dream of scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final for their favourite team. Were you the same?
Of course no different to any other kid but I think growing up and being a Blackpool fan, it was always the dream of getting in the Premier League, now I didn’t get to do it, but thanks to goals from Charlie Adam, Gary Taylor Fletcher and Brett Ormerod we achived that on that famous day at Wembley.
How was it playing football as a dyspraxic youngster and how do you explain your condition to someone who has never heard of it?
Football was hard as a child, If I am being honest I always felt physically behind everyone else that can be very frustrating because especially if you have a good football brain that clearly knows what it wants to do but can’t phyiscally perfom the actions it can be hard, in regards to explaning the conidition, it has got a lot better since I was kid and a lot of the time now people do understand when you just explain how it affects your coardnation and balance, but I think we have still got a long way for the condtion to be fully understood.
Have you always loved football?
Football epitomises my life, because it gives you hope, dreams, the chance to be somebody. The little man can beat the big man every now and again, it had made me feel alright about myself because I fit into a team, and gives you good valuels that you can use to go and have a postive effect on your community.
Disability football isn’t something everyone will have heard of. Could you tell us a bit about it and how you got involved in it?
Disabilty football is fantastic it allows for people to get the same chance to play the game that we love, I have been fortunate that the teams I have been inolved in have been mixed so when we go to play games/tournments I have been able to comepete agaisnt other disabled people but also a lot of abled-bodied people that play amateur football most weeks and I have been able to have success against them as well so it’s done wonders for my confidence.
Is dyspraxia a disability? What word would you use to describe what it is to you?
Of course it is, it effects my daily life, people don’t see that they would be shocked to see how things they take for granted for doing easy take me ages, for example I am a lot better than I used to be but even things like climbing stairs or opening jars to tying laces etc I can do them but be there a lot longer than the average person.
Every person with dyspraxia is unique. What are your own particular traits and did co-ordination issues affect your ability to play? Did your playing help improve any of your traits?
Playing football has really helped my cordination and balance but I know I have to play a different ways to others, so for example you won’t see me taking on 5 players and scoring a goal, but you might see ping a ball to someone and take 5 players out of the game in one pass.
What is your proudest moment on and off the pitch?
The proudest moment on the pitch has to be when we finished 3rd at a national tournament for the whole of Wales held at Dragon Park, which is the home of the Welsh FA and has even been used by Manchester City under Pep to train on.
Off the pitch I have been very fortunate to be named in the Top 3 in my County for Disabilty Sport for the past 2 years.
When you haven’t got your shin pads on you’re busy coaching. How did you find it when you were working towards your coaching badges?
I found it alright it was good the tutors we had were quaility like Steve Benyon is the TNS under 19 manager Jonathan Nash is at Swansea academy and Danny Elliot is under 19 coach at Newport and someone I have kept in contact with and he is doing a really good job sharing his time between the academy and the Newport First Team with their manager Micheal Fylnn, I was quite foward thinking as I decided to get to the FAW C level at a young age and from what I understand it puts me in the postion in the future if I go on and do the higher quailfications to be the first person with Dyspraxia to hold a UEFA B Licence or higher.
How do you find coaching youngsters? What advice do you pass on to your youngsters that you’ve learned from living life with dyspraxia?
I think the main thing you need to get across is confidence in players, too many coaches in my opinion spend more time focused on what a player can’t do than improving what they can do right I would rather one of my players for example the best finisher in a team and maybe not so good at dribbling the ball but be able to make a difference when it matters.
How do you motivate yourself on the pitch when it’s all going wrong?
I think having to overcome things makes you a determined person in life so I like to be the person when it isn’t going right to get my team going because a lot of things in Sport are are related to the mental side of the game that allows you to go out and physically perform.
Any advice for a dyspraxic youngster worried about the coordination aspects of football? Some may naturally want to shy away or even by overlooked and not included. How important is it that everyone participates in sport who want to and that no one is excluded?
I would advise younger people to focues on technique so things like go out and with a mate or a teammate and just practice passing for example because like me once you get older your tehnique in theory could make up for any phyical issue you might have because just look at the top players that have played the game no phyiscalty about most of them but they can sure pass a ball and that it is the way the game is going at all levels from top to bottom.
You have been involved with the football association in Wales. Could you tell us how that all came about.
At Newtown I was involved in a Community project called the We Wear The Same Shirt, it was a joint effort between FAW and different clubs to raise awareness around mental health issues, that was great I was pleased to have had a postive effect on the project down in Newtown.
Football is one of the most amazing sports in the world in our book. If only every football fan knew what dyspraxia was. How can we improve awareness?
The way we raise awareness is by getting more people in the game that have Dyspraxia that could be playing or coaching or even just being involved in a backroom role at clubs because we are as passionate about the game as anyone else is so why shouldn’t there be more people involved.
What positive dyspraxic traits help on the pitch?
My creativity on the pitch is my main one, using the brain is imporant because good players see pictures on the pitch before others do and that’s what I always look to try and do.
What are you doing these days and what are your plans for the future?
At the moment I am just playing and involved in the Community team down at Shrewsbury Town, Eventulally I will look in the future to get back involved and do some coaching and look towards completing my UEFA B Licence.
Life is full of challenge and a life with an invisible disability is no different. Anyone you’d like to thank?
I would just like to thank my Family and all the things they have done for me including getting the right support growing up, the medical people that helped me off the pitch to make sure I have got on it, The coach that orginally picked on potential and talent Craig Edwards because without him I don’t think any of this would happend, and of course all the other people that have supported me in football and life. It means the world to me to see the difference I have been able to make and hopefully it will continue for many years to come.