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Coach in a league of his own

Controlling a group of 7 and 8-year-olds who are on the move when you can’t see what they’re doing presents a challenge to Ben Noble. But both he and Sheffield Eagles rugby league club know he’s up to it

I coach rugby to seven and eight-year-olds under a community programme run by the rugby league club Sheffield Eagles. I instruct the children on the non-contact aspects of rugby like gripping, carrying and passing the ball. They’re too young to do any of the physical stuff like scrummaging.

It’s all very new to me but I’m loving it so far and having a lot of fun. It’s done wonders for my confidence and self-esteem too.

Some of the children do ask me what’s wrong with me, but I don’t mind that. I just tell them that I can’t see.

The children seem to listen to what I tell them more than they do with the other coaches.

There can be 30 children in each session and because I can’t see anything apart from light and dark, the main challenge I have is monitoring what they are all doing. But my Personal Assistant Stacey acts as my eyes and fills me in on what the children are doing so I can praise them or tell them what they’re doing wrong. Stacey knows exactly what’s important for me to know because she’s a qualified Level 1 rugby league coach too. If she tells me that someone has stepped out of line, I blow my whistle and everyone stands still.

I qualified as a coach in 2011 but I was only introduced to rugby in 2008. I met some of the coaches from Sheffield Eagles through Youth Association South Yorkshire. They invited me to an open day and everything took off from there.

Something I learned from when I was coached, which I try to do, is to break every detail down so it’s easy to understand – basic things like where to position your hands on the ball, how far to spread your fingers and how to position each part of your body.

One of my favourite things about rugby is the atmosphere during matches. I went to a final at Old Trafford and the atmosphere was amazing. There was audio commentary too so I could enjoy the excitement of someone scoring a try with everyone else.

I take a three hours session once a week now, but when I’ve got more experience I want to coach in more schools and do work with disabled pupils.

I think Sheffield Eagles coached me and gave me the chance to coach because they like the fact that I’m happy to try anything, I love learning and getting stuck in to a challenge. So my advice to any disabled person with those qualities who would like to coach would be that if I can do it, anyone can do it. You just need the right support.

• Ben Noble was talking to Sunil Peck


• 2005 – Left Oakes Park School in Sheffield aged eighteen
• 2005 to 2008 – Went to Beaumont College in Lancaster
• 2011 – Qualified as a Level 1 rugby league coach


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