The inspiring sporting journey of Sussex Rehab Centre user Dan Coppard.
Albion in the Community first set-up the Brighton & Hove Albion Amputee FC team in March 2016, using funding from the EFL (now part of the PL/BT funding). The program was designed to give an opportunity for local players who have had an amputation or have a limb deficiency and includes weekly training sessions at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre (the club’s training ground) and having a team compete in the National Amputee league against similar sides from the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Portsmouth and Manchester City.
Dan Coppard is one of the team’s players and has been attending since the very first taster session nearly three years ago. Dan, who was born without an arm below his right elbow and no left hand, as well as no left leg below the knee, used to play some sports when he was younger, such as martial arts and played some football – but he had stopped for quite a while. He then was introduced to AITC through our partnership work with the Sussex Rehabilitation centre (a specialist service run by the NHS for anyone in Sussex who has an amputation or limb deficiency).
Dan, who is an Albion season ticket holder, was also given the honour of leading the Seagulls out onto the pitch when Derby County visited the Amex in the 2017/18 promotion winning season. He really values opportunities like that and the chance to represent the club through BHAAFC saying “It’s a great honour to play under the badge, I’ve taken the ball out on the Amex pitch before an Albion match – and played on it too; that’s all been down to AITC. It’s been fantastic.”
Since joining, Dan has attended nearly 200 sessions with AITC, many as player (around 150, including fixtures) but more recently many as a volunteer. Having enjoyed being a player with AITC and all of the opportunities he’s had Dan was keen to broaden his responsibilities in the BHAAFC side and take on a new role and wanted to explore becoming a coach to enable him to give something back and support people in a similar situation to himself. Dan enrolled himself on the PL/BT funded Player development program (PDP), where AITC’s disability team offer mentoring support, volunteer opportunities and the chance to become a coach to players from within our sessions.
Dan said “Playing football has enabled me to keep active and healthy and to meet and build relationships with other amputee players, something I’ve never done before, until I joined AITC. The PDP program has meant I have been able to build confidence and develop strong leadership qualities which come across not only through coaching but on the pitch as a player. Through the volunteering and coaching, not only have I learnt more about myself as a person, I have also learnt more about other disabilities which in turn has helped me to understand more about my step-son’s autism, meaning I can put skills learnt in coaching, in to practice outside of football.”
He continued “All through my life I have people telling me how remarkable I am and so and it’s probably one of my pet hates as I see myself the same as anyone else, so I find it quite patronising at times, but with AITC you don’t get any of those comments, we are all the same, we are viewed as people with varying disabilities coming together for the same thing and that is to play football and that’s what I like most about AITC.”
Dan and his family are also members of our Gully’s Days Out scheme, where AITC work with local attractions to offer free passes to children and adults with a disability and their families. The scheme enables families to enjoy days out without the financial burden and the worry of losing out if they cannot attend; this helps to reduce isolation for families and gives them valuable time together. For Dan, this has meant time to bond with his step-son and the chance for his family to enjoy days out with worry.
After completing the PDP, Dan has continued to volunteer with AITC, completing his FA Level 1 in football coaching along the way (with support from his mentor) and has impressed so much with his attitude and coaching ability that we have now recruited him to become a paid Community coach within the disability department. He has already starting working and fulfilling his wish to give something back to the local community.
Dan has also embraced giving back to AITC, helping out at a number of fundraising events, actively promoting and supporting our programs and even organising a team from the Amputee squad to compete in AITC’s annual quiz night (winning the trophy of course).