Able2Do Anything: Sports

The Football Coach who wouldn’t take no for an answer

Sam Nunn holding a football

A disabled football coach has said the rejections he had as an 11-year-old have only made him “stronger” and more determined.

Sam Nunn was born with arm and leg impairments, he now coaches a junior team based in Suffolk, but back in the 1990s a number of teams turned him down.

The persistent 39-year-old eventually found a junior club which welcomed him on board, but it took a good two years, since then he has gone on to play for Ipswich Town’s disabled side and been awarded his FA level two coaching badges.

Nunn, from Chelmondiston, near Ipswich, was born with FFU syndrome, the condition has left him with shortened arms with three fingers on each hand and a shortened right leg, which needs a prosthetic to make the limb the same size as his left leg.

He told BBC News the struggles he experienced trying to find a junior football club which would look past his physical appearance.

"It's quite a memory, and not a particularly fond one, of my parents phoning up a local team asking if I could come training, but the chap at the time, who I'm not going to name, didn't want to accommodate me, which was difficult, really difficult," he said.

"I thought 'I'm never gonna be able to play football', and obviously it's tough. There were tears, absolutely."

His mother Pauline added: "The knockback was distressing and he was upset about it, as we were as parents.

"He still had his kickabouts in the village, but he wanted to play for a proper team.

"It took a couple of years to find that team, and then we were off."

At the age of 13 Nunn found a berth with Somersham’s junior team before being taken on by Wimbledon FC’s disabled team when he was seventeen.

From there he moved onto Southend United’s amputee team and then Ipswich Town disabled team, aged 19-28.

"It wasn't until I got to my late teens that I was able to explore and seriously look at playing disabled football, and Ipswich Town gave me the opportunity to start doing some coaching, which has then created opportunities with the coaching side, both disabled and able-bodied," he said.

"We should all be treated equally; but they should all be getting fair game time and being given those opportunities which I never got, unfortunately."

Despite enjoying his time at Ipswich he took a break to concentrate on his other sporting passion, shooting, where he was crowned disabled shooter of the year by the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association.

He now coaches the Holbrook Hornets, formed of non-disabled players including his two sons. Some of the junior team took a while to notice his disability.

Arlo, aged nine, said: "I wondered how he moved around, but he's been brilliant and helped me be a bit more aggressive and confident with the ball."

Freddie, nine, said: "At first I didn't know he had disabilities, because he was moving around so well. He's really knowledgeable."

Dave Coleman, co-coach at Halbrook, has known Nunn since he was a toddler, he said that he can "show kids of all abilities what they can achieve".

"He's always impressed me how he has never let things get him down; he's always been determined," Coleman added.

Even though the Ipswich Town disabled side are no longer active, the relaunched Ipswich Town Foundation saw the return of disability sessions in 2019 running events such as frame football and wheelchair sessions.

Lee Smith, disability liaison officer at Ipswich Town FC, said: "I joined the club in 2018 and there was no provision whatsoever and we were able to put together some sessions.

"It's grown and it's back to where it should be with adults and youths at Portman Road. It's supported well by the club and its first-team players.

"The opportunity it provides has been life-changing for some of the participants, and that is something special and something to be proud of."

Nunn recognises attitudes towards disabled people since he was a teen which sport becoming more accessible and inclusive.

“There's always a team for everyone these days, whatever their disability is, whatever the level is, but ultimately, try your best, never give up."

[ To find out more about PAN-disability football visit the FA website ]

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