TWO Suffolk footballers whose careers were cruelly cut short have started their coaching journeys.
Shaun Whiter (above) and Matt Mackenzie (below) are among 17 candidates enrolled on the FA Level 1 course which has been taking place at Copleston Sports Centre in Ipswich.
It was on July 1st 2016 that Shaun, who had gone to assist friend Joey Abbs change a tyre on his car after breaking down in Newmarket, suffered life-changing injuries.
While doing so they were the victims of a hit-and-run accident which resulted in them both sustaining leg injuries, Shaun’s so severe that he had to have both legs amputated.
Matt Mackenzie, meanwhile, was forced to quit at the age of just 26 last November on medical grounds.
The Woodbridge Town striker was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a condition that could be life-threatening if he continued playing.
Shaun, who had played for Newmarket Town in the 2015-16 season, been working with Ipswich Town since last August, after finishing his involvement with the Great Britain Para-Rowing Squad
He was introduced to Lee O’Neill by Simon Milton, the club’s Academy Sponsorship Director, just before he left the club.
Shaun, now aged 30, said: “Lee O’Neill came up with the idea of me shadowing the current coaches through the different Academy age groups from under-10s to under-16s and 18s.
“I have been working with John Coupe, who has taken me under his wing, working with the Under-13 side every Tuesday and Thursday and then at games each Sunday.
“All my rehabilitation has been one-on-one work, so to be back involved in a team environment has been great for me.
“The Academy lads have been very respectful; they ask questions of me, and it is a case of me showing them that you can have setbacks but overcome them.”
Shaun is now taking his Level 1 course, under the watchful eye of tutor Andy Reynolds, so that he can become a qualified coach.
He said: “The quality of material from Andy has been great and the way he delivers it has been enjoyable.
“The course has been really good and both physically and mentally stimulating, getting you thinking from grassroots to Academy football, learning teaching and coaching methods that can be used in your surroundings and also meeting like-minded people who are on their own coaching journeys.
“Safeguarding is now a massive part of football and it is good to see The FA and Suffolk FA are driving that, while on the first aid course you are learning skills that could save a life and not just in football but everyday life.
“The course is helping me to plan sessions and be more efficient and also creating further ideas.”
Shaun is grateful for the opportunity afforded to him by Ipswich Town.
He continued: “Ipswich Town have been fantastic in what they have done in giving me an opportunity to get involved, and it has helped me psychologically doing something I have loved all my life.
“I would give everything to kick a football again, but know that I can’t, so now going forwards what I can do is to do what I can to help others.
“I hope to eventually be involved in a mentoring role on the psychological side.”
Matt, who has become a member of Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, said: “I knew I was going to miss playing, but I have filled my time with other things, like playing golf, which has kept me busy on Saturday afternoons and I have also been to watch Ipswich play.
“I have also been putting more hours into my own job over the course of the week.
“It has been hard as I still see myself as a player so It has been difficult to watch games, although I have been to watch Woodbridge a couple of times and it is good to see the team doing so well.
“I decided to take my Level 1 course now while it is still fresh, although I am not planning to get involved until later in the year.
“I have really enjoyed it – I knew about the drills and sessions we would learn about, but I didn’t know about the safeguarding and first aid and how to communicate that to different ages and types of people.
“I am torn between whether to get involved at adult level or whether it will be with youngsters. I know what adults will expect, whereas it would be more alien to me with the youngsters.
“Woodbridge Town have already said they will help me out when I am ready and they have teams at all age groups.”
Course tutor Andy Reynolds (pictured above left) said: “It is great to see anyone get involved in grassroots coaching, but more so two guys who have had the opportunity to play taken away from them as it would have been easy for them to walk away from the game.
“But the fact that they can give something back in today’s world where resilience is a trait not many youngsters have is to be applauded as these two can add psychological input to whoever they work with.”
If you are interested in taking your Level 1 Coaching Course, please contact Suffolk FA County Support Office Ruth Ward via email firstname.lastname@example.org