Everyday Heroes: Paul Miller
Paul first came across Goalball in 1988 when he was deputy head at a Huddersfield primary school which had a specialist resourced provision for children with visual impairments. Then in 1999, after 20 years as a mainstream teacher, he became a teacher of the visually impaired (VI) in Bury. This new post involved Paul: supporting children with VI in mainstream schools across the local authority; advising staff on how best to meet their needs and working with the families.
It was then that Paul was motivated to start a Goalball club for 11-16 year olds, because: “There were some students who weren’t really getting access to a range of sports and I thought they might like to try a sport which enabled them to compete on an equal basis with their fully sighted peers and where their visual impairment was not a disadvantage.”
In 2015, after retiring, Paul became involved in setting up and coaching Goalball within an existing all age sport’s club for the visually impaired. He recalls some inspirations that he has had along his years as a Goalball coach. “There are a couple of guys who coached at a school in Kirklees and also set up an all age club in Huddersfield. I visited the school and the club a few times and what they were doing inspired me and gave me some ideas of how I might go about setting up and coaching a club.”
Although a trained PE teacher Paul has attended courses run by Goalball UK to equip himself better with coaching and officiating. “I regarded it as a part of my role.” He comments. “It is difficult organisationally to keep a club like this running but well worth the effort. The National body, ‘Goalball UK’ have really worked hard over the past few years to develop the structure of the sport and, as a result, nationally the sport is growing very nicely at all levels and there is good support for clubs and coaches."
For Paul the rewards of coaching Goalball all come from the involvement with people, “I’ve always enjoyed sport and have gained pleasure from being involved in any sort of sport. But mostly I enjoy the interaction with the people who are taking part in this sport. They are extremely enthusiastic and really keen to learn and do well at the sport. As a coach you are motivated because the players are so motivated. Also, it is really fantastic seeing the pride of parents watching their children succeed at a sport when they may never have seen this before because they haven’t been able to compete with their sighted peers.”
Paul is extremely modest about his endeavours and described himself as a representative of his community, “I am just one of the many people who do this and give up their free time to coach.”
In terms of the impact of the sport Paul reflects on two main things. "It creates a friendship group that is very strong and they [the players] really look forward to meeting other players and keeping in contact with them. Often they make and maintain new friendships through being in the sport, which is fantastic. The other great thing about participating in Goalball for someone with a serious visual impairment is the improvement of their self-confidence, self-esteem and belief in what they can achieve."
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