Everyday Heroes: Willliam Babbington

WIlliam BabbingtonLeeds based, 36 year old William Babbington found his way to American Football completely by chance. In 2013 when scrolling through his Twitter feed he saw that the Leeds Academy of American Football were recruiting for players so he got in touch to find out whether they needed an extra hand. “I didn’t really think about becoming a coach at the time, I just wanted to go down and help as a way of getting back into the wider world after becoming a wheelchair user. Gradually over the weeks and months I began to get more involved and learn about the coaching side of the sport.”

William has suffered from an auto-immune condition since the age of two which results in him having very weak muscles. There had always been an element of control over this until 2007, when he went into multi-organ failure. This meant that any strength that he had left in his muscles was gone. Following an extensive stay in hospital and lots of intensive rehab, William managed to regain some of his strength, but began to use a wheelchair.

“I have qualifications now, however, when I started I just went along and followed the lead of the head coach and picked it up that way… Since getting involved I have picked up a lot of additional qualifications to help me make the game better.” William now has qualifications coming out of his ears as he is a Level One and Level Two American Football coach, holds a flag leaders award and is a player safety coach as a result of being selected for a US initiative that came to the UK around how to make the game safer.

William only knows of one other individual who is a wheelchair user and American Football coach but he gives complete credit to the support that he has received from the American Football community who ‘treat him as one of their own’, the Leeds Academy, his wife and his players. “The coaches at the Leeds Academy have been very understanding and not treated me any differently. They have just let me find my own way and boundaries and to know what I can and can’t do. This would [also] have been incredibly difficult to do if there was no respect or guidance from the players themselves. Having respectful players who are keen to learn the game, no matter who it is coming from [is key].”

Williams’s is obviously passionate about the sport he coaches as simple volunteering has now turned into 3 years. His words of advice to anyone else who might be refraining from taking part in sports and physical activity due to their own disability are this:

"If you are in anyway certain that it’s something that you want to do I would say go out and do it. Get in touch with whatever sport it is that you are passionate about, get in touch with a local team or club because they are all crying out for coaches and volunteers. I was terrified when I first started doing it, I had never really done anything like it and was very much out of my comfort zone coaching wise and being in a strange environment. It was my first time really going out and properly doing something in a wheelchair as well. There was a massive lack of confidence and worry but reflecting on it now it is the best thing I have ever done. It has almost been a silver lining to being in a wheelchair because had I not been… I wouldn’t be doing this now."

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This three hour practical workshop and online resources, will support you to:

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