By Jack Rutter

11 January 2021 - 14:37

Yellow football on grass
'If we make it normal to see people who have differences, it will inspire the next generation by giving people someone to look up to.' ©

Simon Godfrey used under licence and adapted from the original.

Jack Rutter has built a career in disability sport that included captaining his team at Rio Paralympics 2016. Having recently gained his UEFA coaching licence, Jack tells us the skills he has learned during his career. 

After my brain injury I lost my purpose 

Before the injury, I was so relentless and ruthless in my pursuit to be a professional athlete, that I wasn’t always the best person. I didn’t like distractions and lacked appreciation for other people. I wasn't always willing to listen to others.

After my injury I accessed the help of many charities and organisations. I realised that it's so important to help others, listen to people and support them on their journey. I’m far better at listening. As well as listening, I try to pass on my experiences. 

Perfection doesn’t exist

We’re always learning and growing. That’s what’s so good about life. We always have an opportunity to learn and develop, regardless of age or experience. 

The search for perfection, especially reflected in social media, makes life hard. That’s very true for young people growing up today. 

I thought I was just a footballer, and that's why it was so hard when I lost it. But I’ve had lots of opportunities to explore and develop since then. Now I’m in a position to help others, which is a lovely feeling. 

Resilience means dealing with the ups and downs of life

I've learned to be resilient and have a positive attitude. 

It’s not always easy. There are some tough times, but resilience means growing through those times and learning through failure. 

It’s important to reframe situations. You can look at life and see all the things that could go wrong. But you can also look at a situation and wonder ‘what can I learn from this?’ 

I use positive visualisation. I think about scenarios in my head, whether that was on the pitch as a player or now as a coach, or if I’m making a speech. It doesn’t have to be complicated.  

The Paralympics is the third largest sporting event in the world

That shows how far the Paralympic movement has come. The elite level and professionalism in every sport is incredible. An athlete who is blind, for example, learns to use their other senses in a new way, which shows how much people can do. 

To give an example, I met a Paralympics champion in the Olympic village cafeteria in Rio. He didn’t have arms, and I briefly wondered how he would eat. He had a fork and a knife between the toes of each foot, and ate that way. And that’s not even in competition. 

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Not enough people talk about disability sport

I don’t want disability sport to only be a topic during the Paralympics. If I see someone doing well I’ll share it or comment on social media.

The sport saved my life, and so I’ll build momentum for it until the day I die. There are so many opportunities in disability sport, not just for athletes but for doctors, coaches and other experts. 

There isn’t enough representation in popular culture and media 

If we make it normal to see people who have differences, it will inspire the next generation by giving people someone to look up to. 

I don’t know why there is so little representation. A person from disability football is just as qualified to speak about professional football as their peers. That’s true of any athlete who has played at the elite level in any sport. 

Lauren Stedman is a great British triathlete with a visible disability. She’s been on Strictly Come Dancing and Who Dares Wins, two major UK reality TV shows. 

There has been some progress in women talking visibly about men’s sport. I’d like to see similar progress in disability sport. For example Alex Scott, a footballer, has broken through into the men’s game as a pundit. She knows football and played at the top level, and she’s good at talking about the sport. 

I got my UEFA A licence in coaching football this year

The process is gruelling. I did a two-week intensive course, watched by coaches from the FA (The Football Association) and the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association). We use the four corner model in England. That includes the social, psychological, technical and tactical and physical aspects of the player. 

Then I went back to my own coaching environment and was watched by a tutor several times over a few months. I did a 24-week project on my coaching. That included my style of play, identity and how I develop players. Then I tracked all of my coaching sessions over a season. 

To be a good leader you have to deal with pressure. You also have to bring people together. 

When I was team captain at the Rio Olympics, I briefly lost sight of why I was there. That was to play football for my country, and to keep everyone together and supporting each other.  

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