Leeds Rhinos Foundation

Leeds Rhinos Foundation

Changing Lives Through Sport

Chris Godfrey coaching with Leeds Rhinos Foundation's PDRL team
Chris Godfrey coaching with Leeds Rhinos Foundation's PDRL team
Coaching Disability is my new passion: Why full-time disability coach Chris Godfrey loves coming to work everyday
7 June 2018, 12:53
By Dan Phillis
"Since September 2017 I have been coaching people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities through my role with Leeds Rhinos Foundation and the joy I get from seeing people take part in rugby makes me love coming to work every day."
Chris Godfrey, who heads up the wide-ranging disability sports provision delivered by the charity of Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos said coaching disability is now "his new passion."

The 25-year-old from Waterhead in Oldham, provides rugby coaching to over a thousand people in Leeds with a learning disability through a partnership with local community benefit society Aspire, while also providing healthy lifestyles sessions.

Chris who has received award nominations in recognition of his work with disability from the Tenfold Awards this year recognising and celebrating the achievements in the learning disability sector, is also Head Coach of the charity's Physical Disability Rugby League team, who in February took part in the UK's first ever PDRL match against Warrington Wolves Foundation.

As the country celebrates those involved in coaching as part of Coaching Week, Chris hopes that more people recognise the importance of providing opportunities for people who once thought that they could never play sport.

The former amateur rugby league player had worked in a number of social services roles before joining the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, but has found his true calling working with disability sport.

He said: "Since September 2017 I have been coaching people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities through my role with Leeds Rhinos Foundation and the joy I get from seeing people take part in rugby makes me love coming to work every day.

"The people we work with have a number of different challenges to overcome everyday but the one thing that unites them is their love of sport and being active."

Leeds Rhinos Foundation PDRL has given Chris a unique insight into the vast ability of people with a number of physical disadvantages, who play the game with as much, skill, vigour and passion as their able-bodied heroes.

"Some of the guys on our PDRL team are thoroughbred rugby players and rugby league through and through.

"They take some stopping believe me and watching a PDRL game shows you that despite a few rule modifications, the sport is fast, furious and a great spectacle for all and every bit as physical as rugby league."

Working with Physical Disability has provided a number of fantastic memories for Chris in a short time since he took up the reigns, none more so than when the Leeds Rhinos Foundation PDRL team first stepped out for a fixture back in February against Warrington Wolves.

One player who took part in the fixture and now trains regularly with the team is Army Veteran and Help for Heroes Ambassador, Simon Brown, who describes the sport as, "not rugby feeling sorry for us, rugby showing what we can do."

Bramley born Simon, 39, spent thirteen years in the army and on his third operational tour to Iraq, was shot by a sniper in the face forcing him to lose his left eye totally and the loss of 80% vision in his right eye.

"When I was lying on the hospital bed and got told about my prognosis I thought everything I'd loved had gone and one of those things was Rugby League both watching it and being part of the community and I thought I wouldn't be able to get involved again," said Brown.

"To get out there and back on the pitch again, it's just incredible,

"This isn't a weakened version of rugby, this is people getting stuck in and people feel alive when they are doing it, they feel like what their heroes do and playing proper rugby and this is not rugby feeling sorry for us, this is rugby showing what we can do."

Chris is multi-sport trained and a UK Level 2 Rugby League Coach and leads delivery with groups from Aspire CBS on a weekly basis, providing 12 blocks of 1 hour of coaching that explores the basic rugby and movement skills through small sided games and fun fully-inclusive mixed ability delivery.

Speaking about his coaching methods Chris said it's about creating a fun environment first and then empowering people to build their confidence.

"With the nature of the disability of some of the people we work with, the main focus for me is making the sessions fun and for people to think of the sessions as an escape for them to just go out and enjoy it.

"In a short space of time you can get people doing amazing things, and it's those moments that make it all worthwhile, whether it's scoring a try or just picking up the ball and moving around in a session for the first time, it's great to see people's confidence being built through sport, it's a powerful tool."

Chris' work with physical disability and learning disability has given him a new passion fuelled by the feeling he gets from giving everybody the chance to enjoy sport regardless of their ability, a feeling everybody should experience.

"I encourage everyone to get involved in coaching, whether it's volunteering a few hours on a weekend or a full-time job, there's opportunities out there to take part, so get involved.

To learn more about Coaching Week you can visit the UK Coaching website and share your #GreatCoaching experiences on social media. You can also find out about volunteering opportunities near you with the Sport and Recreation Alliance's new Volunteer Opportunity Finder.

On Saturday 23rd June Leeds Rhinos Foundation's Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) team will be taking part in the Return Leg at Emerald Headingley against Warrington Wolves PDRL.

Gates will open at 1pm on St Michael's Lane only and the game will kick off a 2.30pm. Entry is via donations on the gate, with all money going to Leeds Rhinos Foundation.

For more information on playing or supporting Leeds Rhinos Foundation's PDRL team email chris.godfrey@leedsrhinosfoundation.org
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