Liverpool Coach Won’t be Beaten by Disability

Growing up in Liverpool, surrounded by football-mad brothers, it was almost an inevitability that Sophie Coyne would follow suit. The passionate Red loved nothing more than to watch her beloved Liverpool growing up, but Sophie found opportunities to play few and far to come by.

Sophie lives with idiopathic generalised epilepsy, a global development delay, and learning disabilities. That, unfortunately, meant that many grassroots teams in the area were either unwilling or simply unable, to accommodate Sophie.

“It takes a good person to give you these opportunities,” the UEFA C-qualified coach told Fen Regis Trophies.

“If you don’t get opportunities, you end up being marginalised because of something you can’t control.”

Disability Football

Having found opportunities to play football few and far between as someone living with a disability, Sophie is better placed than most to understand the challenges that many in the disability sports space face.

Speaking on how her disability affected her ability to play football, Sophie said: “[It affected me] in terms of making decisions, when to release the ball, when to run and when to pass.”

“I fell in love playing,” Sophie added. “I coach disability football, as well as a junior mainstream team.

“I like to do a lot of disability football and sport in general.”

Sophie’s coaching journey began at age 19 as she attended the City of Liverpool College where she studied higher sports leadership. Alongside her studies, Sophie volunteered at local clubs to pick up valuable coaching experience.

Greenbank Sports Academy has played a vital role in Sophie’s development as a coach, beginning as a volunteer in 2018 before going on to employed coaching positions in 2021.

Coaching at the Steven Gerrard Academy

As a lifelong Liverpool fan, Sophie grew up watching Steven Gerrard captaining the Reds and lifting trophies such as the Champions League and FA Cup. So, when the opportunity of a placement at the Steven Gerrard Academy came up in early 2024, it was a chance Sophie had to take.

“At university,” she said. “We were put into work placements. We could either find our own, or the teachers could get one for us.

“I decided to try and find my own, because I didn’t want to end up being stuck somewhere I didn’t want to be.

“I contacted the Steven Gerrard Academy, because it was similar to being in an academy environment, even though it’s not fully the same.

“They have similar treatments, physios, specialist staff, as well as sports scientists…they have everything that academies have.”

During her few months at the Steven Gerrard Academy, Sophie was afforded the opportunity to shadow and learn from Andras Sumega, a UEFA A Licenced coach, who has previously worked at Arsenal, MK Dons, and Luton Town.

“Andras explained to me about how things worked in the academy…he was really nice and told me where I did really well.”

Kirby Town and the Future

Sophie’s immediate focus is on developing her Under-7s team at Kirby Town Junior Football Club, joining the club this year, alongside studying for a master’s degree in sports coaching at Liverpool John Moores University. Anyone who has either coached a grassroots team or studied at university will know how challenging they are, never mind doing them side by side, but Sophie is relishing the challenge.

“I hope to take them through to Under-18s,” Sophie said of her young team. “I’d like to have them until they are 18, to see them grow and develop, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”

“It will be challenging,” she said on studying alongside coaching. “I’ve studied and coached at the same time before, and it has been generally OK.

“My master’s is one day a week, so I’ll have enough time.”

Sophie only has eyes for a career in sports coaching and is determined to put in the time and effort to forge a career in a highly competitive industry. It is clear that in Sophie’s mind, there will be no hurdle, whether that be a disability or time management, she cannot overcome to make her dream a reality.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else…within the next 10 years, I would like to be coaching in an academy.

“Over the next five years, I just plan on building more experience to make myself more employable and to make sure there is no reason why people wouldn’t want to hire Sophie Coyne.”

If you would like more information on epilepsy, and how it can affect you or someone you know, please head over to the NHS website.

By Aaron Gratton

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