Kurt Mackin: football coach
The 19 year old lives in Amble, and despite being visually impaired, has already been playing and coaching football for many years. In January he became Head Coach of Newcastle United VI (Visually Impaired), the first coach to be signed to Newcastle United from the Amble area and their only visually impaired coach.
“I used to play semi-professionally, for Gateshead, but through injuries, I couldn’t play anymore,” he told The Ambler. “I wanted to keep my interest in football going, so I got a voluntary job at Ashington FC to learn football coaching techniques. They offered me a permanent position coaching there and they said I could do my coaching badges with them. I did the first one in a month and I’m currently doing my second badge, but I’m doing that with Newcastle United.
“I heard that Newcastle United were looking for a football coach for their Foundation, to work with kids with a disability. I got an interview and I was offered the job the same day.
“I liked what I found there and they liked me. We share the same vision. When I was really young there was not a lot of clubs who would take anyone on who had vision problems. They didn’t know how to work with people like me. Newcastle United want to work through and stamp out that attitude. We want to make football fair for everyone, disability or not, male or female – as long as you have talent, that should be enough.”
At the moment Kurt has 15 youngsters with visual impairment on Newcastle United’s VI programme. He visits schools talking to teachers and students about the programme and also scouting for visually impaired kids. In the training sessions, they use a futsal ball, with bells or sometimes beads in it, or bright coloured balls. Training is geared to the needs of each young person, and focuses on sound.
Kurt lives in Amble although he went to school at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh. “I used to board there during the week and come home to Amble at weekends.” He played with Gateshead Under 17s disability team, and with the England Blind squad. He played with the Visually Impaired squad at Loughborough where they shared facilities with athletes training for the Olympics. “People like gymnast Beth Tweddle and track and field athlete Jessica Ennis were all there. And at evenings and mealtimes we would all gather together.”
The young coach has crammed so much already into his 19 years, including joining the England Blind team as a coach only two weeks ago. “I’m still part of the Newcastle United Foundation, but whenever the England Blind Squad come together to do their training, I will be released to coach them.” He laughed, “there’s never enough time in the day to do everything!”
Kurt is full of thanks to his family: “I couldn’t do any of this without my family. They’ve been great; they’ve taken time out to take me to training and to events. My mum and stepdad always make sure I get there or get me to a train. I want to say a big thank you to them.”
“I want to give visually impaired kids what I didn’t have when I was young; the chance to play football without being judged. I feel I can do that now.”