INSPIRATION | CONFIDENCE | SUCCESS

‘The all-terrain chair I want costs £15,000’

Like many grassroots coaches, Marcus Renzi juggles a couple of roles in the men’s and women’s game.

He is head coach for both Leckhampton Rovers reserves – a men’s team playing in a local division in south-west England – and the University of Gloucestershire women’s second team.

But Marcus faces challenges the vast majority of coaches do not – as he has been a wheelchair user since the age of 11, following a stroke.

It was a tough period for the sporty young boy but he quickly adapted and spent almost two decades playing wheelchair basketball – in one match, he came up against Great Britain Paralympics star Ade Adepitan.

Now 38, he has spent the last few years in soccer coaching, after some not-so-gentle encouragement by the chairman of the club his son plays for.

Having completed his FA Level 1 and 2 courses, Marcus now has his sights set on his Uefa B licence – and an all-terrain chair that costs £15,000.

SCW caught up with him to discuss his life to date, coaching methods and his fundraising drive…

 

SCW: Tell us a little bit about your disability. It happened when you were quite young…

MR: “That’s correct. I had what is called a brain stem infarct, which is basically a stroke. “That happened when I was 11 years old.

I couldn’t walk or talk once it happened. I eventually had to learn to do this stuff again. I was basically like a newborn baby.”

 

SCW: You developed a passion and skill for wheelchair basketball for almost 20 years. Where did your soccer coaching begin?

MR: “It started four and a half, five years ago, so I’m relatively new to football. My son wanted to play and the chairman of the club was always on at me to get my coaching badge.

“So I went and did my FA Level 1. Once I did that, I got straight on to my FA Level 2 and now I want to do my Uefa B.”

 

SCW: Sometimes you need someone to push you in the right direction, and a bit of encouragement, and after that you get the bug, don’t you?

MR: “Exactly. I’ve been a coach of all my sports for near enough 15 years now. I am quite a good coach in some aspects, but I can still learn a lot from many things – my son’s football, the men’s football that I do and last year I started at the University of Gloucestershire, with the women’s football team.”

 

“I had a stroke at 11. I couldn’t walk or talk and had to learn to do that again…”

 

SCW: What are the main challenges and barriers you’ve had to overcome during your coaching?

MR: “The main one is access to pitches, especially when it’s raining non-stop. When the pitch is wet, I still have to go and coach. I sometimes end up having the players pushing me out, because I’m in the mud.

“I am trying to fundraise at the moment for a new wheelchair. But this new chair, which is an all-terrain one is £15,000.

“It’d be like saying to an able-bodied person, ‘here’s a new pair of football boots – that’s £15,000, please’. I find it appalling how companies take advantage of the disabled.”

SCW: Another frustration for you is that you aren’t able to demonstrate to players. That’s something a lot of coaches take for granted.

MR: “Yeah, exactly. It is a frustration for me, because I’d love to be able to show them myself.

“But as we were talking about before, I have to adapt to overcome in every single training session. This is where sometimes other coaches take it for granted, because they don’t have to adapt to overcome.”

Marcus Renzi is the first wheelchair user in the UK to coach an able-bodied university team

SCW: As a coach, what is your method of connecting with players?

MR: “The type of person that I am is 100% honest. I don’t believe in building someone up just for them to fail. I’m going to try and work with them.

“I will say to them, ‘Could you be better? Yes. Am I here to help you get better? Yes’. That’s why I became a coach.

“People seem to respond better to that than if you say ‘oh, you can’t do this or that’. I know there are coaches out there who would do that, but I’m not one of them.

“I am a people person. They respect me so I show it back. We get on so well, even to the point where it feels like a family. It feels like I’m the dad and they’re the kids.”

 

SCW: What’s your own personal approach to coaching? I know you’ve only been involved for five years, but has it evolved in that time?

MR: “As I said, I’m a people person. That for me is the big important thing. I want them to be able to trust me, because I am in a position of trust, I’m the head coach.

“I want to build up a rapport with players. I want to see them succeed. And when there are issues in the team, we get it sorted.

“Whatever happens on the pitch, or in the changing rooms, stays there. The next game, we look forward and we move on.

“That’s exactly what I’ve done all of my career and it seems to work. They seem to respect you more if you’re doing it.”

One of Marcus’s big inspirations is Mark Fosbrook, who has represented Great Britain in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and volleyball

SCW: Who have been the inspirations for you in your in your coaching career?

MR: “I’ve got a few. There’s a guy called Patrick Ansley, he did the health and fitness at the National Star College, which is a college for the disabled in Cheltenham.

“Then there was Mark Fosbrook – he was awesome for me. He’s also got a disability, but he pushed the boundaries.

“He played for Great Britain at wheelchair basketball, played and coached Great Britain wheelchair rugby, and went to the [1996] Atlanta Paralympics doing volleyball – yet he’s a double below-knee amputee.

“He’s done so much sport, he was an inspiration in getting me involved in sport in the first place.

“Obviously, Ade [Adepitan] was a big inspiration. I wanted to play like him. I knew I couldn’t because obviously I only had the use of one arm. But it was good to dream.

“And the coach in football I love to bits is Pep [Guardiola].”

 

“I want to be the first wheelchair user to coach an able-bodied professional team…”

 

SCW: You mentioned wanting to do your Uefa B. You want to go much further, don’t you?

MR: “At the moment, Gloucestershire FA haven’t sorted out Uefa B – obviously Covid-19 has had a massive part in that. But I think it’s coming later on in the year.

” Many people laugh at my ambition. But I don’t want it to be a dream. I want it to become a reality.

“I’m the first person in Britain in a wheelchair to coach an able-bodied university football team.

“I want to be the first person in a wheelchair, in the world, to coach an able- bodied professional football team.

“But as long as all of the players I come into contact with enjoy my coaching sessions, that’s the main thing for me.”

 

Support Marcus’s crowdfunding for an all-terrain wheelchair

https://www.gofundme.com/f/3w3e6a-all- terrain-wheelchair

 

“One thing I learned on my FA Level 1, which has always stuck with me – and I still believe to this day – is the best coach is a thief…”

HEAR THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS, INCLUDING HIS VIEW ON WHAT MAKES A GOOD COACH AND HOW HE EARNED BACKING IN HIS ROLES, ON OUR PODCAST — CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

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