Bobby Coltman graduated from the University of Sunderland in 2014, and now works as a Maths Teacher at Sedgefield Community College.
Bobby, 27, led the disabled football team he helped found, the Beamish Dynamos, to the Los Angeles Special Olympics World Summer Games in July.
Bobby says: “After an incredible couple of weeks I am back home. It has been an unforgettable journey we have been privileged to experience.
“The GB team managed to win Gold, in the top band of the traditional 11 a side football competition in LA, making them World Champions!
“We are incredibly proud of how well the lads played throughout the tournament, and four of my local players played the full game in the final, which finished 3-3 and went to a very nervy penalty shoot out which was finally won 5-3 against Bangladesh.”
The four Gold medal winning players were Andy Hetherington, 27, from Stanley, Alex Sawyer Copus, 17, from Houghton-le-Spring, Michael MacGurk, 19, from Leadgate and Brad Whitfield, 19, from Annfield Plain.
Bobby founded Beamish Dynamos football club with his father Tom 7 years ago for very personal reasons – and it is a move that has been literally life-changing.
“My older sister has a learning disability, and as a result we knew a few other people with similar disabilities,” says Bobby. “My dad and me recognised that a lot of her friends were big football fans, and that some of them might be interested in playing.”
From this small idea a remarkable success story grew – but it didn’t exactly begin with a flourish, “A few coaches came along to the first training session we put on – but unfortunately no players turned up!”
After a lot of hard work Bobby and his dad managed to get a team of 9 together, “We now have four teams with nearly 40 players signed on,” says Bobby.
But in the early days Beamish Dynamos Bobby quickly realised there was no natural source of players, but was almost entirely dependent on word of mouth.
Bobby decided to contact some of the local SEN schools (schools for children with special needs) to try to start up a junior team. “I did a couple of coaching sessions with some of the students, it was really successful.”
Indeed, the success was two-fold, it launched the junior team – two of the boys from the first group Bobby spoke to were selected to play in LA – and it gave Bobby a new direction in life.
“I realised how much I enjoyed working with younger people, and that’s what convinced me to go back to university and train to be a teacher.”
From a team with no players seven years ago to qualifying for – and winning! – the Special Olympics is a phenomenal trajectory – but Bobby is keeping his feet on the ground.
“The Special Olympics is a huge boost for us, but it’s important to remember that there have been many other success stories with the players that have a lower ability level also.
“The junior team that we set up has been the real catalyst to the growth of the club, and also developing into the best team in the North East. The lads have trained regularly from a young age as a group which has made a real difference to the way they play together on the pitch and also how the continuously push each other in training. They have eaten up every challenge and opportunity we have given them, and their success is down to their positive attitude towards developing their skills.
“But I am delighted and proud to be sharing the experience with them and the rest of the team. It’s not every day that you get to say you are representing your country on an international level!
“Hopefully we can use this to inspire another generation of players to get involved with our club and we are working hard to open up more opportunities like this to the rest of the players at Beamish in the future.”