Sadly, football can be a short career for many players, but it always seems more poignant when an injury is the reason a player doesn’t get to follow their dreams, doubly so when that injury is sustained off the pitch.
Jack Rutter knows a thing or two about that. At 18, and on the brink of signing his first professional contract, Jack was assaulted on a night out and his career was brutally cut short from a single blow to the back of the head. He sustained a double skull fracture, brain damage and a severed cochlea, leaving him deaf in one ear, and unable to meet the training demands necessary to play professional football. Despite making remarkable progress, Jack had to retire just 18-months after the assault.
Jack went on to captain the England Cerebral Palsy Team, but this year a rule change has meant he no longer qualifies to play for the team. Once again this resilient young player has channelled his energy into something new, and with the PFA’s support, Jack is now coaching the England Cerebral Palsy under-21’s side.
We caught up with Jack to find out more about his incredible story.
Jack Rutter: UEFA B Coaching License
Hi Jack, tell us about how you got involved with Cerebral Palsy Football?
I lost my way after being forced into retirement, and I was really struggling with mental illness. I had anxiety, depression and was obviously angry, and I stopped playing football completely. I even stopped watching and talking about it - I wanted nothing to do with it. Then, a charity called Headway that had been supporting me introduced me to disability football. I was apprehensive, but I thought I would give it a go, and I’m so grateful I did. It’s led to me playing for England and Great Britain for 5 years, going to two World championships, one European championship, and I even captained the Great Britain Team at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio - unbelievable really.
How did you get into your current coaching role?
As a scholar, I carried out my Level 2 coaching with the PFA and really enjoyed it. Jamie Robinson was my tutor at the time and he recognised I had a bit of ability there. It was my first interaction with the PFA and I gained a lot of confidence from it. I decided to go for my UEFA B license last year, attending a course run by Steve Guinan at Hartpury College. I was rewarded with the England under-21 Cerebral Palsy coaching job after the classification change. To play for my country as captain, and now coaching a national side! Coaching the senior team has become a huge goal of mine and that’s why I’ve applied to get my UEFA A license next year.
How has the PFA supported you through all of this?
The PFA were fantastic they helped me when I retired and are always there to support me whenever I've needed them - I couldn’t ask for much more. They support you financially with course costs, and Steve particularly has given so much of his time and feedback and has been a great support mechanism for me. I also think its fantastic that they have a helpline now supporting players struggling with mental health. I don’t think it was there when I first had my brain injury and it would’ve been nice to have someone to talk to, but I know its there now and I think its excellent.
What advice would you give to a player who finds themselves in a life-changing situation?
So many players will grow up and think that football is all they’re good at and if they fall out of the game, they think that they can’t do anything else. What they don’t realise is, they’ve learned so many fundamental life skills on the football field, like teamwork, respect, and resilience which will take them far. My advice would always be to stay humble, work hard and explore other things you can do, because you’re not just a footballer, and it’s important to remember that.
Over 70% of PFA members aspire to a career in coaching after football. We work hard to ensure those aspirations can be fulfilled. With coaching courses run throughout the country, we aim to provide courses are accessible for all members – whether still playing or not. Level 2 and UEFA B courses are subsidised for all members. Want to know more? Contact us on: 0161 236 0808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.