Sporting Life: Simon Hartley

As part of I AM’s mission to celebrate the autistic community we are expanding our popular ’10 questions with…’ series to highlight disability sport providers or clubs or individuals who have made their mark in sport in and around Manchester. In this Sporting Life interview, we catch up with Simon Hartley, who is a volunteer coach at AFC Urmston Meadowside and helps run their disability football training sessions.  

1. Can you provide insights into your role as a volunteer coach for AFC Urmston Meadowside, particularly in facilitating pan-disability football training sessions for children aged 7-16 years old?

We cater for a range of abilities, and we provide 1 to 1 coaching for the new players joining the training sessions, once they become more confident, they will join the group sessions. We generally try to create real game situations or put conditions in a game, like three touches or a certain number of passes to test the player’s ability and awareness. 

2. What motivated you to join AFC Urmston Meadowside and delve into football coaching?

I have been involved in football for a long time, playing, and managing an open-age team (Torpedo Chorlton), I ran the team on myself, coaching sessions, managing the money, completing stats on whole games, and attending league meetings. When my lad began to play football, I didn’t want to get involved with coaching kids as the experience with Torpedo left me a little exhausted.  One evening I was asked to help, next thing I became a coach and the next the lead coach for our team… in short it was an accident.

3.  Reflecting on your coaching journey with pan-disability players, could you share a standout moment or highlight that has resonated with you?

No standout.  What I enjoy is the respect the players have and the joy it brings to them.  There is pure excitement from scoring a goal or saving a shot.  I also enjoy the banter I have with them as I feel it brings them out of their shell.

4. Given the diverse range of impairments and health conditions among the players, such as autism and ADHD, what positive impacts have you observed since you began coaching?

As with the previous answer, the joy and happiness it brings to them when something comes off that they are trying to achieve.   We have a few flare-ups; however, we have created such a good atmosphere, that the players work together to calm it down.  We as coaches get involved, however, and the flare-up is quickly resolved.

5. In navigating the pan-disability sessions, what has been the most significant challenge you’ve encountered, and how did you address it?

Honestly, I don’t think we have had a significant challenge.   We have a couple of players with anger issues; however, we have introduced a card system which is working well.

6. Beyond coaching, what activities or hobbies do you enjoy in your leisure time?

I like to keep fit, I am a member of a local gym, I love to play football and I am a bit of a gamer.  All in all, I am a big kid.

7. Recognizing the importance of mental and physical well-being, what practices do you prioritise to maintain a healthy balance?

I exercise a lot, which helps my general health and sleep.  With food I avoid anything processed, I never touch fast food unless I have no choice.  I take supplements and try to get as much sleep as possible, I am averaging 9 hrs a night now.  I do struggle a bit with confidence, but this has improved recently.

8. Could you identify three albums that have shaped your musical preferences, and do you still find yourself listening to them today?

Tough to whittle it down to 3.  I enjoy Elbow, James, and Radio Head. 

9. From your perspective, what are the three most notable aspects of Manchester that make it a special place?

The people in general, there’s a certain cheeky, cooler-than-cool feel about the people.  I love the way you can talk to almost anyone about anything.   It’s not too big if you’re in the centre, you can walk to every sector of the city without an issue.  The music vibe and of course the football.

10. Lastly, who would you consider your top three favourite footballers of all time, and what attributes do you admire most about them?

I loved watching Wayne Rooney, he left everything on that pitch and he had the natural ability along with it. Eric Cantona was such a charismatic player, yes, he had his faults but don’t we all.  Not scared to try things in a big game. Bryan Robson or Roy Keane.  very similar players who could carry teams over the line.

If you are a sporting provider or someone who have made their mark in sport and are interested in taking part in a Sporting Life interview, please drop us an email at

To find out about how I AM can offer support contact us at admin@i-am or give us a call on 0161 866 8483
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