Meet Liam Spinks, the TASS Stars Awards 2021 ‘Most Inspirational Athlete’

Liam Spinks is one of England Futsal’s rising stars and became the youngest player to be selected for the national visually impaired team. With a World Cup under his belt, the 17-year-old continues to set the standard on and off the pitch and prove that his disability is no barrier to success. We caught up with the winner of the 2021 TASS Stars Most Inspirational athlete award.

TASS: How much does it mean to you to have won a TASS Stars award?

Liam Spinks: I’m thrilled to have won the Most Inspirational athlete award. After a challenging year for everyone, it’s nice to receive some recognition for my hard work and dedication. It’s amazing to think that others have kindly taken the time to nominate me for this award. To know I’ve made an impact on others just shows that all the time and effort has been worth it.

TASS: How challenging has the past 12 months been — as a student and an athlete?

LS: It’s been very tough having to make so many adaptations to both my education and sport. Online learning has been extremely demanding. Getting to grips with new software, which isn’t always accessible for those who are partially sighted, was difficult. As with many other indoor sports, Futsal was unable to take place during lockdown so adapting training — and trying to keep myself active and fit — has been a challenge! Going from being part of a team to training on my own certainly altered what I could do, meaning I had to be imaginative. I invested in rebound boards, boxing gloves and skipping ropes! There were plenty of new skills to maintain my fitness regime. Along with the temperature changes in the British weather, training outside was made very different. But by making these forced changes, I believe it’s only made me stronger.

TASS: What have been your proudest achievements during this period?

LS: I don’t have one particular proudest moment. But I think combating the barriers COVID-19 presented, surviving my first year at college (albeit mainly from home) and managing to maintain my health and wellbeing are all on the list of achievements. Oh, and not breaking the fence panels in the garden when practicing my shooting!

TASS: What do you hope to go on to achieve during the next 12 months?

LS: I’m hoping the next year will be extremely busy! My aims are to pass my A Levels with a view to gaining a place at university studying physiotherapy and to make the England World cup squad…if the competition is permitted later on this year.

TASS: Why is it important to you to continue following a dual career pathway?

LS: The dual career approach has helped me to organise and balance a very busy schedule. Trying to aim high, both academically and in sport, is challenging in itself and having a team of professionals who can help you along the way has made a big difference. The TASS practitioners have helped guide me through this difficult year and have helped keep me performing at my best.

TASS: Can you describe how being a TASS supported student athlete helps you?

LS: The support I’ve received from the team at Manchester Metropolitan University has been outstanding! As it was my first year on TASS, I didn’t realise that utilising the support network can make such a difference. I had no idea that it would impact so positively on my personal development, especially in my sport. The one-to-one strength and conditioning has benefited my game and having direction in the gym has taught me a lot about my body which, in turn, has helped with my studies. The physiotherapists and sports masseurs have ensured I’ve been able to continue training even with a small injury. Their support has inspired me to follow my chosen career path of studying physiotherapy at university. Knowing that the TASS team is only a phone call away helps alleviate the stress of finding other professionals to help at short notice. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me.

TASS: Do you have a message for dual career athletes working hard to achieve their goals — both sporting and educational?

LS: Keep your mind focused on your sporting and educational aspirations! TASS is here to guide and support you. If you’re offered TASS support grab it and utilise it. Many athletes don’t have the opportunity to access this support so aim high and TASS will be your game changer.

Liam’s nomination in the Most Inspirational category at the 2021 TASS Stars awards reflected an outstanding attitude to achieving success on and off the Futsal pitch…in spite of a visual impairment. The 17-year-old, who attends Pendleton Sixth Form College in Salford, is committed to talking openly about his disability and educating peers on how to make sport and exercise more accessible to partially sighted young people. Liam is working alongside the FA to ensure future Futsal sessions are VI friendly and has set his sights on winning the partially sighted World Cup with England.