Shawn's a little soccer champion despite being blind
MOST kids enjoy kicking a soccer ball and nine-year-old Shawn Rogers is no different - he looks forward to getting on the pitch and playing every weekend.
But there is one constant hurdle for this young lad, as Shawn was born blind, due to optic nerve hypoplasia.
With almost no vision, his desire to participate in football has existed with increasing enthusiasm for a few years, so when his younger brother, Rhyan, wanted to play this season, Shawn was insistent that he should also join in.
He has the support and initiative of his mother Alicia and other family members, and now plays in the Under 7s at Alstonville with his brother.
A special soccer ball, with a bell inside, was purchased from Vision Australia and the scene was set for Shawn to join the game he loves.
A further challenge existed to provide Shawn with more mobility, remembering that he cannot see the ball, other players and has no visual recognition of space or activity that other players rely on in a game.
An idea adapted from Shawn's participation in cross country running at his school, Wollongbar Public, where a short length of rope was held by Shawn, guided gently by an adult, provided the Year 3 student with a level of freedom to move with more purpose and confidence.
Shawn's uncle, former Ballina premier division player Jackson Lang, has become Shawn's "football eyes", mentoring his nephew at every game and most training sessions.
Shawn's mum Alicia said her son's coaches, Rock Molinari and Dave Moore, had been "simply fantastic".
She said Shawn loved playing soccer and when he scored his first goal in a game on Saturday (two in fact), with one set up by his brother Rhyan, there was a beaming smile that lasted all day.
The budding young footballer doesn't say much, but described being "stoked" when scoring a goal, which he said was "lots of fun".
Alicia said adults were often initially unsure of what to say and how to react when they realised Shawn was vision impaired, but said other kids made no judgements, nor did they make any concessions.
"The kids play just as hard regardless of understanding Shawn is not as mobile as most of them and when Shawn gets knocked over, he just gets up and is determined to try even harder," she said.