STUART Sharp never needs to question his players’ character. As head coach of the men’s US Soccer Paralympic national team, the Scot knows each member of his squad has already demonstrated deter-mination and commitment by the bucketload throughout their lives even before they turn up for their first training session.

All have overcome life-changing conditions or injuries to make the team and have a neurological

motor dysfunction that impairs their capabilities in some regard. Some were born with cerebral palsy, some have had a stroke, while others have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Sharp, who was previously employed by the SFA in a variety of roles, has been their boss for five years now.

His job is to acknowledge each player’s limitations while focusing on their strengths and working out how to magnify those. None of these players is looking for special treatment and Sharp does not have time to give them it with a World Cup in Seville looming a few months down the line.

“On the field, how you coach is not all that different from regular coaching,” he says from his home near Atlanta. “I generally look at the athlete and focus on what they can do, rather than on what they can’t. And then you look to improve what they can do, and support what they can’t.

“Off the field I adapt at times how I speak and deliver a message to

motivate them. The players all have different backgrounds so you’d speak differently to someone who served nine years in Afghanistan to an 18-year-old in college who has a disability. But, amazingly, they all gel together. Everyone brings something to the group.”

Sport often leans heavily on the lexicon of war, with hyperbolic chatter about midfield battles, going into the trenches and raiding down the flanks. Some in Sharp’s team, however, have experienced it for real, like midfielder Joshua Brunais who received a Soldier’s Medal for services in the line of duty.

“We have players on the team who have been injured overseas,” Sharp said. “They’d hate me saying this but there are some real heroes given what they went through.

“Josh was in a helicopter crash. It dropped like a stone from 500 feet and unfortunately eight people died and the rest were wounded. But Josh managed to crawl out with a broken neck and back, and a traumatic brain injury. He somehow managed to take off his vest to mat out the flames and drag the survivors out. So you can imagine having him in the locker room.

“We have another player who was special forces as well, a Green Beret who did a lot of overseas work in the military and for the government too. He’s just returned to us after working for an anti-poaching organisation in South Africa. We’ve got some interesting characters which creates a terrific dynamic.”

Sharp’s difficulties in putting ­together a squad are two-fold. First, he is the only full-time employee ­responsible for recruiting and training players in a country the size of the United States, and secondly it is not always immediately obvious who might be eligible for his team.

“When I worked with the Scottish FA there was a lot of manpower behind their grassroots and development system for the size of the country,” he said. “For me, within the Paralympic realm, it’s a country of 320 million people and one full-time person dealing with selecting and recruiting players. So that’s quite difficult. In terms of finding new players, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack when you don’t know what the haystack looks like. When you’re trying to find soccer players who qualify for the Paralympics there are no bespoke teams for that category.

“The players are out there ­playing in the general population so we mostly rely on word-of-mouth or people finding us through social ­media. Clemson University also started a scholarship programme two years ago for players who qualify for Paralympic soccer, which is huge for us.”

Sharp anticipates being away from home, and his young family, for more than a third of this year, but is no stranger to the travelling life.

“When I left the SFA, I took a break from football and worked for Sport for Development in Haiti, Jordan, Russia and Ukraine.

“In Jordan we worked with ­Syrian refugees trying to help them integrate. I went to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and there were 5000 new amputees. We were using sport as a vehicle to provide them with self-confidence and self-worth, but also to host festivals along with US Aid and the Department of State to bring families together.”

All that time away from home, however, has done little to soften the 40-year-old’s Scottish accent.

“The players say they can understand me when I’m doing presentations and pre-match talks. But at half time when I’m a little bit more hyped-up they struggle to pick it up. Josh actually came to me after we’d won a match against Argentina after being behind at the break. He said, ‘coach, I don’t have a clue what you said at half time but it worked’!”