Grassroots Football is kept alive by a group of men and women who give up their time every weekend, nine months a year; these volunteers go by the collective name of ‘Coach.’ Long after their own children have been and gone or long before they have arrived, these volunteers provide football for many, many children dreaming of being the next superstar. The question for them is WHY?

Putting up nets on a cold winter’s morning, freezing your hands against the cold metal posts. Hammering pegs into an icy ground. Standing on the touchline, braving the icy blasts of the wind. In all types of weather, there they stand, giving words of encouragement while others play the game. WHY?

Making last minute team and tactical changes as two or three players haven’t shown up. Leaving for an away match at 9 actually means departing 20 minutes later when everyone has shown up. Unanswered texts. Mysterious absences. Putting out a different team every week.  WHY?

Parents using football as a ‘drop and run’ service, promised lifts to away matches not materialising. Begging for match fees to be paid. Dealing with tirades about lack of game time. Begging your friends, family and long distant relatives to referee a game. Running the line and receiving an earful of abuse. WHY?

The answer is BELIEF. We believe that we make a difference. We believe that every child deserves a champion, someone who will never give up on them and believe in them. We all spend time in life doing things that we have to, that we are obliged to. Coaching is a choice, it is a passion, it is an obsession that never lets you go. Coaching in grassroots football is a love of the game in the purest sense.

In grassroots football you never lose, you either win or learn. As a coach you learn to celebrate the small triumphs. To share in the joy of a first save, a first goal or goal line clearance, the first time the team’s kit is pulled on and a face beams with pride. Learning what it feels like watching a player’s talent and dedication develop into a skill.  Learning by realising that actually you don’t always need to have the right answer, the right tactic. Realising that sometimes it is better to let the player make a mistake. Realising that sometimes they learn more from the mistake than being told what to do.

Coaching is actually putting yourself second, it is not about you and your ego. It is about the game and about the player. Making the tough decisions for the greater good of the team. Choosing to play an attacking player with talent in defence to teach them to defend. Choosing to play a player so they can have equal playing time and have their opportunity to develop. These are all decisions that could be shirked, but you don’t. A coach realises that teams don’t learn, players learn, development is a personal process even in a team environment.

To all the volunteer grassroot coaches out there, I applaud you, I salute you and I admire the job that you do. I would also like to remind you…..

A good coach is such a wonderful influence on so many young lives; know that you make a difference.

Roll on next season.