Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and David Moyes
all household names, instantly recognisable and lauded across the land.
Samantha Jones, Ali Khan, Fred Smith and Abdul Ali, names
that don’t slip off the tongue as easily and nobody recognises them except,
maybe, in a 5-mile radius of where they work. These are the grassroots
managers, the men and women who keep the game alive for the footballers of
Team selection, injuries and tense match finish these are the things that managers have in common, regardless of the level that they coach at.
The first difference in grassroots football is what people expect within the game, and these expectations are vast and varied. For example, some clubs want all the best players at their clubs and will go out of their way to get them; some coaches want to develop players to help them improve as best they can; some officials want to work their way up the refereeing or coaching pyramid; some players just want to enjoy the game and socialise with their friends; some parents want their child to become the next Cristiano Ronaldo. Managing all of these expectations, providing equal game time and keeping everyone happy is a herculean task in itself.
The other main differences begin even before match day, texts sent out two days ago giving the time of the meeting, asking for confirmation. Only a few replied back, once again tactics and team selection will be decided on the morning of the match. Thank goodness it’s a home match. No begging for cars this weekend. One less worry.
Match Day! The day of
the week where you imagine nothing can go wrong. You have planned for it,
talked about it and trained for it. Showing up an hour before everyone else to
put the nets up. The freezing cold metal of the post is almost unbearable to
touch. Looking for clips to hold the net up where the brackets have been broken
off the posts. Finally, all is ready: First aid kit, water bottles, flags, spare
shin pads, match ball and respect barriers.
The first cars arrive and the parents ask “what time will
the match finish?”
“Grand we’ll be back then” the car speeds off probably to go
home for their breakfast. I was hoping they might stay and give a hand but some
people are just too busy.
Finally, the players start to arrive, what can go wrong now? Firstly, Hammad the keeper turns up with no boots or gloves. They’re locked in the car and he can’t get them. ‘Whhaaatttt?’ I hastily ask around the other players and coaches whether anyone has any spare gloves, they don’t. The hunt goes on but I also need to be on the pitch, the players need warming up. I finally get a pitchside. We decide that Shazzeb is our best option for replacement keeper, only he doesn’t want to do it. I can’t blame him; I wouldn’t want to either. Compromise reached, Hammad will play in goal with trainers and gloves 2 sizes too small.
Beep! Beep! A text message flashes up on the screen. One of
the best players in the team can’t make it. He is ill. To put this into
perspective, this is the third match this season that he has been sick for. All
bouts of sickness coinciding with wet weather. Rain, the best weather for
ducks, not the best for grassroots footballers. Your best two players finally
show up, twenty minutes late, we are kicking off in less than half an hour.
As the team starts to warm up the opposition manager draws
your attention to the only source of heat for miles around. A steaming pile of
dog mess right in the middle of the pitch. Scooping it up with two nearby
cones, trying to ensure that none gets on your hands, all illusions of grandeur
are well and truly erased from your mind.
Finally, the match kicks off. Similarities to the professional game are visible here, but so are the differences. Equal playing time, Rotating players on and off, running the line, celebrations and commiserations. The final whistle goes. The field empties in record time as parents show up and whisk their children away. Looking around, you realise you are alone, down come to the nets, away goes all the equipment, minus one match ball which was kicked over a nearby fence by one of the substitutes. All done, time to head for home. Was it worth it? Will I be back next week?
https://lutonunitedfc.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Luton-logo2-300x128.jpg00Uddin230https://lutonunitedfc.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Luton-logo2-300x128.jpgUddin2302020-02-09 21:31:292020-02-09 21:31:30The Challenges of a Grassroots Football Manager
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
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.
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
Luton United Football Club undertook its first session directed exclusively towards girls. The Wildcats centre was held at Riverbank primary school. The centres are an initiative driven by Football Association and one the club strongly supports. If admissions have to be made then the first has to be would anyone from a community that historically has been hard to engage. Where academic excellence is a priority over physical exertion. So has Adam and I arrived to set up, thoughts immediately turn to, would anyone turn up, would any one see the benefits, is there any real point. For Adam and I, it was like turning up to the first day of work. We clearly made the cardinal error of having turned up too early and this further enhanced our anxieties. We always felt that this was important and positive for the community. Having spent several years developing, the boy’s football we knew the struggles we would face and but this time we are experienced. So as that first parent and child arrived and Adam got to work, those thoughts and feelings of would it work started to dissipate. As more girls arrived with parents we started to believe and got to work. Having exhausted ourselves and put every effort and focus on girls enjoying themselves. We now turn our attention towards building and making sure that first group return. We might not get everything right, we might end up failing but what we do have is a belief that we will be successful and as shown by the first session the support of the community that they want it to succeed.