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.