I have been sitting here today having a long think on what it is that a modern day grassroots youth coach’s role is?
Being one for the past 8 seasons I began reflecting on what my role was, or at least what I did. My conclusion is quite complex but I feel has substance.
- A football coach (obviously), however coach is not really what you are! You are a teacher (there is a difference). A coach is someone who digs deep to allow a person to excel in skills they already possess, a teacher is someone that will teach someone something they do not already know! So, as a teacher we are responsible for planning and administering sessions that allow children to learn through physical interaction with the football, receiving verbal and visual prompts as their guide (or at least that is what it I do!). However, I reflect back and see that most of the coaches I know (or at least coaches I respect and admire) and they do this! But a large majority of the opposition coaches I have come across (there being one issue, “opposition”?? Surely we should work together to get the best out of all 12, 18, 22 kids on the pitch!! I’ll leave that for another day), they shout orders, requests, dictate, however you want to word it. Now on some level, this is what teaching is to a certain degree, but at this age (4-18) they do not really need to playing in such stringent and tight playing guidelines, surely prompts is the way forward?? Anyway..this is where I feel the current coaching badges go wrong…not once have I ever been on an FA course and had any form of training on what is the best ‘Match-Day Coaching’, or at least guidelines that show what/how is the best method of coaching during live games. Something I feel would benefit development in this Country. Back on track, our first role is a Teacher!
- Travel Organiser is the best way I can describe this. Not obviously a hardship for certain coaches or teams as most do play local, so generally it’s a quick 5 minutes with parents after training announcing the venue all of 5 minutes away, however some teams play in county leagues, so travel can be at times up to 100 mile round trips. With the modern convenience of the internet and Sat Nav, again not really a hardship. The hard part is next! So your second role is a travel organiser!
- Taxi! Or Minibus driver. As most coaches at a County level will know, transport around the county becomes a problem when the idea of cost comes into the equation. Some parents do not like the idea of travelling for a game for their child and in some respects, I agree! Why should a parent drive past 10-12 more local football teams to play somewhere in the middle of the county for what could be a 60 minute game. Now I know most will say “Do it for the kids!” BUT, when said parent is already driving a minimum of once a week to training, possibly leaving work early, sitting in the cold and wet (some parents do love this) then driving a 100 mile round trip and possibly be thumped 10-0 in the process is sometimes hard to take. So some parents choose not to go, car sharing then starts BUT as coaches we have an obligation under Child Protection to ensure relevant safety is in place and that the child will be definitely safe getting to and from the match, the driver is allowed to carry children etc. etc. (minefield or what!!!) then if all else fails you become the lead driver picking up and dropping off kids to ensure you have enough players and avoid STUPID league fines for not having the right amount of players!! WHAT A HEADACHE!!. So, Logistics Expert is your third role.
- Accountant!! This is the role as coaches we all hate. Asking for money from the parents to coach their child (cheap babysitting I hear some say). This is to pay for league fees (what a load of crap that is at times), referees (money very well spent and very well earned by the ref), kit, balls, training, pitches then to top it all off (in my case they were) a selfish club which expects a contribution for the privilege of wearing their shirt! Now not all clubs are selfish, I am currently working with a club that does LOADS for the kids in return, but my previous club did take the absolute biscuit with what they wanted in! The worst part is when you have to ask the child for the money because you never see the parent, obviously poor little fella doesn’t have it, then you speak to the parent and say your backdated subs are due £60 (or whatever it is), they say there having money issues and don’t have it, but still drop their child off every week, then others moan saying they are not paying for someone else’s child so anarchy breaks out (very extreme example I am spouting here but it does happen). So you are Bailiff for HMRC as your fourth role.
- Club Committee Member or something along the lines, attending meetings once a month to talk about how someone said something to someone’s cat and there not happy. Boring Boring Boring side of football, but someone has to run the clubs and ensure all the Charter Standard is kept up and that all people are CRB Checked and Qualified so it is very important! But my god BORING!! So your Fifth Role is a Committee Member!
- After ALL this there is still one more role and this role for me is where nearly all the pleasure flows back into the job and makes you realise how special it is to be a football coach. For me (who has nearly always worked with 16-18 year olds, at times some sessions with 6-11year olds), I have always felt self-pride knowing you’re a role model and you are making a difference in these kids’ lives. So much so that when you see your past players come up to you and shake your hand and are delighted to see you, such a great feeling. The most special feeling is seeing that young lad walk out to make his debut for the non-league side you work for and on a couple occasions knowing there out there in the FA Cup First Round or seeing their name on Sky Sports News, it’s a feeling that is indescribable (maybe I’ll know the feeling when I have children of my own). It’s something that makes you realise what an important role it is your fulfilling and that it may feel hard at times, but when you’re finished and you look back and you know you did as much as you could to guide them kids, its special!! Some kids come from great, loving, stable home environments and the very next child has come from a poor, heart breaking, hell hole of a house with no parental support, no money for proper boots and mismatched kit but you treat them kids the same, you feel the warmth from these children and when they turn around at 18 and say ‘Thank You’, you know it’s all worth it!! Your final and most important role you should all never forget is Role Model (those of you that are not coaches and want to see this, watch Coach Carter or Gridiron Gang)
We all fulfil many roles as coaches. This is what I have summarised as being the most obvious and important roles we face as Football Coaches.
Please feel free to discuss and I welcome all feedback and comments.