Let’s not hide from the fact that being a good volunteer coach is such a difficult task. The unwarranted criticism from parents alone is enough to make you think is it worth the hassle.  You have to balance your full time job and family life which can be hectic enough without having to spend your evenings on the training pitch in horrible winter conditions, and giving up your weekends with the family to go to matches. Away from the pitch you need to spend time organising travel arrangements, hiring facilities and planning training sessions. You are also required to pay considerable sums of money to attend coach education courses and subsequent CPD courses which involves giving up even more free time. After a long day at work the volunteer coach needs to come prepared and full of enthusiasm when they step out onto that pitch as the young boys and girls hang on their every word, it’s not the child’s fault their coach had a bad day at work, they may have had a bad day at school too.

 

When a volunteer coach decides to take on the role there is now a big responsibility to become the best coach they can be. It’s not enough just to turn up, they owe it to the young people to put on sessions that are enjoyable and challenge them. The coach has multiple roles which include being the administrator, listener, team physio, sport scientist and catering for all areas of the child’s sporting development. This requires investing in books and reading around the area in their spare time which is vital to gain as much knowledge as possible about coaching components such as skill acquisition, mindset and physical conditioning. Incorporating all of these different areas within sessions is vital to allow players to develop all aspects of their game and requires the coach to keep improving so their players can also improve. The coach also needs to be a teacher and educate children on what they should do away from the sport giving a child all the tools they need to chase their sporting dreams and the skills needed to succeed in every day life. Coaches are required to put the child’s needs first and provide them with the platform that will enable them to go onto bigger things, even if that means outgrowing the team and moving on because remember it’s about the players becoming the best they can be not the coaches win/loss record. Regardless of the strain these tasks put on the coach, they owe it to the young people in front of them who are eager to learn and who deserve the best coaching possible.

 

Volunteer coaches get a hard time but without them grassroots football wouldn’t be the same or may not even exist. The Ronaldo’s and Messi’s of the world need to start somewhere.  Without coaches many children wouldn’t get the opportunity to play structured sport and experience being part of a team where lifelong friendships and characters are formed. They wouldn’t learn the valuable lessons that sport can teach or develop the self-confidence and positive attitudes towards healthy living which can last a lifetime.   Even though there is not much tangible reward for being a volunteer coach it can be such a worthwhile experience when seeing players improve and having fun playing a game they love. The satisfaction of seeing the players you coached growing into young adults knowing the role you played in their life cannot be underestimated. Creating a well-run team or club that has an identity and is well respected within the local football scene is a wonderful achievement and something to be proud of. Parents clearly play a vital role in their child’s development but they need to appreciate how big a part the volunteer coach plays in their child’s life and the sacrifices they make. We may not agree with every decision they make but we need to appreciate they are trying their best and doing everything they can to help each child. It’s easy to criticise the local volunteer coach but they should always be respected and viewed as real heroes within the local community.

 

Originally posted: 15th June 2015