Ok, so it’s my turn to ponder today…I started working as young community sports Coaches over 20 years ago and during that entire time I have run Friday Night Football, where anyone aged 5-12 can turn up and play. Regardless of ability or experience ALL are welcome.
In a happy accident, it has become something of an extension of family for Coaches, players and parents! It is a positive environment, where fair play and team work are far more highly prized than being the best or scoring the winner.
As a Sports Coach you have a key role to play in the lives of young people, that is far more instrumental than creating professional footballers or county cricketers. Coaches are able, through sport, to influence others in a positive way, and because of this we should endeavour to do so to the best of our ability.
We are part of their journey; the expectations we set, the encouraging reinforcement of good behaviours and the environment we create is key for children and young people. When introducing a new Coach to the sessions I always explain that we are here to help them become good people, not just good footballers.
The role of the community coach to me is clear. We are here to help prepare them for life, which like sport, doesn’t always go your way. As adults we manage our emotions and behaviours and choose how to react to a given situation. We cannot expect our children or young people to be able to navigate adult life successfully unless we provide opportunities for them to begin to make those decisions too. And that will of course include making mistakes.
Community sport is a supportive environment that leads to unknowns, and reactionary situations. If they make poor decisions we can flag it, discuss it, correct it. If they make good decisions we can reinforce them with specific praise and acknowledgment.
If a child comes to our Friday Night Football session and goes on to play professional football, but doesn’t conduct themselves in the spirit of sportsmanship, is that success? If they turn out to be a horrible person, but a great footballer, is that success? No, for me, that is failure. I have failed that young person.
There is far more to our role in the community, than just making them better players in their chosen activity. Does it even matter if they don’t improve as players each week, if we nurture them as people? I don’t think so.
Is it ok just to turn up and play for the enjoyment of it? Absolutely. Community Sport does not have the constraints of a structured PE lesson, where intentions must be clearly set and outcomes recorded. Community Sport is what we have always argued sport should be…FOR ALL. If the older children make sure the younger ones are passed to, protected even. If they tie the laces of the child who can’t manage it themselves. If they pick up the player they accidentally fouled, apologise and award them a free kick, EVEN when the Coach didn’t see it. Isn’t that the true measure of success within Community Sport? For me, it is. It’s what I aspire to achieve every Friday.
For more information on all our Friday Night Football sessions check out the Community Sports section.