COACH KNOWS BEST BY ORRIN BENFORD

After years of playing, coaching and volunteering in football, I have come to the conclusion that parent coaches are both the best and worst thing in the grass roots game.

No one can deny the essential role parent coaches play in the development of young players. Following a long day at work, with no time for tea, or to even consider a session plan, you have to admire the parent coach for even turning up every week. Regardless of experience, qualifications or ability, no one can deny the parent coaches’ heart is in the right place. Simply put, without them, grassroots football would not exist.

However, having the privilege of working in the football industry, I am astounded on a daily basis as to the mind set of some parent coaches. I find myself shaking my head in disbelief too often. Whilst I think it is now a minority, the problem persists, that some parent coaches own personal agenda is actively stifling the development of players across the country.
As a parent coach your role should be to provide the platform for your players. To give them the best opportunities available to help their development. Unfortunately some coaches see their players as an opportunity to re-capture youth or be the tool to live out their own competitive agenda. It is this that tends to be at the expense of their own players personal development. 
This was brought to life for me over the past few weeks. The first Orange Soccer Academy opened in the North West of England. A commercial academy providing grass-roots players the opportunity to experience regular elite academy standard coaching. The chance to train in a professional environment and play in a games programme with professional clubs. The academy supports and works with grass roots coaches and players to aid development and provide opportunities that otherwise aren’t available.

As part of the launch a series of free taster sessions were put on for parents, players and coaches to come down, experience the academy and see if it is something that might be right for them. To ensure all players in the area were aware of the opportunity a text message was sent to every coach whose name and phone number was listed publicly by their grassroots clubs website.
‘Hi, Orrin here from Orange Soccer. Are any of your players up for coming down to the Orange Soccer Academy on Saturday? Great chance to get some elite academy standard coaching to support grassroots clubs. The taster session is free. If any are interested please get them to email orrin@orangesoccer.co.uk. Thanks. Orrin.

On reflection, a well-mannered text, with no pressure being placed, just information on an opportunity. So what were the responses?

80% ignored it. That’s fine. Maybe they mentioned something to their players, maybe they didn’t. No issue.

10% responded positively. Appreciated the opportunity available and forwarded the information onto their players parents. Brilliant.

5% were inquisitive. Before forwarding anything on they wanted to know more. What is the standard of coaching? How does a UEAF A coach relate to an U8 player? I like it. You are protecting your players, but being open minded to the potential that someone may be able to offer them something you currently can’t.

Then there is the remaining 5%. These are the parent coaches who are that narrow minded and stuck in their own personal agenda that they are prepared to dismiss an opportunity to improve player’s development without a thought. Here is a selection of a few replies we received:

‘sorry but players play enough football as it is’ ….. sorry what? Now I agree that too much of something can be detrimental, but who are you to decide that for all of your players? Maybe there are players in your team that aren’t challenged enough and an extra session might be the step on they need. That was one I simply couldn’t believe.

‘No!’ …. Ok. Appreciate the reply, but the fact the reply came within 30 seconds of us sending out the message suggests you are making that decision for your entire team without even asking them.

‘I suggest you don’t txt RANDOM people. Are you CRB checked!!!’ . This one simply annoyed me. If you are publicly listed as a football coach on the internet and your phone number is made available for people to contact, you are not a ‘random’ person. And whilst I am CRC checked, since when have you needed a CRC check to message an adult?

‘Sorry but I don’t pass on anything to my players!! Data Protection, Child Protection etc’…. nothing wrong with being protective of your team, but is passing information onto a parent is a DATA or CHILD protection risk?

As I grew up I always wanted to play professionally. It never happened for me and looking back I can say whilst I was good, I was never quite that good. How would I feel now if I found out that at the age of say 10, my Manager was offered the chance for all of our team to receive some extra training from elite coaches, but he never thought to tell my parents? I would feel cheated and annoyed.

When I coach I am simply guiding players on their own individual pathway. Where I have the chance to aid their development, I take it. My role as a coach is a privilege and in no way should my own personal agenda & beliefs stifle the opportunities available to my players.

At Orange Soccer we have one simple aim – to improve the ability and playing experience of players, coaches and clubs in football. Parent Coaches are the driving force behind grassroots football and we want to support them. Fortunately the majority of parent coaches nowadays appreciate and embrace support.

If you are reading this and thinking that was my reply he quoted, simply take stock of why you became a coach. Then, every time an opportunity presents itself for your players, your role is to protect them but also provide for them.

Orrin Benford – MD Orange Soccer LTD.

Powering the Beautiful Game