The Football Association has estimated that more than 270,000 children nationwide have been positively affected by their grassroots coach mentor programme.
The coach mentor programme has been in place to improve grassroots coaching for five years and, over the course of last weekend, organisers held their fifth annual coach mentor development weekend at St George’s Park near Burton-Upon-Trent.
Support is offered by the programme for local football coaches in the form of one-to-one guidance from an FA coach mentor in Derbyshire and across the country.
Coach mentors are deployed by local county FAs and they have been positively received by amateur coaches across Derbyshire for improving grassroots coaching.
While improving the coaching of enough children to fill the capacity of the national stadium, Wembley, three times over, they have also worked with more than 40,000 coaches during the five years.
The event for FA coach mentors which took place over Friday and Saturday was attended by almost 300 mentors, with the goal of helping to achieve the highest standard of teaching for their mentees through workshops and seminars.
One of those who oversaw the organisation of the event was Derby County Ladies manager and the regional coach mentor officer for the East Midlands, Samantha Griffiths. She said: “For me, it’s all about support, that’s massive, but it’s also to help people improve.
“This weekend, I think we’ve tried to put a variety of workshops on from some informal stuff to more formal workshops around the mentoring process by bringing in people from different sports.
“I’m not saying that coaches will take away everything from the workshops but, even if it’s one-per-cent that they’ve taken, that can make a difference to improve them and the coaches that they’re working with.
“We run this event once a year and it’s probably the biggest thing that we do, in terms of the investment, it’s important for us that we keep these mentors and keep trying to help improve them.”
The workshops included self-reflection tactics, talks from PhD researches and introductions to sports psychology.
One of the coach mentors to attend the two-day event was Mark O’Leary, who provides mentoring across Derbyshire and coaches with Leicester City.
He said: “I think it’s great to see other people from across the country that are in a similar situation as you and more than likely have the same problems and then figure out how to deal with it.
“Events like these mean that there will be better coaches around Derbyshire, which then in turn means better players.
“Our impact is huge so if we make the coaches better then, through time, the players will also become better and that means better players for England in the long run, hopefully.”
Guest speakers were in attendance throughout the event, including talks from former-Sheffield United striker Wayne Allison, ex-West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Irvine and England Under-20 manager Paul Simpson.
Simpson, formerly of Manchester City and Derby County, won the 2017 Under-20 World Cup as manager of England and could not praise the mentor programme highly enough for raising the standard of coaching across the country.
“I think that we’re getting more coaches, aren’t we, and we’re getting more rounded as well,” he said.
“They’re going to have a better understanding of how to go about their business, how to speak to people and how your body language has an effect on somebody taking information.
“I think it definitely helps in the development of coaches and hopefully it will create more and better coaches moving forwards to help develop even better players.”
The England Under-20 manager also believed the coach mentor programme could aid not only football talent, but young people in general.
He explained: “That is my big thing – I think to be a good footballer you also have to be a good person.
“You have got to be able to learn how to win properly but also how to lose properly as well and that’s what sport is all about.
“If you can lose in the right way, then I think you’re going to go a long way to being a good person and I’m quite sure, if we could get that throughout the country, then we’d have a better place to live.”