As a grassroots football coach having returned to training, you may already be asking yourself lots of questions.
You hear it again and again. On the news, in the papers and when talking with friends. These are unprecedented times.
My son, is nine years old and prior to the Coronavirus hitting the United Kingdom he was loving his football – just like thousands of other young people. He was scoring goals, laughing and spending time with his friends and suddenly everything just stops. No school, no football, no socialising with any other households.
The lack of contact with friends and normality has had a real impact on my son. Severe stammering, not sleeping, wanting to eat rubbish and not wanting to go out and exercise has been a struggle to say the least. He has become more anxious and lacked the confidence he once had when COVID-19 struck. He is not the same boy as he was prior to lockdown but I hope he will get back to how he was in time.
You will know of many who have made changes to their lives during the pandemic. I had been my son’s coach for several years but had also been responsible as Secretary for his football club. I felt things had to change from a family perspective.
There were so many things going on. My son’s club was evolving with new appointments along with the usual stresses of whether my son’s teammates were staying / leaving. Many of you as coaches will understand the paranoia involved before the new season starts!
I decided to leave my Secretary and coaching role. I was then able to spend proper family time with my son but also find another suitable team where I would not be drawn into coaching and running the club. Despite being picked out by opposition coaches last season, when I took him to their sessions pre-season, they decided my son was not, good / developed enough.
This was despite me explaining how my son has been affected by the COVID-19 situation.
My son has developed a noticeable stammer which also means he will take a little longer to digest instructions. He has also forgotten how to socialise and pass a ball. He is also more focused on making his peers laugh on the sideline as he has missed the social aspect of football.
To see my son, mixing with a brand new group of players on the sideline who are clutching their ribs through is more rewarding than him being on the pitch and scoring a goal.
He had also signed for an U11 side lately, playing a year up. My son during their first friendly game had his head down, kicking the ground, seemed uninterested and did not want to play the second half (not like him at all!). It was assumed by the U11 coach that it was too much of a step up.
However, my son has changed during the pandemic and other kids like him are relying on you as coaches to believe in and bring out the best in them.
Like my son, your players may have changed. Much of this is most likely down to confidence and lack of socialising others.
Do not be surprised or disappointed that your kids aren’t presenting as they were prior to the Coronavirus. You need to support them.
Before you cast these children aside, please try to understand their struggles during the pandemic. Stick with the players – it will take time. For any new players, give them time to adjust. Do not give up on them.
Paul – iCoach