COGS, the BT FA Playmaker Course & a Proud Moment

I’m writing this while sitting at home, with Covid, having managed to avoid it, until now!

There are many things that I (Carol) am proud of, when it comes to COGS but as I sat here on the evening of 17th January, not being able to coach at our Walking Football session, it dawned on me that I didn’t even need to worry about that, as my usual coaching partner for our Monday evening Walking Football session, Tracey, now had her own coaching partner to help her and share the load, after Viv completed the FA Playmaker course.  That actually filled my soul with joy and a real sense of pride in what both Tracey & Viv have achieved since joining the Crawley Old Girls.

Tracey (r) getting ready for the session, with Viv (l) to lend a helping hand.

If we go back a few years, probably, not even 5 years ago, Tracey (52), Viv (66) and me (55) were not football coaches, we hadn’t even started to learn to play football until our late 40s and in Viv’s case, her 60s!  Being part of the “missed generation” we didn’t get to play when we were younger, we didn’t even get to play when we got older either, I suppose you could say, but we found COGS and that’s where our passion manifested itself.  Fun football with like-minded women who just wanted to be together and enjoy an hour or two, learning or just playing football (while catching up with the latest goings on!).

You see, that’s where it starts, once you’ve started to play, you want to play even more, the longing to increase your knowledge of the game, the feeling you get from sharing that pitch with inspirational women and the feeling you get knowing that somewhere along the line you may just have inspired someone else to envelop their heart and soul around the wonderful world that is Women’s Recreational Football.  Yes, the start of it, because what happens after that, for some women, is a growth curve of learning more about the game, being inspired by the women who come into it and inspiring others to follow your path.

I’m digressing, slightly, but I wanted to set the scene about how the “missed generation” are being gripped by the joy, camaraderie and fun that is being had around the country, just by being able to play the game that wasn’t afforded to many of us for a very long time.  Once playing the game has you in its clutches, you find other opportunities to explore and coaching, is one of them.

When someone says “become a football coach” to women like us, who haven’t actually played before, we will more often than not think “I can’t be a coach, I don’t know enough about football”.  But, that’s just it, that’s why you start learning!  Moreover, I have personally learnt that coaching isn’t just about positions, tactics, and planning sessions etc. it’s about how you make people feel and the environment you create. That’s so important to make sure the women return every week.  More so in Recreational Football, as it’s not a necessity to commit to every session.

That is why the FA Playmaker course is a great opportunity to get into coaching, as it will give you the opportunity to help out another coach first, if you want to, and then you can continue to complete further coaching courses, such as the FA Introduction to Coaching, as and when you feel more confident.   Tracey went on to complete the Introduction to Coaching and now inspires others to do the same.

Viv completed the FA Playmaker last year and not only participates in our Women’s Recreational running sessions, she also plays Walking Football.  Only, on Monday, she wasn’t just playing, she was supporting Tracey, as a female football coach.  The session on Monday had our highest number for a long while, with some beginners, and went smoothly with lots of laughter, learning and smiling.  That was down to two women who, from not playing football 5 years ago, shared the coaching of a Women’s Recreational Walking Football session.  That is how the game grows and that is something that we are all extremely proud of.

14 of our COGS have now done the BT FA Playmaker course along with 6 who have gone on to complete the Introduction to Coaching, so if you ever think that you couldn’t possibly coach a football session due to lack of knowledge or confidence, please, please be inspired by 52 year old Tracey and 66 year old Viv!  You will receive mentoring from your Regional Coach Development Officer at The FA (we have Sharon Muxworthy and she’s fab!) and you will not only enable more women and girls to play the game, but you may also just inspire another female to become a coach.  Just think about that for a minute and how quickly that could escalate, especially regarding the Legacy around the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Competition being held in England, in the Summer.   Just by taking one FA Playmaker course, more women could get into the game, there will be more women inspired to coach and more women will engage and create a new social community. Now, that would be some Legacy.

I asked Tracey how it felt to know that she didn’t have to do the session on her own because Viv was there to help and this is what she said:

Just knowing that I would have Viv coaching along side of me calmed my initial nerves, especially as we had such a great turn out. It also meant that playing time was maximised as there were two of us to welcome new players, complete the register and set up for the session. I valued having a second opinion on my session plan and Viv’s thoughts re. tweaking it. It was really useful to have Viv’s feedback as to how the session went. With such a large group, it meant that we could split the players into two groups so they received more direct coaching. There was also that reassurance that if someone had been injured, Viv would be there to help. I am pleased that our players had the benefit of two coaches.” 

Viv plans to use her coaching qualification further at an after-school club for girls to play and this is what she said about her assistant role on Monday night:

It was a great opportunity to support Tracey at the Monday session because she has always been supportive to me since I started to play with the COGs. Tracey had planned the session and talked me through it when I got there so that I knew exactly what to expect.  She, very kindly, offered me the chance to lead the warm-up but I was more than happy to let her do that. Tracey knows what she is doing so needs little support, but she talked to me throughout the session and asked me for my opinion which made feel comfortable in my new role! It was an unexpected opportunity and I was glad I could help.”

Well done Tracey and Viv, not only have you given women the opportunity to enjoy the game while you coached it but you also gave me immense pride in what you’ve both achieved, while I was coughing and spluttering away….   Awesome!

Check out the FA’s website for the Playmaker course.  It’s achievable, free and accessible 24 hours of the day, online.  It could change someone’s life for the better.