As the coach of a junior football team, have you ever felt that you're more of a glorified babysitter?
Often, you've been landed with the job because your son or daughter is part of the team and you have the dual responsibility of being a parent and a coach. This means that you are wearing two hats for most of the time, one as the person who organises your son or daughter and ensures they have the right kit and equipment, and secondly as the coach with the greater responsibility for all the members of the squad.
How often do you find yourself though acting as the parent for other members of your squad? All too often you become the first port of call to help out with things like lifts to training and matches.
As if that wasn't bad enough, how many times have you had a child come to you with no shin pads or the right boots and needing you to help them out with the most basic of equipment in order that they can play in the match?
I’ve found this to be one of the most frustrating aspects of being the coach of a junior football team, when the parents rely upon you to the extent where they don't take responsibility for themselves.
Are you within your rights to turn around to that child and say “Sorry you can't play today, the referee won't let you play without shin pads or without the right pair of boots on you're not going to be able to cope with playing on this pitch, you need to come with the right equipment?”
Is laying down that marker going to prevent further issues of players turning up without the right stuff?
As ever it is hard to know what to do for the best. Why should that child be punished when really (depending on age obviously!) it's the responsibility of the parents to ensure that they arrive with the right things?
Additionally, how often have you been the last person to leave to find and one of your players is still standing and waiting by themselves to be picked up by their parents?
How much of a responsibility do you have to stay with them and ensure that they are safe? Where does your safeguarding responsibility begin and end? And you have your own life to lead, you can't be standing and waiting around for other people to come along and collect their children whenever it suits them.
You offer up enough of your own time and commitment to your team already. But equally, I know I could never live with myself if I left that child to be picked up by themselves only to find that something had happened to them. So inevitably I end up doing the right thing and waiting with them to be collected, offering up yet more time for the cause.
Arguably the worst time comes when young players start to be left to take responsibility for themselves. When they reach the age of 13 / 14 and their parents give them the responsibility to ensure they have their own equipment ready for football. Very often they find that they've turned up with missing shin pads.
I thought I’d cracked this by carrying spare shin pads in the kitbag, but they lasted all of 2 weeks before they went missing and I can’t be replacing them repeatedly, and I definitely can't carry pairs of boots to cover players turning up without the right footwear!
I’ve seen a situation where a coach of a Junior football team asked one player to lend their own boots that were on their feet to another player who had not brought theirs, in order that they could play the game and leave the player who had brought the right footwear as a substitute! It horrified me at the time and simply can't be right!
No matter how many reminders to parents we still have players who occasionally turn up without the right kit. At great expense we provided our squad with a new match kit last season and it didn’t take long for players to arrive with their own shorts or socks making us look ragged. I was tempted to take the hard-line view and say they couldn’t play but my instincts as a coach that’s driven by playing time and development took over and I relented. I’m sure some people would argue that I bring these situations on myself!