Michael Woodward-Bennett of Staplegrove Football Club has been announced as the Nationwide Mutual Respect Award winner for June 2022 for his transformational commitment to his grassroots football club.
The Nationwide Mutual Respect Award, as part of The England Football Respect Campaign, aims to help make grassroots football more respectful and positive.
The Nationwide monthly award - which was introduced just last year - recognises outstanding contributions, achievements and behavior in grassroots football across the country by young players, coaches, teams, parents and referees.
Mike receives a trophy, the accolade of being the Nationwide Mutual Respect Award winner and also win tickets to a forthcoming England game.
The recommendation from Mike’s community for the Nationwide Mutual Respect Award said: “When Mike first became involved with the under 9s football team, it was just as a dad. A dad who wanted to share his love of grass roots football with his son.
"He had no coaching experience and at that time had no desire to become a junior league football coach. The team unfortunately was not at its best at this stage.
"Morale within the team was low and many children stopped coming to the club. At the end of the season, Mike volunteered to become the new coach for the team. He wanted the children to learn the real purpose of grassroots football which is to love the game, grow in skills and confidence and grow as a team where everyone is treated with equality and respect.
"The football club is in an area of high deprivation and many of the children who were attending had no other opportunities to take part in sports and no positive sporting role models to look up to. Mike soon became that role model. He put himself through an FA approved coaching course and began his mission to turn the club around.
"Mike spends hours every week planning his training sessions for the Saturday. He messages each child after every session to praise them and to give them individual skills to practice throughout the week. He watches all the videos he is sent from parents of the children practicing and replies and encourages every single one.
"He has become an essential and active part of the club so he can learn more about the club and how to best help his team grow and thrive.
"Mike's training sessions not only focus on learning new skills but also on building the children’s confidence and getting them to fall in love with football again as he did when he was younger.
"He believes that players thrive when given praise and encouragement - this is threaded throughout his training sessions. No longer are awards just given for the best player or the top goal scorer but instead they are given for the player who tried the hardest, or the player who finally learnt that new skill or the child who has the best team spirit.
"Mike has created a fun, safe and all-inclusive environment where all players are welcome. Regardless of talent or sporting abilities, if a child tries hard and comes to training they will get to play the matches.
"In the year Mike has been coach, word has spread and the team now have enough players for two complete sides with subs and have a waiting list to join. The children have bonded as a team and have made some amazing achievements this year, even winning some matches along the way.
"Mike was just a dad who wanted his son to have the opportunity to fall in love with grassroots football. His journey has not been as he planned but it has ended with not only his son loving the beautiful game of football but 24 other children who now can’t wait to come to training on Saturday mornings and do coach Mike proud. Mike said: “I am honoured to win the Nationwide Mutual Respect award for June as winning the respect of youth football players can be a difficult task. “Their attention span can be very short, and if sessions are not providing enough stimulation it can be very hard to keep them on task.
“I am constantly looking to see if they seem to be losing concentration and use different tactics to keep them on task. I make sure I am prepared before every session begins, planning how I will deliver the session allows less opportunity for the players to take advantage and become bored.
"I always engage them with everything I do. I'm constantly thinking of what, when and how to give encouragement. I use different teaching styles for each player on my team, as each player learns in different ways. "At each training session I keep all the players involved. I try not to have the players standing in lines waiting for their turn or a practice which is controlled entirely me. I like to give players some ownership within the session.
"Each session includes a variety of games throughout, as I want the children to feel excited when they turn up to train. If the players don’t see the importance of my coaching, then they become disinterested with the session which often leads to bad behavior. "I have found getting parents on side has made my life as a coach a whole lot easier. At the beginning of each season I make it clear to the parents my expectations, philosophy and continue to re-enforce this throughout the season.
“During sessions I give positive and constructive feedback to my players and reward good attitude. Thus isn’t always anything major, sometimes all it needs is a little thumbs up or “well done” when they manage to execute something I have been working on in a game. At the end of each session I select a player who has shown good attitude and commitment and give them a small trophy for the to take home and keep for the week.
“I have also found that using humour is a great asset. You don’t have to be a comedian to get a smile from your players, but making the effort to make players laugh now and then breaks things up nicely in the session. The thing I find with using humour in my coaching is that it helps my players to become more receptive to my coaching methods.
"I found that it is best to be very open to the parents about what I am doing, even when it comes to dealing with their misbehaving child. By involving them it makes them feel involved and appreciated.”
If you know someone you would like to nominate for the monthly Nationwide Mutual Respect Award, please follow the link below:
You can nominate your child, their referees, officials, a parent helper or a club. You can make one nomination per month. Nominations close at 11.59 pm on the 21st of each month.