If someone asked me what impact my journey in grassroots football has had on my life, you'll see a cheeky satisfied grin appear on my face, it's been that good and the journey hasn't finished.
It could have been a different reaction though, one that displayed frustration, stress and to be honest you'll wish you never asked.
I was fortunate though, I was offered an opportunity to get involved in the FA Coach Mentoring programme, and without doubt it's one of the best decisions I've made.
The success of the programme, and why I am such a passionate advocate for all types of mentoring, is the impact it had on a number of levels:
Imagine having someone who's got 20+ years of coaching experience as your wing man, that's what my mentor was for me. He identified opportunities, challenged my approach, encouraged me try new ideas and techniques. He pushed my limits, helped me solve my problems, and if need be, pulled me into line. Most importantly though, I knew he had my back, keeping that watching and supportive eye on my progression.
Individual mentoring is time consuming, it's great, but not everyone can make use of the opportunity or feel they are ready for that type of engagement. This is where we took the 1:1 mentoring themes and brought them into Tarvin AFC. We ran several coach development workshops that also allowed us, as club coaches, to align our thoughts around club issues, and that was in addition to bringing Level 2 content to the group. The reason it worked is not because we brought the mentoring approach and principles to the sessions, but because we kept the focus on the club’s coaches, and knowing the environment they operate in, using our own team for session demonstration, it felt more relative to what they were experiencing.
The way that my mentor supported me in challenging myself, which was a little uncomfortable at the time, gave me some key skills that I could use outside of the training and matchday environment. I just think slightly differently, engage slightly differently, apply another perspective to a given situation and as a result react differently. That is quite a powerful tool to be able to deploy when I carried out a number of club roles, but also at work, with the kids, well life in general. I don't always get it right, who does, but then I just use another technique to review it and challenge myself to improve. My development potential has increased, and I would like to think the environment I create with other people has also improved all as a direct result of being mentored.
The whole focus of mentoring is that it's not about them, however what they bring, and more importantly how they bring it, makes you quickly realise it's all about you, your growth, your development, your journey. My mentor, or 'Chief', as I like to refer to him was one of the many mentors within Cheshire FA that I came across, and though my involvement with them wasn't as involved, they all seemed to share this common gene that gave you that confidence and inspiration to grow.
I've was very fortunate to work with a great group of kids and parents during that period of mentoring, their differences brought a variety of challenges across all four corners. As coach we all have to manage those challenges, to make sure they love their football, and more importantly stay in love with the game. Without the mentoring I received, and the resulting journey I undertook, I don't believe I would have been able to achieve that, and the losers would have been the kids.
That's why I am passionate about mentoring, it not only has a positive impact on you but everyone who you connect with.