Exeter University – 24 February 2013
Kick It Out’s Raise Your Game series concluded in Devon as Exeter University played host to a dedicated day of mentoring and coaching.
The mentors, who were assembled to help guide local groups and individuals wanting to pursue employment in football, came via community and professional sectors, in a day ran in conjunction with Devon County FA and Exeter City Community Trust.
Mark Tyler, a seasoned journalist for ITV, joined, Dan James, Police Community Support Officer and goalkeeper for the England blind team, Suaad George, manager of Open Space International FC, an Exeter-based team of migrant footballers, Lee Rider, County Development Manager for Devon FA, Jamie Vittles, manager of Exeter City FC Community Trust and Jason Haywood, Referee Development Officer, and Respect Officer for Devon County FA.
A coaching masterclass served up by former Swindon and Huddersfield Town’s Iffy Onuora, now applying a lifetime of football experience to his role at the PFA, provided a fitting culmination to the events, which have offered crucial football-based guidance and qualifications to people all over England.
Proceedings kicked off at 1pm as mentees quizzed their opposites on the key skills and attributes needed to make an impact in the game. Dominic Liddicott-Mee was one of them: “I do some part-time work for my club, Torquay United, but really came here with a blank canvas in terms of what to expect. My area is media, so to have an opportunity to discuss some of the new and emerging things to consider when promoting the club has been insightful.”
On the other side of the table, mentors enthused about their role and relished the chance to ‘give something back’. For Jason Haywood, it was about debunking some myths about refereeing, too: “It’s helped me give insight into the job of a referee. There’s much more to it than simply being the man in black with the whistle. For that alone, it’s been really helpful.”
Martin Weiler, from the Exeter City supporters trust’s One Game, One Community group, a long standing advocate of relaying the Kick It Out message in the south-west, said: “This is a really fantastic initiative. It’s been great to see the buzz in the room as everyone received individual support and guidance on how to further their aspirations in working in football.”
The mentoring sessions closed with over 50 completed in a two-hour period and participants decamped to the campus’s outdoor training facility to observe the coaching masterclass by Iffy Onuora.
Iffy’s coaching pedigree incorporates domestic and international management and is one of the few coaches to have gained the coveted UEFA Pro-Licence. He took members of the Open Space International team for a technique and skills session on holding the ball and possession.
The club’s newly appointed club secretary, Celestine Nde, an Exeter local originally from the Congo, looked on from the sidelines: “Having expertise to tap into like this is wonderful. We’re a relatively new team so its good to capitalise on days like this where advice and information is on hand.”
Local coach Kelvin Woodward concurred, and found the day an effective way of generating some local contacts: “It’s been a very helpful way of finding out what’s happening right here in Devon. Sometimes, you can feel a little overawed in trying to find out exactly where to turn to get advice, so this is been a really good starting point.”
Iffy helped wrap the day up by sharing some of his own personal experiences from the dugout and on the field of play with the group, and insisted on aspiring coaches applying the ‘human touch’ where possible:
“Coaching and management is about people skills as much as anything else. You’re balancing different expectations for different groups of people, from the fans, the board, to your own family. At times, this can be tricky. But basic personal skills can make things so much easier.”