Grassroots Figureheads - Patricio Sanchez, Brixistane FC (Part Two)
Grassroots football is the heart and soul of the game. For the hundreds of thousands of participants, it is their opportunity to be involved in a sport they are truly passionate about.
Kick It Out will speak to figureheads and representatives of the grassroots game, in a series exclusive to the organisation’s website, as they offer their unique thoughts from the amateur and community level.
For May’s feature, Kick It Out spoke to Patricio Sanchez, founder of Brixistane FC, a grassroots club for young people in Brixton. In part two, Patricio explains the importance of developing young people and the challenges of running a grassroots club. Click here for part one.
Patricio is more than aware of the passion for football at grassroots level but he is of the opinion that sometimes that emotion can affect young children who play regularly.
“I think it’s something that sometimes as a nation we struggle to alleviate the pressure on young kids playing football. I’m originally from Chile, and in South American football I believe there is less external pressure.
“For example, no one is looking at the football boots they’ve got on because the majority may struggle to get the latest pair of football boots! Their one and only focus is to take part no matter the circumstances.
“So I believe it’s essential that the kids are allowed to express themselves. Sometimes I ask the kids how they would run the coaching sessions, and after a while they grab the cones and start practicing the way they want to. It’s about developing their thought processes – what haven’t I done before? How can I do this better?
“I think that is important for them to help them grow as young people. I came up with this quote the other day which I truly believe in – ‘Winning is important, losing is important, understanding both is MOST important’.
“It would a be a tad biased from me but I believe these players have developed since they have been playing for Brixistane. I honestly feel that every child that has been involved has grown since they’ve been involved. I’m not just talking about their football skills, socially as well – I’ve seen kids who started off very quiet, have come out of their shells and that has helped them in school as well.
“I cannot express enough how this has been helped by the support so far from the parents, players, club secretary and support staff. This club wouldn’t still be running if it wasn’t for the consistent support we have with the ‘Brixistane familia’ – I am very grateful.”
The players have been allowed to thrive thanks to the amazing efforts of Patricio and the other coaches who make Brixistane what they are today. Rewinding back to 2015, and things could have been different if it wasn’t for his persistence.
“The amount of phonecalls I had to make to try and speak to someone in the Lambeth area just to help me set-up the club or just get advice was ridiculous – that someone was never there. I was given number after number, ‘Phone this person – they’ll help you’ they would say.
“Another challenge we had was trying to gain access to facilities. If I wasn’t as passionate about the game I don’t think I would be involved or have my club.
“For example, if Brixistane have a game at 10.30 in the morning at the weekend, I have to arrive at the pitch from 8.30 in the morning to set up the goals. I know that is the case for a lot of grassroots clubs but why aren’t the facilities already in place?
“There are some areas where the pitches are set-up ahead of the matches but we need more. If you look abroad, they have so many more pitches that are ready and waiting for teams to play. We should focus more on creating pitches and areas for kids to play rather than use all the space available to build on.”
Moving on to the subject of how grassroots football can be improved across the country, Patricio feels there needs to be more clarity from the leaders of the game on how young players should be coaches.
“There is confusion at grassroots level about what the structure of football is across all levels of the game. The FA brought out the plan for ‘English DNA’ – about coaching – and then we have courses for people to go through modules – it’s like we don’t know what we want from our coaches and our players.
“We’re constantly trying to catch up with the likes of the Spanish, the Italians and the Germans. But what they really need to do is to go down to the grassroots level to see what is happening, because this is where the players come from.
“Every single Premier League player has come from a park team or club once in their life. It’s important to acknowledge that.”
So how can the link between the upper echelons of the game, to the heart and soul of Brixistane can be reached?
“We need ambassadors for the grassroots level. Why can’t a Premier League club nominate a player to a local grassroots club that visits them once every three months and speaks to the kids for a few minutes? Could you imagine how inspiring that would be?
“I think there needs to be healthier link between professional clubs and grassroots clubs. There has to be a link between the two where they can help each other. For example, if the professional club can provide a platform for a grassroots player to develop then they should offer to help support the grassroots team in their structure as well.”
One thing is for certain, the passion and determination from Patricio is shared amongst so many others across grassroots football and that can’t be ignored.