Cleanas a whistle
PUBLISHED: 10:51 08 April 2013 | UPDATED: 12:44 11 April 2013
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Three years ago football coach Simon Atherfold from Baginton near Coventry, decided what the area needed was a junior football club with fun and good manners at its centre. And not just the manners of its players, but also those of its spectators.
“I have seen firsthand referees get abuse from the sidelines; mothers and fathers accusing people of cheating and I thought that’s not going to happen at our club,” he says. “It should be all about the kids, but people seem to be losing sight of that.”
So Baginton Lions was born, and from the start the club’s ethos has been to nurture its members to enable them to develop both social and footballing skills side-by-side.
“Social behaviour is something that we feel very strongly about. Respect for others and enjoyment of the sport go hand in hand and we aim to have a football club that demonstrates these values with a sociable, well-behaved group of children who, along with responsible parents and coaches, can enjoy the game. If we are doing our job properly we are going to produce well-rounded kids,” says Simon.
And in three years not one of their players has been sent off, or been severely reprimanded. “I don’t know what I would do if they did,” says Simon. “I can’t imagine it. I am horrified at the thought,” and adds that if one of his charges did commit such a crime they would be asked to leave the club and not return. “It would only happen once,” he says.
“It’s not about winning cups and the lap of honour when you have beaten someone. It’s about kids enjoying it. If they have enjoyed it and won, then it’s a bonus, and if they have won it in the right way, it’s the icing on the cake.”
Simon has lived and breathed football all his life. In his youth he played professionally for Blackpool and went on to take his FA coaching qualifications and has been coaching for the last 30 years.
Today there are nearly 100 children belonging to the club, including 40 in the new pre-school group Football Cubs (for those aged between two and five). In total there are 10 qualified FA coaches involved with an average ratio of one coach for five children.
“The smaller the number of players in each team the more touches of the ball, which in turn gives the players more confidence and more time to enjoy the sport,” says Simon.
“I was very keen to find a football club for my six year old but did not want him to develop unsporting behaviour. Some local teams have a results-based culture which, I believe, misses the point of a child’s introduction to the sport,” says parent Rupert Lee. “Simon and his team suit my son perfectly. His ethos of inclusion and positive sporting values permeates throughout the club. The kids are happy, work as a team and come home feeling good about themselves. It’s about nurturing young people and it’s great.”
As well as their regular coaches, thanks to Birmingham FA and the Tesco Skills Programme, the club are also able to call on ex-England internationals Mark Walters and Marianne Spacey (who played more than 90 times for England’s ladies) to come and help coach.
“I just love meeting all my friends and having a kick around. I’m really glad I started playing at Baginton Lions. The coaches are really nice and I can dribble better now and we always have a game at the end. I love training because I feel like I’m going to play for England when I grow up,” says six-year-old Joshua Hunt.
“The aim of any coach is for their players to play beautiful football, but the difference with us is that if they fall by the wayside and go and play cricket or rugby I don’t care as long as they are nicer people for having been with us,” says Simon.