iCanVolunteer: Luke Cooper
What does your role entail at Calverley United Juniors?
I think a perfect way to sum up my role at Calverley is that I just help wherever I can. I’ve probably fulfilled or supported just about every role imaginable at the club – apart from Treasury, I’ll leave that to the experts.
My current roles include:
A couple of years ago, I left our U9s team that I started out with at U5s in great hands, so that I could help our ‘then U12s team’ get back on their feet after a difficult period. Since then, we have a built a great team of players, parents and coaches and have managed team bonding days out (pre-COVID), fundraising events for the teams and for charities, and we also train and play four times a week thanks to our great team of volunteer coaches.
U5/U6 Boys and Girls Coach and Mentor:
For the past several years, I have set up and coached the U5s and U6s at the club. This includes both boys and girls age-groups. I then mentor parents to take over the age-groups into U7s and beyond. This has been really beneficial for the club and for our volunteers to get off to a well-supported and organised start in their grassroots journeys.
Website, Social Media and everything technological:
I have created and run a bespoke website for the club, which really allows the club to have an organised hub of information and content for our and potential members. I also run the social media at the club which has played a big part in advertising playing and volunteering opportunities in recent years too. I have also helped keep the club up to date with the technological age we live in, by getting everything committee related securely online from paper and that has just made everything ten times easier for everyone. Google forms and spreadsheets are my best friends.
How did you get involved?
I have lived in Calverley all of my life and I have played for the club since I was 5 years old. My late father got involved in coaching my age-group when I was around 10 and then subsequently he took on chair of the club. At 16, I started to get a real bug for helping out and coaching so I just got involved wherever I could within the club. I lost my Dad a few years later which prompted me to step up even further and carry on his hard work.
Why do you give up your free time to volunteer at Calverley United Juniors?
First and foremost, it’s for the kids. It’s for their smiles, supporting their ups and downs and being able to help them achieve and feel part of a team and a community. I love being able to give back to my club that gave so much to me and being around other inspiring people who want to make a difference. I see day in day out what a positive difference can be made to young people’s lives and to the community through football.
What do you enjoy about the role?
My favourite thing about all of the roles that I have experienced is that I am always learning and there is always a challenge. Everything to do with grassroots has been and continues to rapidly evolve. I think back to how things at the club were ran only six years ago and how it’s changed today, it’s crazy! It is massively rewarding though. To look back and see the positive impact myself and everyone has been able to make on our community and football club across the years makes you very proud.
What has been the highlight of your volunteering experience?
My biggest highlight has been setting up our girls’ pathway at the club. Only a few years ago, I had 7 girls turn up to our U6 training and it just became a ‘we have to do something’ moment. Over that season, I got the parents involved and we played our first friendly against our brilliant neighbours, Horsforth. We then took them to the girl’s West Riding Girls’ Football Galas and we never looked back. The spark became a flame and in April 2018, after many meetings later, we ran our first girls football session. We went from 7 girls to 30 girls attending in the blink of an eye. Now here we are in 2021, three years down the line and there are nearly 100 girls registered to the club across 5 girls’ age-groups. All parents of the original 7 girls are now involved in volunteer capacities at the club too. I could not be any more proud.
What has been the biggest challenge during your time as a volunteer?
Time. Before writing this, I read Fraser Clark’s iCanVolunteer article and he rightly talks about the ‘visible tip of the iceberg’. A lot of people only see the 60 minutes of the training session or the match, however there is an incredible amount of organisation and preparation that takes place behind the scenes. That is why I consider my most important role to be mentoring the new volunteers coming through at U6s and supporting the committee wherever I can, so everyone can get on with what we are here to do, play grassroots football! Having a support network is vital.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering in football?
Simply go for it. There are so many different ways that you can get involved within grassroots football and you really can make a big difference. I have had the pleasure to have been involved with most roles within a grassroots football club and I can tell you that each and every one has been rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges and times that make you think ‘what’s the point?’ but the rewards of seeing the kids enjoyment, achievements and growth definitely outweighs the challenging times.
If you’re interested in just coaching, then the best piece of advice I can give is to get out on to courses and attend CPD events (obviously when the world starts to calm down). As well as that, go and watch/work with other coaches. I have learnt an incredible amount from watching and working with so many other coaches from not just our club but other clubs too.
If anyone is interested in volunteering or would like to ask me anything, I’m no expert but I’ll happily share my experiences and advice. My email is CUJFCLuke@gmail.com.