iCanVolunteer: Fraser Clark
What does your role entail at Norristhorpe Juniors?
Coach – I’m currently coaching our Boys U17s team. My role is focused on planning, coaching sessions, organising fixtures, checking on player availability, considering combinations and tactics, completing paperwork. A match is the visible tip of the iceberg, but far more time is spent each week on preparation and organisation.
Committee – I’m the Treasurer of the Club. I’m responsible for coordinating the collection of all income streams (subs, sponsorship, fundraising) and managing the expenditure. The objective is to run the Club at break-even basis. We try to invest as much as we can on coach education as the more we can develop our coaches, the more it will benefit our players. I also work with our Chairman and Secretary to drive the strategic direction of the Club.
How did you get involved?
I started out as the classic ‘Parent Helper’. My eldest son started playing at U5 age as he was football mad. I saw the coaches setting up Samba goals each week before matches and tidying up afterwards and started to help them. It was that basic principle of not being comfortable just turning up and watching the coaches not getting the help they deserved. From there, I ended up taking on administration tasks and refereeing home matches. At the end of the team’s U10 season, the coach decided he wanted to step down and in the absence of anyone else I agreed to take on the role. I completed my Level 1 Coaching qualification over the summer so I was ready for the U11 season. I’m now in my seventh season of coaching the team; to support my coaching, I have completed my Level 2 qualification and am hoping (COVID permitting) to finalise my Level 3 (UEFA B) qualification.
The Committee role started at about the same time as I started coaching – the incumbent Club Treasurer wanted to step down. I’m a qualified accountant and so I was approached and asked if I’d take on the role.
Why do you give up your free time to volunteer at Norristhorpe Juniors?
In the first instance, it was the ethos of the Club. Norristhorpe Juniors was founded by a parent who was turned away by another Club because their child – at 7 years old – was deemed as ‘not good enough’. The aspect of giving everyone the opportunity to play totally resonated with me and so I’ve always felt a connection to the founding principles of the Club.
In terms of Coaching, my primary motivation is the opportunity to help the lads develop. The nucleus of the team have played for Norristhorpe for over 10 seasons. It’s been great to see them develop as footballers.
In terms of being Treasurer, the Club has gone from strength to strength. I’ve enjoyed being part of the Committee and being part of that growth. We’ve developed an excellent reputation for being well governed and offering great opportunities for players of all abilities.
What do you enjoy about the role?
I much prefer coaching sessions to match days. I’ve enjoyed seeing the lads skills set develop and I have helped out coaching other age groups at various times. It’s great to see the lads put into practice on the pitch what we’ve worked on in training. I like the tactical side of match days but once the lads are on the pitch, my ethos is to let them play, make decisions for themselves and hopefully enjoy the outcome.
What has been the highlight of your volunteering experience?
When ten of the squad received their ‘10 season’ awards was a huge moment. To have that number stay at Norristhorpe for that length of time was a positive reflection of how they enjoyed their football (and hopefully a reflection of the ethos that I’ve implemented as a Coach).
As a Coach, I’ve focused on the team developing a style of play that prioritises attacking football. We try to get our full backs high up the pitch and aim to keep the ball on the ground. It’s the style of football I like to watch as a spectator. Any occasion that an opponent recognises and praises the team and players for playing that style of football has also been a personal highlight.
As Treasurer, it's been seeing the Club grow and flourish and being an integral part of the team that's helped achieve that. We've now got over 400 registered players and both Boys and Girls sections are thriving.
What has been the biggest challenge during your time as a volunteer?
From a personal perspective, it has been a challenge to strike the right balance between ‘Coach’ and ‘Parent’! My son is ultra-competitive - we don’t always see eye to eye as player and coach so handling those moments of disagreement can be very difficult.
From a Coaches perspective, I don’t like the poor behaviour I have witnessed from some coaches and parents. There’s often a disappointing lack of perspective and win at all costs attitude. Berating referee decisions is something I find particularly disappointing, equally coaches playing ‘fifa’ with their players i.e. telling them what to do constantly. What long term benefit does that give the player? It’s grassroots football and there are coaches who seem to have lost sight of that.
From a Club perspective, the administration to run activities effectively whilst maintaining best practice is very challenging. Trying to strike the balance between getting the best opportunities for the kids whilst minimising what subscriptions we charge is a constant balancing act.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about volunteering in football?
Give it a go!
If you want to get in to Coaching, take advantage of all the courses available once we get back to ‘normal’ after lockdown is eased. I’d also recommend attending as many CPD events that you can. It’s also really worthwhile watching other Coaches deliver sessions as its always a great way to pick up on ideas that you could develop for your own sessions.
In terms of general volunteering, there are many transferrable skills from a workplace to a grassroots Club and in particular anyone who has experience of Fundraising, Event Management, Social Media, etc would be a huge benefit to Clubs. In a wider context, all volunteers are good! My experience is that a major inhibitor for a Club’s growth is a lack of time. Volunteers can be utilised in any number of ways - I’d be staggered if anyone offering to help wasn’t hugely appreciated.
There will inevitably be challenges and times when you wonder why you are bothering. However, the overwhelming feeling will be a sense of satisfaction and achievement that you are helping kids to be active and develop skills, both football and in a wider context.