Mission Performance had the honour of sponsoring the Colebrook Royals under 8s in their inaugural season in the Japan league of the FA Echo Junior league.
Our involvement stems from Mission’s Director of Communications Matt Burgess and his son Freddie (right) who joined the team to play his first competitive football.
Matt has written this short article about the Colebrook Royals’ journey.
...And what journey it has been! Filled with highs, lows, excitement, emotions, laughter, tears, victories, defeats and much more! The team gathered for the first time in August of last year. They had never played together and indeed, some of them had not even met before, but in true team spirit their bonds were quick to develop.
They have been led all season by coach Matt. Whilst Matt’s son Henry had played in a team before, Matt had never taken a coaching role. It is an enormous undertaking, combining the roles of Manager, coach, communicator, and logistician – all underpinned with the unenviable task of keeping players and their parents happy. Perhaps unsurprisingly chatting early in the season, Matt described having ‘imposter syndrome’, an experience, I expect every coach goes through. Matt’s journey has been a pleasure to watch and be part of. For his part, Freddie had never played in an organised match, and his initial learning curve was steep. Throughout the season, the boys have been training on a Saturday and play games on a Sunday. They have played against teams who have been playing together for some time, and others who are new themselves.
At this age, the boys are not working towards relegation or promotion at the end of the season. A team can go up or down a league at any time as decided by a panel based on their results – if they are consistently being beaten by a large number of goals, they may spend some time in a lower league, if they are consistently beating people were huge scores, they go up a league. The start of the season was, as you would expect, inconsistent as the boys learned their roles, their responsibilities, and in Freddie‘s case which goal he was trying to score in...
Matt began with a brilliant ethos. Some of the boys had had experiences in other teams, where they simply weren’t getting game time, as coaches attempted to win at all costs. So, Matt’s guiding principle was that each boy would be given, wherever possible, the same amount of game time as everyone else. For some parents this is why the boys were joining the team. As the initial parts of the season developed, however, a pattern emerged, where making wholesale changes would see a close game change one way or the other as substitutes were made. A 1-1 may turn into a 5–1 through an imbalance in the team.
Matt however didn’t give up. He continued, believing in his principles, enabling everyone to play, and develop their confidence. Mid-season, after a couple of defeat and with a looming cup competition there was a parent/coach discussion. A thousand WhatsApp messages later Matt had the flexibility (at the behest of many of the parents) to tweak his philosophy and to give greater game time to the boys he thought would win a game on a given day, based upon the opposition they were facing. This meant that immediately some players played more and some less. However, the overriding balance and fairness remained.
The impact on results was broadly positive, with games that may have been lost being drawn, and those that may have been drawn being won. As time went on, a regular spine began to emerge, with goalkeeper, defender and attacker remaining constant with a healthy rotation across the rest of the side. It has been a pleasure watching the boys develop: both their friendships and the way they have played – they have gone from strangers to mates and whilst occasionally they have taken some spectacular defeats, their heads have never dropped. They have developed from a team without experience, to one who by the end of the season would challenge sides that were one or two leagues higher than them.
A recent Saturday was the teams end of season awards. Everyone received recognition, but huge congratulations to Martin – The Player of the Season – a skilful, determined goal machine, and I’m particularly proud that Freddie received most improved player.
Congratulations, and thanks must be given to the wider grassroots football community. This season, for the first time since I played at youth level, I have experienced the hard work and effort that goes in to developing footballers of the future and obviously more importantly, enabling all the players to share the teamwork, mindsets, communication, and friendship that will be so important throughout their lives.
Next season the boys will go from 5 a-side to 7 a-side, and if the friendlies they have played in this formation are anything to go by, there is cause for real optimism.
Watching from the sides and being part of the parent’s group I’ve witnessed many of the values that Mission Performance hold dear; Our pillars of leadership, communication and coaching have been ever present and whether coach, player or parent we have all taken learnings and memories that will live with us.
Final thanks to Rob Lewis and Christiaan Mcleod from Mission for sponsoring the team. It’s been a thrill to see the team run out with the Mission performance logo on their shirts.
What a ride.
Season 23 / 24 is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to get started again....