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To prepare todays boys for the world of competition.

by Jonathan Crawford in London, England, United Kingdom

As a Senior Coach I was previously recruited as a Site Manager for a Football coaching enterprise known as Little Foxes Club. This organisation caters for children between the ages of 18 months-12 years old, and has 1000s of sign-ups at several sites in West London. My role required me to oversee young Coaches and Assistants (usually between the ages of 16-24) as they delivered their sessions. Given the nature of the job, the majority of applicants were male. However, in my 6 years of working for this company, I and my fellow Site Manager frequently observed and reported the following negative patterns of behaviour amongst our male recruits:

1. Unreliability: We could never guarantee that they would arrive for their agreed sessions. The consequences of leaving a group of 20+ children stranded, whose parents have paid a lot of money for their class, rarely seemed to occur to them as their responsibility. If disciplined by Management, coaches would often conspire to exploit the legal loophole of calling in sick before their session. This was rarely an issue with our female coaches.

2. Punctuality: Coaches were either good at coaching, or punctual and attendant - but male coaches with both qualities were extremely rare.

3. Teamwork and Sharing Workload: This job required a lot of physical lifting to set up the goals and carry heavy equipment before their session. Sadly, a lot of the lifting was performed by our female coaches, whilst many male coaches deliberately arrived after the setup process was complete, or spent the setup time playing football and did not feel compelled to use their natural strength advantage to help.

4. Maturity: We often had to warn our male coaches of the hazards of playing football against primary school children. Despite Safeguarding training, the neglect to prioritise the safeguarding of children over their impulse to play was addressed on a weekly basis.

5. Professionalism: There seemed to be an absence of pride in one's appearance. Site Managers frequently addressed Poor Grooming (sometimes hygiene), Lack of Lesson Planning and Preparation, and Bad or Inappropriate language when in uniform.

6. Commitment: The notion of delayed gratification and building a career over time often led to many male coaches to feeling misled and disappointed with what they had signed up for. Because of this reason the average staff turnover was around  6 months.

On a positive note, these issues were not so apparent with our male recruits who had immigrated from Eastern/Southern Europe or the Subcontinent. However, it was evident that recruiting UK educated young males was not only a big risk for the company, but very costly. Irrespective, of the training and personal development programmes we implemented, it was clear this is not an issue of gender ability, but the neglect of UK schools to prepare our boys for the real world of work.

I admit that this is anecdotal; however, I subsequently launched my own company Sports Intelligence UK, only to experience the same patterns in behaviour with my young male recruits. This has raised a concern in me that I feel compelled to tackle. 

Most sports coaching programmes( including the PE curriculum) focus primarily on the health benefits of physical activity. Young boys will see their sporting heroes on TV and believe that these lessons will make them the next superstar. Although this is highly unlikely, even if they were to pursue the path of excellence, an even higher level of character development such as resilience and social skills would be needed. I am therefore proposing a 5-day residential Sports Camp called Boys2Mentoring. My aim is to set challenges where boys learn to develop their:

1. Teamwork skills

2. Responsibility (Using your strength to help and assist the vulnerable)

3. Professional Appearance - The importance of a good first impressions in the workplace.

4. Delayed Gratification - How great rewards can be attained after a sacrifice, rather than during a task.


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