News - The Phoenix Nest
|Posted on 4 October, 2016 at 9:35|
I first got excited by American Football in 1984, turning on the TV and seeing the Raiders play the Dolphins engage in a battle of human chess, I didn't know what was going on but I knew I had never seen anything like it before. Little wonder then that I grew up and remain a Chicago Bears fan! The sport hooked me straight away and even though all I had was a hours weekly fix on Channel 4 (God Bless 'em) it didn't take long to start to pick up the basics of the game and some of the more intricate rules.
For the next few years I would count down the days til Sunday and my next fix of a sport that was exploding in popularity, mini football games would pop up on the school playground and I wore my way through countless pairs of trousers diving to make catches similar to those I ad see my heroes of the day making. Nothing was organised, no one had a clue but we knew we were having fun. A few years later I discovered that there was a local team, The Gravesend Lions undeterred that I was nothing more than a skinny 15 year old I turned up each week to train alongside grown men, child protection was different then so spending my Sunday mornings getting mashed was the norm and I LOVED IT! Coaching boiled down to someone yelling comments they had heard on TV or read in a handful of guides available, it was a simpler time though my first playbook was 40 pages! By the time I turned 18 the sports popularity was declining and I found myself too busy with life and work to remain committed, I had stopped watching regularly as the sport moved to sky and my involvement in the sport seemed to have come to an end.
Fast forward a dozen or so years (*cough* - editor), okay fifteen (*cough cough* - editor), alright 25 but that's not the point! The sport is booming again and has reached places few of us all those years could have imagined, regular NFL games, potential for a UK based franchise and more people watching, supporting and interested in the sport than ever. I got back involved a few years back and after coaching adult football made the decision to build from the very ground up and start a youth program, four years ago it was me and few players but my how we have grown, but it has not been easy. The sport comes with a lot of misconceptions and convincing parents that the sport is safe while at the same time explaining to their children why they can't simply put on pads and helmets and start thumping into each other is a tricky balancing act. But when the kids start to play and the parents see that safety and development is at the heart of the program we run it isn't long before they are every bit as hooked on the sport as I was all those years ago.
Look on the internet and you will find a plethora of motivational quotes saying how important it is to win or how easy it is to fail. Success comes through hard work, hard work comes through motivation but what drives motivation? In my experience the best way to motivate and encourage young people to try something they either have no experience of or no confidence that they can do it is to make it FUN! Enjoying what you do makes it much easier to keep on doing it, introducing FUNdamental skills of a new sport is hard work, American Football and Flag Football is far more challenging than any other sport they will have encountered before. You can't just turn up with a handful of kids a ball and jumpers for goalposts, the number of positions, skills required for each and the rules, oh goodness the rules! I used to tell adult players that it would be midway through their second season before they started to feel like they knew what was going on and started to get confidence in their role! Imagine explaining that to a parent or child, 'yes Mrs Mother your little Johnny can play American Football but he won't have any idea what is going on for 18 months but he needs to turn up and train every week'! Kids have the attention span of a bored goldfish at the best of times so how can you make sure they keep coming back? Again the answer is simple, make training session FUN, keep the player smiling and enjoying what he is doing, let them see their development and improvement and they will stay motivated enough to keep coming back. Winning is something to aspire to, success is great but seeing a group of young people smiling , laughing and working hard to improve themselves tops anything else you can achieve in sport because that attitude feeds through the coaches to the players and parents and if you have their support there is no limit to what can be achieved.