In our latest feature we wanted to highlight the unsung heroes of a youth football club….the coaches. 
Our coaches (like many other’s up and down the country) put in a power of work for the club and donate and a huge portion of their free time to help the club and the local children.
We have chosen two of our 2012 coaches as they are slightly different in that they are a husband and wife duo and coach one of our clubs biggest teams….Kenny & Jennifer Lawrie
Can we 1st ask what made you want to get involved in the coaching side of things?
Kenny – It definitely wasn’t planned but if no-one stepped forward, the age group wouldn’t exist, so with the support of Brian Christie (Early Touches) and guidance, mentoring and encouragement from Steven Mitchell (2011’s), I decided to give it a try.  It was very daunting and I worried what the parents were thinking of each session, but confidence grew with each session and the SFA coaching courses were a massive help.
Jennifer – I fully supported in doing this (and possibly pushed him into it) but we quickly realised we were naïve to the amount of work involved so I started helping out and from there I quickly found myself on coaching courses and first aid courses.
Can you let us know how it works between you…who does the admin side of things, who’s the boss?
Kenny – I focus more on the actual football coaching, planning sessions, watching children’s development, creating teams and setting up pitches etc.
Jennifer – I’m always the boss :).  Within our coaching team we don’t like using hierarchies or boss roles, everything Kenny and I do we liaise with the full coaching team so it’s very much a joint venture.  And I am more a backup coach there to help if needed and admin.  At training sessions I work on new start paperwork, parent queries, and payments for extra activities.  If there is an injured or upset child I will step in to deal with that to allow the coaches to continue with the planned training session for the rest of the kids.
How many kids do you currently have in the group and how many other coaches do you have helping out?
Kenny – We currently have an amazing team of 7 coaches and 2 admin to coach our 24 children.
Jennifer – Each person within this coaching team has an individual role to play and that’s why I think our age group runs so well.
Could you take us through a typical week and the hours you think you put in?
Kenny – I don’t think there’s a day goes by without our full coaching team chatting to each other.  On the day of training (Tuesdays and Thursdays) the coaches chat about what drills they’ll be coming with, who can help set up the session, which children will be grouped together.  Fridays we plan the teams for Saturday matches and Saturday afternoons we discuss how each child did and if there any issues that should be aware of.  And then there’s committee meeting and duties on top of coaching our 2012’s.
Jennifer – Some weeks are more than others depending what events we have on but every day I am doing something for the football team whether a 10 min app update, a 2 hour player registration or a parent query catch up.  Within my typical week myself and my 2nd admin update app, maintain app, answer parent queries, mentor 2013 admin, payment audits, player registrations, kit orders, new start admin, organise matches and help coaches through qualification processes.
What is the best part of being a coach?
Kenny – Getting to know the children, parents and other coaches.  Genuine friendships have been formed in these last 10 months.  And then there’s the moment one of our players achieves something for the first time, a step over move or their first match, or their first match goal etc.  The smile on their face makes it all worth it.
Jennifer – In moments like that we feel just as proud of them as the parents on the side line.  I think we have both learnt a lot about ourselves these last 10 months and achieved a lot of self-development.
The 2012’s have had a couple of fantastic events recently (Oriam, play the game & half time heroes at a Hearts game for example).  How important do you think these type of events are for the kids in both learning and in excitement?
Kenny – We love looking for extra opportunities for our kids to get involved in to help keep them engaged.  Its great being part of these memories that the boys are creating.  Being there to see their faces when they stepped on the pitch at Tynecastle in front of thousands of people was priceless!
Jennifer – I think the parents really appreciate the extra effort we put in looking for new opportunities for the kids and the boys are genuinely all friends so love spending time together.  And I think these types of events can boost their confidence.
Do you have any further events planned?
Kenny – We have the Oriam booked again in March and we are looking forward to the transition to 5’s and starting matches again on Saturdays.
Jennifer – As well as football events we also watch out for any community events they can take part in, e.g. community litter picks etc, so we are also currently watching out for these types of events.
It’s very early doors, but how do you feel the winter football sessions are going?
Kenny – After the break we have had for Christmas the boys are loving being back together for matches and this is their first time playing 5’s matches so they are all having fun having a shot at being a goalie.
Jennifer – And some of our boys haven’t played at Saltire before so even that’s exciting for them.
With coaching such young kids, how do you keep it fun whilst still trying to improve their skills?
Kenny – I think this is where it helps having your own child playing in the team as you can gauge from them what’s fun and keep the training relevant to the kids.  For example, letting them floss when that’s what all the kids at school were doing or letting them copy their favourite players goal celebration when score and let the other players guess who it is.  There are also different attentions spans so we need to make sure we get the timing of the drills correct.  We try to avoid drills that have children just standing in a queue to get shot.  Always keep them moving with a ball at their feet.  And we now know the drills the boys love most so we know when to pull out the fun drills for them.
Jennifer – At Halloween all coaches and kids dressed up and we adapted the full training session to include Halloween aspects (music, dooking for apples).  The boys love it while still working on their skills.
How do you deal with parents coaching from the side-lines, particularly if it’s on the negative side?
Kenny – This can be difficult and does happen but from the very beginning we have referenced the code of conduct to our parents and made it clear what behaviours are expected and why side line coaching can have a negative impact on their child.  Thankfully, we have an amazing group of parents who we would feel comfortable approaching if required and politely remind them of the code of conduct.
Jennifer – And any new players are also directed to the code of conduct for review before they attend their first session so they also know what is/isn’t acceptable.  And the team app also offers a quick and easy way to communicate with all parents by sporadically putting up reminders of the club rules to the whole group.
What would you say are the biggest challenges in becoming a coach?
Kenny – The biggest challenge is probably getting the balance right and accepting help.  I’m self-employed but at the beginning I was finding myself stopping work to deal with football queries and jobs were taking longer.  I decided I couldn’t do it anymore and told the 2012 coaching team I was leaving as it was over whelming.  They encouraged me to stay and reminded me that we are a team and that I didn’t have to do it all on my own.  Now everyone in the 2012 coaching team has an individual role to play in the running of the group and that’s the only reason that we run so well, it’s a complete team effort.
Jennifer – We also have a 3 year old (Dylan) and it was making sure he didn’t feel left out that we were doing all this for his older brother Ryan.  But I needn’t have worried, all children and parents have embraced Dylan as the 2012 mascot and it’s like he has 24 big brothers watching out for him.
Finally….who is the better coach out of the two of you?
Kenny – ‘Me!’
Jennifer – ‘Me!’
Ryan – ‘You are both the best equally’
Dylan – ‘Daddy!’
Many thanks to both Kenny and Jennifer for their time and for the fabulous work they (alongside all our other great coaches) do for our club!