This week, in the latest in our popular Spotlight series, we burrow behind the scenes at highly-popular Gloucester-based junior and youth football club Hardwicke Rangers, who were delighted recipients of a GFA Charter Standard Club of the year Award in 2016.
Their under-10s head coach, club mentor and proud parent of an aspiring centre-forward, Mark Hollingsworth, was present to show our reporter Simon Parkinson around...
Club: Hardwicke Rangers Youth
Grounds: Rob Dawe Memorial Close; Hardwicke Village Hall; Hardwicke Primary School; Field Court School, Quedgeley
League status: Severn Valley Youth League; Cheltenham Youth League; Cotswold Youth League; Gloucester County Girls League
Secretary: Phil Addle
Chairman: Jason Wasley
Treasurer: Richard Howells
Welfare Officer: Andy Prout
Mark, as youth football set-ups go in your locality, yours takes some beating doesn’t it?
We’d certainly like to think so! We have 20 teams from under-6s right through to under -16s and 300 boys and girls signed up, including an under-12 girls’ team. There are 24 managers and coaches overseeing those sections too, so there are a lot of people about the place!
It means we have to spread it about a bit in terms of where everyone plays, to incorporate one of our three senior teams as well who utilise facilities at Rob Dawe Memorial Close, where the club is based, and Hardwicke Village Hall 200 yards up the road next to the British Legion, where our men’s first team play.
Our juniors and youth put those locations to good use too, as well as pitches at Hardwicke Primary School and Field Court School in Quedgeley.
Let’s say it can be challenging, not least for our long-serving member and secretary Phil Addle who organises everything on the fixture front and sometimes finds himself in the position of negotiating with away managers over kick-off times as he tries to get his head around everything!
All the locations provide modern and comfortable facilities and we’re very fortunate on that front.
I see Hardwicke Rangers have been picking up awards along the way too...
Yes, that’s right and we were especially delighted to be named Gloucestershire FA Charter Standard Club of the Year in 2016 at their annual community award presentations.
We’ve received various other awards too from the county association but this particular award gave us all a massive boost and was testament to all the time and effort everyone had put in trying to build the club up to its fantastic present day standing.
That FA Charter Standard Club Award came only a year after we’d celebrated our 25th anniversary. As many of you will know, the youth section was started up in 1990 by Sue Dawe, the wife of our late chairman Rob Dawe, and Caroline Reed, who had taken out advertising space in a local village magazine calling for interest because there were no youth sides around.
It was a sad time when Rob passed away in 2014 and we organised a game in his memory with a Spurs Legends team down at Rob Dawe Memorial Close. He would have been proud to see us picking up that GFA accolade last year.
What is for sure, when you win prestigious awards such as these it can help with the recruitment of coaches and managers, something which can be very hard to attain as we all know.
I’d certainly urge anyone thinking of nominating clubs and individuals for this year’s awards to do so.
As a successful youth development enterprise the training of coaches is key, isn’t it?
We were one of the first clubs in the country, if not THE first, to introduce training courses for our coaches away from an FA facility, like those at the GFA’s own HQ at Almondsbury and Hartpury College which would always act as training centres.
Basically it meant we could provide an in-house service, at which Steve Lilley, the FA county coach developer for Gloucestershire, and Kurt Doyle, our FA coach mentor here at Hardwicke, both came to us to lend us their experience and know-how.
Initially they addressed 16 of us Hardwicke coaches over a couple of busy and enjoyable weekends, while another three or four coaches came in from other local clubs to make up numbers, and it worked really well. In fact an article about it was written by you, Simon, early last year (http://www.gloucestershirefa.com/news/2016/feb/hardwicke-rangers-youth-award-module-1).
Kurt continues to be assigned a certain amount of hours to spend with our managers and coaches, to give us advice and ideas and help allay any concerns we might have when it comes to putting young footballers through their paces. In doing so, Steve and Kurt helped me to become a club mentor, which I’m delighted about.
We also did Youth Award Module 1 and 2 courses with their assistance and next month a few of us managers and coaches will be completing our FA Level 2 coaching certificates under the watchful eye of Steve.
I gather good links have been forged between your junior and senior men sections
It’s something that has come more and more into the entire club ethos and long may it continue.
We have an executive committee solely responsible for youth matters and our link with the senior committee is Dean Johnson, who is coach of our under-10s along with myself, and as a club we run three under-10s teams! Dean likes to keep busy and is also men’s third team manager for his sins, which includes some current and ex-youth players.
A separate youth committee was recently started up and that involves two children per youth team – around 32 representing age groups from under-10s to 16s - getting together once a month at the Rob Dawe meeting room to discuss areas like fund-raising, Christmas parties, Comic Relief and other events. We think this is a great move because it not only helps those youngsters feel like they have a voice in club activities, but it also helps them develop as people.
They get a real buzz contributing in this way and you need that, because you want people to stay a part of the club as they move into adulthood.
At aspiring youth football clubs like ours you can’t just sit around hoping things will get done; you have to get involved yourself and play a part in getting others involved, to make sure people are getting their coaching badges.
I myself was someone who would stand on the sidelines watching my son Jack play from the moment he began with the under-6s, and Phil Addle would come up to me and say, ‘Come on, we need people like you to take your Level 1 certificate because these kids will be moving up a level next season’.
Suffice to say I became a coach in 2012 and my son is now happily out there with our under-10s.
Tell us about some of the driving forces behind the scenes at Hardwicke Rangers
There are about eight of us on the executive committee and our chairman Jason Wasley is owner and director of our main club sponsor, Aqua Construction, and he took over from our previous chairman Rob Dawe when he passed away in 2014.
Jason sponsors our under-10s and under-15s and he’s doing a brilliant job, always bringing fresh ideas to the table and making sure things get done, without beating a heavy stick!
Richard Howells, our treasurer, works at Delphi Engineering and is a great servant to the club too, as is our welfare officer Andy Prout, who is responsible for engaging with parents and children when it comes to any concerns or problems they may have.
Then there’s Vonnie Parr, our club training liaison officer acting as a link between us and Steve Lilley at the FA. She organises training courses and identifies how coaches overseeing the respective teams can benefit from such sessions.
The beauty is that we coaches have core drills, thanks to the expertise we’ve been given by the likes of Steve Lilley and Kurt Doyle, which we can put the kids through when we’ve maybe rushed back from work and not had a proper chance to prepare our training sessions.
So what of Hardwicke Rangers’ future... can you continue to sustain such growth?
We’d like to think we can get bigger and better and progress to a higher Charter Standard level. And we’d certainly like to attract more sponsorship.
There is land on a new local estate, currently being developed, which has been earmarked, through the parish council, for use by both Hardwicke Youth and adult football clubs to provide potential all-weather pitch facilities and even floodlights.
When we heard the news this was on the cards we were very excited, but development has been pushed back.
So it’s a few years away yet but nevertheless promises to be a great boon for Hardwicke Rangers and the club as a whole.