Neil Hunwicks

Five #CelebrateEssex Volunteer Winners Profiled

We're Recognising the Stories of Local Grassroots Heroes

A quintet of local football volunteers are being thanked after winning categories of our #CelebrateEssex Twitter competition, a popular contest which helps to recognise some of the grassroots game’s unsung heroes.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of football, putting in countless hours of their time so others can enjoy playing the game they love. #CelebrateEssex showcases personal stories from local legends, increasing their visibility as role models to engage new members and inspire them to join the community. The winners of the first five categories were:

* September (Young Volunteer): Spencer Hume (Essex & Suffolk Border League)
* October (Welfare Officer): Mike Kayley (Great Bradfords YFC)
* November (Footie Dad): Andrew Hayden (Sporting 77 YFC)
* December (Football Family): The Davidsons (Frinton & Walton YFC)
* January (Media Manager): Neil Hunwicks (Chadwell Heath Spartans FC)

The grassroots game needs more helpers, but it also needs to retain and recognise those already involved. Through this monthly competition, which involves a nomination process then a Twitter vote, #CelebrateEssex does just that, promoting ten different roles throughout the season.

It captured the imagination of the community during 2018/19, resulting in thousands of Twitter interactions. Twelve winners were named, 104 nominations were made and 8,703 votes were cast. Winners earned prizes, all nominees were publicly thanked and the competition received a special commendation at The FA’s County Recognition Awards.

Profiles of the #CelebrateEssex Coach (Youth and Adult), Footie Mum, Treasurer, Secretary and Chairperson categories will follow soon on our website, which is also the place to find out about new volunteering opportunities, as well as by following @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.

September (Young Volunteer)

Spencer Hume (Essex & Suffolk Border League)

Essex is fortunate to have a large number of talented individuals who are determined to develop themselves and emerge as the next generation of the local game. They coach and work with teams, referee, run events, promote the sport and champion the Respect Campaign. Here’s why Spencer won his award…

“I first got involved in football when I was 13 with Hedinghams United, watching their First Team. I really enjoyed it so I made a Facebook page for the Border League which was the league they were in. Now I go to games on Saturdays, I film them, do a brief report and sometimes do interviews with the managers. I run all the social media accounts for the league - Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.”

“I’d like to thank all the clubs who support me and are very welcoming when I attend. Also, to the players, managers and referees who allow me to film the games. Thanks to the league for coming to me and asking if I’d be interested, plus to Brian Reed, who has been great. He’s such a lovely person and a really respected guy in local football.”

“I do what I do because I enjoy it. I love reporting on local football. Once you’ve done it for a while you start to know everyone: all the players, the referees, the managers. It’s great! If you get the opportunity to do it, then just do it. You won’t regret it. I’ve never looked back. I’ve been volunteering for two and half years now and I absolutely love it!”
Spencer Hume
Mike Kayley
October (Welfare Officer)

Mike Kayley (Great Bradfords YFC)

A proficient Welfare Officer ensures their club or league operates a safe, child-friendly environment and promotes good practice in-line with their Child Protection Policy. They may also be responsible for safeguarding adults within their club or league so they can enjoy secure football participation. This is what makes Mike a superb Welfare Officer…

“Being Welfare Officer involves making sure every child has a safe, secure and professional environment in which to grow and learn all about football. It also means ensuring anyone connected to the club has the support they may need. The club follows FA guidelines for child welfare and it’s very important to our club.”

“We go above and beyond and champion positive mental wellbeing and inclusivity. I do this by regular visits to training and games and making sure I’m as visible as possible to managers, coaches, parents and players. I need to be approachable. I have made sure people within the club know they can contact me whenever they may need questions answering, or some support.”

“I attend training sessions, matches and club meetings to be as visible as possible. I also have an Assistant, Jess Leonard, whose support and organisation are massive for me. Being Welfare Officer means ensuring every child in the club has the same opportunity to experience, learn and develop as a footballer in a safe and professional environment. Everyone can succeed here.”
November (Footie Dad)

Andrew Hayden (Sporting 77 YFC)

A Footie Dad could be due a special mention for the support they offer their son or daughter before, during or after a game. They could help to make sure their ‘star player’ gets to training safely, enjoys participating in matches and is encouraged to do their best, providing encouragement afterwards… win, lose or draw. Here’s Andrew’s story…

“I played myself from about seven years old, suffering a major knee injury which finished my playing days aged just 20, unfortunately. I knew from then, when I had a child who showed an interest in football, I wanted to be involved with coaching and get my enjoyment that way. So, when my son decided to play, I got my coaching badges… and that’s what I did!”

“I’m supportive in as many ways as I can be for my son and his footballing journey, be it coaching him, watching him, taking him to Futsal sessions or taking him along to watch Colchester United locally, with special, occasional trips to Old Trafford to see his heroes… Manchester United! To see him smiling and enjoying football gives me enormous pleasure and fulfilment.”

“I perform my role at Sporting 77 YFC in Braintree by coaching the boys on Saturday and Sunday mornings, playing in their league format every week. To anyone thinking of doing a similar role… do it! The sheer enjoyment of seeing children smiling, enjoying themselves, making memories and developing new football skills, as well as friendships, makes it totally worthwhile!”
Andrew Hayden
The Davidsons
December (Football Family)

The Davidsons (Frinton & Walton YFC)

Football history features many high-profile collectives, such as The Nevilles, who have shared a common interest in the beautiful game. But there are also a number of more local families who keep grassroots football going, including mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, for whom football is unavoidable in their households. Find out about The Davidsons…

“We first got involved with Frinton & Walton YFC in 2011 when Alfie and Freddie began playing for the Under 9s and 7s respectively. Since then, Aynsley [Dad] has served two terms as Vice-Chairman, while Anna [Mum] has been Child Welfare Officer. Aynsley is currently working with others to set up a men’s team at Frinton & Walton.”

“He also trains the under-six boys, and volunteers with various teams. Anna plays for Ramsey & Mistley Ladies FC, who are in their first season. She is Secretary and Welfare Officer for them. Alfie is a referee and he helps to train a youth team at Frinton. Freddie has just qualified as a referee, too, and he volunteers at one of the girls’ teams’ midweek training.”

“Freddie played for eight seasons at Frinton & Walton, while Alfie plays at Little Oakley. As a family, we love football! It’s given us so much. We have made life-long friends. It keeps us busy and we get a huge amount of enjoyment, whether it’s playing, watching, officiating or being part of something like the annual presentation day, when we can all celebrate each other’s achievements together.”
January (Media Manager)

Neil Hunwicks (Chadwell Heath Spartans FC)

Modern Media Managers (or Press Officers) need proficient communication skills and creativity as the public face representing their club, league or organisation. They provide content for websites and social media, whether that be written or audio/video, regularly networking to be both reactive and proactive. Here’s why the media is so important to Neil…

“As my youngest son grew up, my love for non-league developed. I got into the media side when Aaron went to play at Hullbridge Sports. I just took my camera one day and ended up staying there for over six years, looking after their media. They’re probably the friendliest club I have ever been to, with some fantastic people.”

“Now I look after a big portion of the media for Spartans, which involves photographs and videos on matchdays. I put the photos out on social media and create weekly highlights videos of matches and training. We work very hard on our social media footprint. I perform this role with my son, Ray. He also plays and is one of three sons involved - Aaron is Player/Manager and Niru is the coach.”

“I love football, and love photography, so the two just went hand-in-hand for me. At this level, do not watermark your photographs. Get your pictures out there and build up a reputation. Getting involved in grassroots football was the best thing I ever did. It allows me to totally switch off from everything on a Saturday afternoon and focus on doing my little bit to support the team.”
Neil Hunwicks

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