Appreciation is being shown to local football volunteers who emerged victorious from 2020/21’s categories of our #CelebrateEssex competition, a popular Twitter contest which recognises the grassroots game’s unsung heroes.
#CelebrateEssex showcases personal stories from local legends, increasing their visibility as role models to inspire newcomers to join the community. All volunteers are the lifeblood of football, putting in countless hours of their time so others can enjoy playing the game they love. More helpers are needed, but football 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. These are the profiles of four of last campaign’s worthy winners:
October (Welfare Officer): Maxine Ford (Hashtag United YFC)
A proficient Welfare Officer ensures their club or league operates a safe, friendly environment and promotes good practice in-line with their Safeguarding Children Policy. They may also be responsible for safeguarding adults at risk within their club or league so they can enjoy secure football participation. Here’s Maxine’s story…
“All of my children play football, so it's only natural for me to be involved, initially as a parent, and then taking on the role as the club's Welfare Officer. My background in social work gave me the skills and knowledge which supports my role fully and professionally at a club.”
“I have been the club's Welfare Officer for four years and feel passionate about making football a safe environment which is fun for all. I'm at the football ground at weekends, with some evenings in the week on the laptop, chasing for qualifications to be updated. The role of Club Welfare Officer can be rewarding, but equally time-consuming as it's an active role which takes time and patience.”
“You need a balanced view and approach. My role is to ensure safeguarding is embedded across our club, making sure children are having a positive experience playing within a safe environment. I have been involved with updating the policies and signing them off. During a difficult time for all, I acted as one of the Covid-19 Officers during the pandemic, creating risk assessments.”
“I'm also building relationships throughout the club to be that familiar, friendly face who is approachable. I support managers and coaches to have the mandatory qualifications to enable them to directly work with children and ensure we have clear processes in place.”
“I like being part of our exciting Players Forum whilst also putting together a mental health action plan, supported by the Essex County FA, as I trained to be the club's Mental Health First Aid Champion. The club operates as a team, so I would like to thank all of our hard-working volunteers, who all go the extra mile.”
“I do my role to strengthen the club's ethos and practice around safeguarding so children can thrive within their environment. What would I say to anyone who's thinking of taking-up a similar role? Do it! Go to a local club and volunteer your time as it’s good to learn new things. It’s a challenging but rewarding role which puts safeguarding at the forefront of everyone's minds!”
November (Footie Dad): Ian Kendle (Chelmsford City Ladies FC)
A Footie Dad may 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 they get to training safely, enjoy participating in matches and are encouraged to do their best, providing positive support afterwards… win, lose or draw. This is Ian’s profile…
“I first got involved in football when I managed both my daughters' junior teams at Chelmsford City Girls FC. I then went on to produce matchday programmes for the overall club and now also take photos at the matches, for all of the teams.”
“I became involved initially because of my daughter's love of football, and found that I enjoyed it. I would say to any parent: get involved, you'll get much more out of the matches.”
January (Media Manager): Lewis Murphy and Aaron Moore (Harlow Town Ladies FC)
Modern Media Managers need proficient communication skills and creativity as the public face representing their club, league or organisation. They provide creative content for websites and social media, whether that be written or audio/video, regularly networking to ensure they can be both reactive and proactive. Here’s more about Lewis and Aaron…
Lewis: “My background in football is that I had a very brief stint in men’s Saturday and Sunday football, then it was onto being a media volunteer for Harlow Town Ladies FC. Now most Sundays for me are about photography and videography. I fill any other spare time making up graphics for fixtures alongside planning out our social media for the week with the Club Secretary.”
“I work alongside arguably one of the best sports writers in non-league football, Aaron Moore. We’re always bouncing ideas off each other and, if it wasn’t for him, our content wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is. I can’t praise and thank Club Secretary Joe Barker enough, either. He came to me with a media vision and gave me the opportunity to work with this fantastic club.”
“I love football. It’s been a massive part of my life and to be involved with a club is a fantastic feeling. I get to combine two things I’m passionate about every weekend. For anyone looking to volunteer in the media for a non-league side, it’s a great way to truly improve your skills in a rewarding way. Clubs need the support more than ever, and social media is a fantastic tool to engage a fanbase.”
Aaron (pictured above, left): “I’ve only been doing football media for the last two seasons, doing match reports and interviews for Walthamstow FC before doing a similar role at Harlow Town Ladies FC. My role as the club reporter is to produce interviews with players and management and match reports for every game, as well as write-ups, including news stories involving the ladies.”
“Interviews are mainly done on a matchday, before and after the match, but I also get a preview at training ahead of games. I usually write the match report during the half time break and after the game to have it ready for just after full time. I work alongside my partner in crime, Lewis Murphy, who usually records the interviews, and it’s great to work alongside such a talented guy.”
“I’d also have to thank Joe Barker, who ensures we have everything we need and for giving me the chance to volunteer at such a great club. What would I say to anyone who's thinking of taking-up a similar role? Just do it! Football media is the best way to still be involved with football if you can’t play and it’s rewarding to see the positive feedback you get!”
Profiles of all these #CelebrateEssex winners will be shared on Facebook (search for ‘EssexFootball’). Nominations in the first category of the 2021/22 #CelebrateEssex awards for ‘Young Volunteers’ will begin this Thursday (9th September). Browse the 'Volunteers' menu above to find out about new volunteering opportunities. You can also follow @EssexCountyFA on Twitter.