Grassroots football is the heart and soul of the game. For the hundreds of thousands of participants, it is their opportunity to be involved in a sport they are truly passionate about.

Kick It Out will speak to figureheads and representatives of the grassroots game, in a series exclusive to the organisation’s website, as they offer their unique thoughts from the amateur and community level.

In the latest edition, David Annobil, founder of Kekoa Coaching, spoke to Kick It Out on the importance of a support network for budding young players at the grassroots level and the Raise Your Game coaching event held in March 2017.

David was a promising young footballer having played for the likes of Chelsea and Leyton Orient as a young man. However, David’s career didn’t reach the heights that he wanted it to and he believes it was partly down to going through the game on his own.

“As a schoolboy I played for Leyton Orient and Chelsea. I eventually got released by Chelsea and ended up at Stevenage before playing for Hendon – I ended up going further down the leagues.

“I got involved with an agent who was going to take me abroad essentially but nothing materialised with that and eventually I took a break from the game for a while.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t the most confident person – I always had to go to football on my own, I had to deal with a lot of stuff on my own because my parents never really saw me play football.

“I grew to realise the importance of confidence when playing football – because I felt it was one of the most important things to have when playing. When I used to play with my friends at home, I was fine but when I was thrown into a football environment with people I didn’t know, I perhaps didn’t shine like I should have.”

With David recognising the lack of support he had as a young player, he decided to form his own coaching academy which would provide a network of support

“About 18 months ago I decided to build my own coaching academy for children – which is called Kekoa Coaching - and it has been going well. We now have 70 children involved in the coaching sessions training across four days a week and we’re also starting our own league this month!

“The concept and ethos behind Kekoa Coaching came about to make sure that young players are given confidence so that they can express themselves on the pitch. Hopefully at Kekoa Coaching they can do that with their team-mates which will allow them to be the best they can be.

“The support network for children is important. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and some aren’t so lucky as to have supportive parents; but I think parents are more keen to get involved nowadays in their child’s development in football.

“Sometimes obviously parents can’t make it to sessions but it’s important that children have that support and backing from their parents.”

Support for young players is not only an issue for former young hopefuls at professional clubs. The academy system is also having issues looking after young players according to David.

“It’s a different sort of problem these days. You get children put into academies maybe a bit too early because the clubs want to try and filter out as many kids as possible – so they have loads of development centres in the local area.
“I think it’s having a negative impact because you have children as young as five or six being told that they are not good enough and that has the potential to destroy them already.

“I’ve experienced a few young people who think they can’t be football players aged seven. And that’s where a supportive network needs to come in – so arguably more needs to be done to help young players.”

It’s not just support for players that is vital. Coaches working with players at all levels also require a network of assistance, which will allow them to develop.

David recently attended Kick It Out’s coaching Raise Your Game event at West Bromwich Albion – which gave coaches an insight into the industry, along with fellow coaches from Kekoa Academy.

“It was a great event, and it was insightful from my point of view. From my own personal aspect, what I took away from the event was the recording aspect of coaching. It’s important to analyse certain things that happen in training or matches with players and give them something to reflect on. I found it very interesting and insightful.

“I definitely would recommend Raise Your Game to others looking to get into football. I took some of the new coaches we have and it was a completely new experience for them and they loved it. They cannot wait for the next opportunity!”

In Part Two, David discusses what the football authorities can do to help support the grassroots game.