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.

In a new feature series, Kick It Out will speak to figureheads and representatives of the grassroots game as they offer their unique thoughts from the amateur and community level.

In the first of the new series, Peter Augustine, County Coach Developer at The FA, reveals how his passion for developing players led to a career in coaching and discusses the opportunities available for coaches in the sport.

The idea of becoming a coach was always at the forefront of Peter Augustine’s mind. As his semi-professional career came towards its conclusion, Peter knew it was time to take his career in football in a different direction.

“I played in non-league around the Ryman Premier level - what would nowadays be known as the localised conference divisions. For myself, the transition from coaching to playing was fairly easy because I never saw myself as the most gifted player, but I used to work very hard at understanding the game, and because of that going into coaching seemed quite natural.

“It was more to do with the fact that I had played the game for a little bit and I wanted to continue my involvement in football after I had finished playing. I realised quickly that I wasn’t going to get anywhere unless I had coaching badges; so I started on this journey.”

The next stage of Peter’s coaching aspirations was to get the necessary qualifications required. He spent several years achieving his current UEFA A-License status, and it was a path which wasn’t the easiest to walk.

“The thing about getting the (coaching) badges was I didn’t realise how easy it would be to get on the necessary courses; but there were barriers put in the way.

“When I stopped playing, I asked a few people about getting qualified and they said to me ‘oh, it’s not for you son – you don’t want to go into this line of work’ and words to that extent. Even just getting assistance to get onto a course was quite tough.

“To be honest, I think at that time there weren’t many black coaches, and a lot of my peers would said ‘it’s not what ‘we’ do’. I simply thought ‘no’ – that wasn’t going to be good enough for me.”

The comments clearly didn’t deter Peter who went on to coach at the likes of Edgware Town, Epsom & Ewell, Dorking and Hampton and Richmond before taking his current position, which involves working closely with Surrey FA.

He believes the obstacles that were once put in front of him have now been eradicated.

“I think there has never been a better time to be a football coach. The courses are so much more accessible and they are much better advertised so it doesn’t matter what level you’re coaching at; you can get a qualification which suits you.

“From my point of view, I believe there are currently no barriers in place to anybody becoming a coach – the only barrier in place is the lack of job opportunities available.

“I think there are a lot of resources available to coaches these days to develop now but there could always be more. But the truth is there are opportunities like CPD (Continual Professional Development), and programmes online, including coaching masterclasses on The FA Website.

“When I was going on my journey, I always had a thirst for more knowledge so I could be better. I wanted to understand what I could do to improve players.”

Peter believes that coaches need to be dedicated to their art to be successful. But he is unsure whether some are at the grassroots level.

“I’ve worked in the men’s and women’s game and kind of done it all in terms of coaching, but I always strive to understand more about what makes players tick. What makes them think and decide on certain decisions on the pitch.

“I wanted to learn those things but I’m not sure if there are enough coaches that do.

“I think anybody can coach, but not everybody can coach well. People have to understand that it isn’t simply about putting cones and shouting at players to run from one end of the pitch to the other.

“I think at the grassroots level it’s more of a case of getting people involved at that level to understand that they need to be qualified to coach football. And the reason behind that is with qualifications comes knowledge. You will gain information not just from the tutor but also your fellow coaches on the same course.

“It’s about understanding why players come to your training sessions – and if you don’t understand that, you are always going to sell them short.”

In part two, Peter discusses what The FA are doing to create coaching opportunities within the counties and the importance of Kick It Out.