Bedale Junior Football Club
Bedale JFC is a fantastic example of a club that plays a vital role in their local community by providing young players with a chance to develop their skills in a safe and enjoyable environment. Football Focus Magazine recently caught up with their Chairman Tony Clark to find out more about the good work they’ve been doing lately.
FF: How’s the general mood down at the club at the moment?
TC: Very positive. We have just purchased more land under a project called “Football For All; Forever” and this means that we will be able to have a total of six pitches of our own from 2018/19 as well as use of the school fields next to us for a further three pitches.
Housing in the area is growing and more families are arriving and with the club dedicated to providing football to any child from 3 to 18 who wishes to play it was vital that we had more pitches.
Anyone in grass roots football knows that you’re only as good as your volunteers and parents and we have a great set of both. Lots of hard work and fun is had and the coaches/volunteers all play a part in making things happen and the decisions we need to make … even our committee meetings are enjoyable!
The future is very bright although we know that the road of local grassroots football will have bumps along the way.
FF: What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
TC: There are a few plans on top of the usual running of the club. First we now need to get the new land developed, purchase new machinery to care for it and erect the building and fencing that will protect the machinery. With support from the Football Foundation and Hambleton District Council we are able to make this happen.
We are also looking to gain sponsorship for tracksuit tops and training shirts and shorts for all of our individual teams. We want the children to feel smart and have a uniform look but do not want this to happen only for those who can afford it so we are reaching out to local businesses with huge success. By Christmas I would like to see all kids provided for.
Most importantly I would like to see the new season settle in well and to see smiles on the pitch and touchlines.
FF: Could you tell us more about your approach to youth development?
TC: This is three fold for us.
Players – We encourage football for all and fun but we know that the right disciplines need to come with this. Youth development as players though is about encouraging children to try new skills and positions and our coaches are looking to support them with training drills and match day practices that allow them to do this.
As we get in to the older high school age groups we know that the focus needs to change so that the players become increasingly aware of their role in helping the team to perform and that they’re in it together with the younger ages looking to have fun but learning at the same time.
Coaches – We have a good coach succession plan in place and already have two U17 players now coaching at younger age group levels. Our Head Coach structure has allowed this form of development to take place.
Referees – Lots of clubs worry about a lack of qualified referees. At Bedale Juniors we have encouraged 14 to 16 year olds to look at this route as a way to earn some pocket money or even start a career. Our approach is for the club to pay for the course and ask the member to referee their first six games, once qualified, for free. It works well and we have four youngsters who went through this route over the last 18 months and another five booked on a course in September.
FF: How do you ensure that young players enjoy a smooth transition into the senior game?
TC: The link with Bedale Town is a good one as the Chairman there is active in the community and the first team manager is a former committee member and strong advocate of Bedale Juniors. We are open to our older players either staying with a junior set up to under 18 or looking to progress in to Bedale Town Reserves and/or first team. Just two weeks ago Bedale Town had a pre-season friendly with our Under 18 team showing the connection we have in working together.
FF: Would you consider yours to be a community club?
TC: Without a doubt! The local community (families and businesses) connect with us very well regardless of whether they have children at the club or not and the recent activity on track suit tops and training shirts/shorts has demonstrated this.
We have businesses coming to us and letting us know when fundraising opportunities or grants are available, all of the local schools let us display our recruitment posters, we are active on the local RAF base in Leeming, we look to present a club update to the Bedale Town Council at least annually and we have just joined a new Bedale Trade Group as we see the benefits to all of us working together.
The fact that we have a full match day kit sponsor in Vale of Mowbray who will now be entering their 5th and 6th years with us is also testament to the community spirit we have. It’s the best part of my role a lot of the time.
FF: Regarding your facility, are you happy with what you currently have? Are you keen to expand/improve in any areas?
TC: We’re very happy with our facilities and are often complimented for our pavilion and pitch quality. We are growing though and the new land will improve what we have still further. We are now keen to extend the pavilion so that we have additional changing facilities but also so that we have somewhere to meet as a committee or with parents/kids.
We also like the idea of providing sheltered areas next to each pitch to encourage more parents to watch in the grim weather we often see and to shelter substitutes and half time chats whatever the weather … basically we are always looking to further improve.
FF: What do you believe could be some of the biggest challenges the club may face in the next five years?
TC: Volunteer numbers now becomes the greatest challenge for us. We have a growing community and the land meaning we can have more teams but each needs a couple of coaches and someone doing admin and this can become an increasing hurdle.
Many people step forward and then realise that there is a lot of work involved and that the grassroots kids game has moved on since the time when they were 11 and both the coach and parents just yelled from the touchline. Gaining volunteers and then keeping them will keep us all very busy (and lose a few nights sleep) for years to come.
FF: What are the clubs ambitions for the next 5 years?
TC: To be known locally as great place for kids and to have strong credibility in the community and with the County FA. It’s that simple really. I would love all of those in the area to recognise that these are tough roles that we all volunteer for and, whilst we make the occasional mistake, our intentions are always based around getting kids enjoying football and being active.
If we achieve our facilities goal I will be delighted, if we get to 300 kids playing football that would be brilliant, if we win some trophies that is icing on the cake and if we have more ex-players turning out in the top flight game for men and ladies and even representing their country then this will be superb; but if we can have volunteers, parents and players smiling, having fun and pulling together when times get tough then we’ve met our number one goal.