In the second edition of ‘Your Club in Focus’, we caught up with Simon Leach, Chairman of Immingham Pilgrims AFC…
What is the background to your club?
The club has been running since 1971, providing football for youths is a safe environment. With the assistance of the then Football Development team at Lincolnshire FA and Graham Lyner, who is now the Chairman, we received assistance to complete the requirements to apply for FA Charter Standard. Immingham Pilgrims AFC were the first club in the North East and North Lincolnshire to get the FA Charter Standard, followed by the FA Development Charter, and then the FA Community Charter Standard; the latter two also being the first to attain in the area. It was our belief when we started this journey that it was important to offer the correct environment for all our members to be in, which pushes our coaching staff to get the correct qualifications for all aspects of their association with the members.
How long have you been involved at the club?
I started in the summer of 1994.
How and why did you get into grassroots football?
My eldest son was eligible to play for an under-11 team, but Immingham Pilgrims only started at under-12, so he joined the club in 1994 playing for a team one year older, all the way to under-16 where he moved straight into management and he is still coaching now, currently taking his FA Level 3 coaching badge. It was my younger son at the same time who wanted to play at under-9 level. At the time there was nothing locally, so my son and friends begged me to start up a team. I had a meeting with the Club Committee who were in favour that we run anything up to under-12 separately. The first training session we had eight boys turn up, next week 18, and week 3 it was 32 – ages ranged from 8 to 10. It just grew and grew week on week, so much so that I had to bring in parents and friends to help. It worked, the club has never looked back and we grew year upon year.
Why do you think grassroots football is important to so many people?
It bring people of all ages together, exercise and fitness, develops a healthy competitive spirit in young people, develops social skills, raises self-esteem, team building, tolerance of other people. It allows young people to develop tenacity and resilience and is key to emotional wellbeing, and above all it allows young people to enjoy sport.
As a club, what do you feel you do best?
Providing opportunities to allow children to engage whatever their age, gender, and ability; no matter how skilled they are so long as they enjoy it. Enjoyment has to be the key.
What achievements are you and the club most proud of?
Having over 220 young people playing football in the local community.
What are your areas for development as a club?
To continue our high profile in the area, ensuring all our coaching staff maintain and develop their own coaching skills through the various channels. Also to restart Wildcats again with a new coach we have found, who’s now awaiting a course once government advice changes and this is allowed to happen.
This is an exceedingly difficult period for grassroots football as a whole. What measures are being adopted to see the club through these challenging times?
It’s a difficult time with no income and long-term bills to pay. We should come out of this with our heads above water and we have started to focus on next season, checking what squads we will have, where they will play, who will be running them so that when we get the go-ahead, we will be ready to start. Then, we need all the assistance we and all clubs will require from the Lincs FA to ensure all coaches will be able to catch up on any recertifications they require. I am hoping that the current extension is extended to allow the children who will be overly excited to get back out on the field with their coaches, whether this be in the coming months or in the longer distance.
If somebody wanted to join the club, in either a playing, coaching or volunteering capacity, how should they get in touch?
We are seeking two or three coaches to work with the under-7 squads for the 2020/21 season. We are looking for the girls to come down when Wildcats start again, plus some of the established squads are also seeking players.
Should anyone be interested, send your details to Simon.firstname.lastname@example.org with what you would like to discuss and I will respond. Happy Football to everyone - it will come back rest assured. All the best, Simon.