MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Last year in the FA and McDonalds Grassroots Football Awards Jenn Guppy received a Highly Commended award in the category of Coach of the Year, nominated for her contribution to Purton Youth Football Club.
Oliver Selfe, CEO at Wiltshire FA said, “The Grassroots Football Awards give us an opportunity to recognise individuals, like Jenn, who are making a huge difference in the community. It is great to hear their stories and see the impact they are having.”
Jenn started her football journey in 2016 when she received a letter from her son’s football club stating the entire committee was stepping down and they needed people to help run the club otherwise it would fold.
Excited by the challenge Jenn volunteered for the committee, looking forward to a new environment where she could learn something new and develop new skills.
Jenn said “I had volunteering experience but no experience of football or what was involved in helping to run a football club. Despite not having a huge connection with football at the time, I knew I was passionate about being outdoors and active, so I decided to take on the Club Secretary role to help out. And I haven’t looked back since.”
Reflecting on her youth Jenn said she wasn’t very confident as a child and felt pushed out of sport for not being good enough or simply not feeling confident or comfortable. “Now, as an adult, I am making a conscious effort to push myself out of my comfort zone, to get past any negative feelings and to get out there.”
Taking on new challenges requires resilience and bravery. By putting herself in this new environment Jenn has felt the rewards by gaining self-confidence, self-esteem and respect which has had a positive impact on her life, Jenn comments, “Fresh air and exercise have literally saved my sanity on several occasions.”
Known for her natural ability to inspire people Jenn has always encouraged and supported friends who wanted to get active, giving them help to get started. Jenn said, “As Club Secretary I watched players come and go, some only staying a season and then moving on to other activities. I wanted to do more to support their football journeys, I wanted them to feel inspired by football, like I was beginning to. I especially wanted to make a difference to the young girls who were coming to give football a try.
“In 2018 I decided to take on another challenge and took an opportunity to train to be a coach. I thought I should lead by example and though as a female coach I could try and recruit and retain more female players.”
“This season I have an amazing young girl playing in my U8’s team and there is a female player in almost all of the younger age teams at Purton Youth FC, which I am hopeful all stay for next season too.”
Managing the Club Secretary role, the Coach role and a young family is a juggle, but Jenn says, “Coaching has become my ‘me time’. After a week at work, and looking after my family, when the weekend comes, I am ready for fresh air, being outdoors and hanging out with group of under 8 players that make me laugh, learn, moan with frustration and burst with pride week in week out.”
The FA and McDonalds Grassroots Awards 2019 saw Jenn awarded highly commended in the ‘Coach of the Year’ category. She was recognised for being a positive role model, demonstrating to the next generation that trying new things shouldn’t be feared. Jenn said “I am proud to be a strong, capable and independent woman that has taken on a new challenge and made an amazing difference to my life. I try and tell the kids that you don’t have to be the best to get involved and have a positive impact. I advocate that being outdoors and active is one of the best gifts in life, no matter your age, gender or ability.”
Oliver comments, “It is extremely important to us to reward our football volunteers and I am delighted that Jenn was recognised last year for her commitment and dedication to the grassroots game.
“This year we have extended our awards categories, with the support of our partner Charlton Baker, we have introduced 6 more categories to recognise and award more people making a difference in grassroots football. We encourage our network to nominate those who are striving to inspire the next generation, whether they are on the pitch or behind the scenes. Our new categories include ‘Outstanding Personal Achievement’, ‘Inclusive Football’ and a ‘Progression Award’.”
Jenn has recently decided to continue her coaching journey, starting the FA Level 2 Coaching Course in January 2020 after receiving a grant from Wiltshire FA to support the cost, “I had to take this opportunity, being offered it made me feel supported, valued and respected for the work I had done, so I jumped straight into Level 2.
"Without a football background I am at a slight disadvantage, not only having to learn about coaching I must also learn the little nuances of football so I can effectively coach my players. I really enjoy the classroom-based work, but the practical side is more challenging for me, it moves along quickly, and I find myself still working a few stages behind.
"Before now, I have stepped back and thought ‘what on earth am I doing here?’ but then I remind myself, I have earned my place on the course, I have different strengths to others, and I want to make a difference in football.
"I believe my fear and weaknesses help me be the best coach I can be, I can empathise with those players struggling, I can relate to their challenges and I can share my experience to help them gain resilience.
"I am the player, you find on every team, with few football skills or natural ability but a strong desire to learn, participate and develop as part of the team.”
On completion of Level 2, Jen would like to continue her learning journey and is also interested in facilitating courses.
Jen concludes, “Life is uncertain, and the future is hard to plan but I would love to stay in football continuing my journey in the sports industry, based outdoors. I want to continue to make a difference and inspire others.”
The Charlton Baker Grassroots Football Excellence Awards and the FA and McDonalds Grassroots Football Awards are now open for nominations.