When keen footballer Darren White’s daughters joined Wildcats in 2018, it brought him a world of new opportunities, too.
How did you hear about Wildcats?
My eldest daughter, who was eight at the time, had been on at me saying: “Dad can I go to football, Dad can I go to football?” She’d wanted to try it for ages but they only have boys' teams at her school. Then ‘The Lionesses Wildcats’, delivered by Woburn and Wavendon FC, popped up on my social media.
It looked great so I took her down one Sunday morning and we just didn’t stop going. In fact, once my younger daughter saw how much her sister was enjoying it, she came along, too.
How did you get involved with volunteering?
I love football, I grew up with it. I stopped playing a couple of years ago and I’ve always wanted to stay in the sport. When my daughters took an interest it opened doors for me.
I started out helping at the Wildcats sessions by doing little things: collecting cones, balls, things like that. Then, one weekend, the club’s youth development officer came along. He was asking parents what they thought of Wildcats and what their children were enjoying. Then he asked, if the club was to offer you a volunteer role or train you to be a coach, would you be interested? As both of my daughters were there and I already took an interest, the answer was obviously yes.
What was the training like?
Woburn and Wavendon FC put me through the FA Level 1 in Coaching Football. I could choose a convenient location for me near my home in Milton Keynes and it took place over three and a half Saturdays and two midweek sessions.
The training really opened my eyes. When I was a kid, football was all about winning. This coaching course was about inclusion, having fun, learning and developing, something I definitely agree with – football should be accessible for everyone no matter what level.
It changed me not just as a football coach but as a parent. Some of the simple things, like being positive rather than negative to get a better response I now use at home. If I need to tell my kids off, rather than getting them sulking I turn things into a positive so we can work on doing the right thing next time.
Do the club support you?
From the first day the coaches at the club were really friendly with both the children and the parents. They put us at ease.
Wildcats head coach Pat Mancini gave us the confidence and advice to take on a coaching role. I can’t speak highly enough of him.
Due the number of girls attending Wildcats, the club developed two new girls’ teams for U8s and U10s so they could begin playing in a league. I coach the U10s with another dad, Jay, and will be coaching at Wildcats this year.
What’s the best thing about coaching for you?
It’s the little things. Seeing the smiles on the girls’ faces and seeing them develop into people – not into footballers – into people. Watching them learn skills that will help them at school, in life and other sports, too.
When I taught my first-ever training session with Jay, we had two little girls that were so shy they didn’t even want to come on the pitch. Now you couldn’t pick those girls out, they’re the first on the pitch, they’re going to get the ball, they’re interacting. Seeing that new confidence is better than winning a football match for me.
What would you say to anyone thinking about volunteering at Wildcats?
One hundred per cent do it. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, I love it.
Seeing the other players and your own children develop, seeing them happy and smiling and coming together as a group, there’s no better feeling.
We want our children to be rounded people. Allowing them to try something new like football opens another door for them. Give yourself the same opportunity.