Grassroots coach Matt Hewison assesses 21 Days of Positivity for his Fishburn U14s

As our latest 21 Days of Positivity campaign comes to a close, Fishburn U14s manager Matt Hewison tells us about the benefits of the programme. The 48-year-old is a level two coach in Whitby in North Yorkshire.

Thursday 12 Mar 2020
The Fishburn U14s squad, with coach Matt Hewison, have enjoyed 21 Days of Positivity

21 Days of Positivity has been brilliant for us.

As a coach, you can sometimes go through the motions. Even though I am a very positive person, it's been great to engage with the FA and pass on the research and tips around creating a more positive environment.

The programme really encouraged me to take a step back and think about how I both communicate and coach. The U14s age group is particularly challenging, but the truth is that most levels of grassroots football coaches don't tend to get more than a few hours per week with their players. You have to maximise this and 21 Days of Positivity gave me the tools to do so.

My boys are entering their teenage years and can become a bit disengaged, even with a sport like football which they love. As a result, I have to make an extra effort to be positive and reinforce what they do well.

At Fishburn Park, we face other unique challenges as well. We only have eleven players and can't always take a full squad to games. We don't dwell on losses as a result. Instead, at full time I ask the players to identify five positives and we take them into our next training session and game.

We also heavily involve the parents. They can be your best friend, if engaged, but also turn on you if they feel left out or start to question the worth of their children playing football.

Fishburn U14s coach Matt Hewison on a trip to St. George's Park

At the end of games, I do a team talk with the players, for about two minutes, and then I always bring in the parents. They become part of a wider post-match briefing, where we announce the player of the match. And there is then a chance for parents to have their say and applaud strong performances or sportsmanship. I think this helps us create a warm club atmosphere.

Of course, every club likes to think they are positive, but sometimes you only know how to improve when you face a little adversity. This happened to us during the 21 Days of Positivity campaign.

We play in division five and had a cup game against a division two team. They arrived with five coaches and a big squad, while we had just me and nine players. Despite playing really well, we fell behind in the game.

At this point, their coach took off two of his players. Suddenly we grew in confidence, won some possession and had a few corners and shots. Their coach responded by bringing two players back on. We lost, but the fact their coach sent two players back on once we started getting into the game was a big compliment to us.

It showed our potential and competitive spirit. I reiterated this to the players at full time, as well as a reminder that football is about enjoyment, regardless of results. They agreed and that really improved the post-match mood.

I really wish 21 Days of Positivity was around when I was a kid. The big difference between now and then is junior grassroots football is really well structured.

Age-banding has helped. I started playing at 11 and was basically up against a bunch of 16-year-olds, who didn't pass me the ball. And if you played a much older team you'd lose 20-0. I still enjoyed it, but you didn't see the pathways you do now.

Plus, there weren't that many qualified coaches. It was usually just your PE teacher from school in charge. I think programmes like 21 Days of Positivity are really accessible. They help train coaches like myself improve, but can also inspire parents or older players to get their badges. That can only be a plus because as the numbers further increase, and coaching becomes even more structured and positive, grassroots football will grow from strength to strength.

By Matt Hewison Fishburn U14s coach