Chris Berry wins
Photo: Chris Berry is presented with an ipad mini courtesy of TeamSnap

Chris Berry wins inaugural WSU Community Coach Award (UK & Ireland) Presented by TeamSnap

It is with great pleasure to announce Chris Berry as the winner of our WSU Community Coach Award (UK & Ireland)!

It was truly eye-opening to read about the amazing people involved in female football, the dedication and selflessness to the sport is a real inspiration. Our aim when launching the WSU Community Coach Award (UK & Ireland) was to award, promote and give thanks to the incredible coaches who play such an important role and we feel we have found a worthy winner in Chris Berry.

Chris Berry was nominated for the award by Nick Wall who said “Chris is a shining light in local girls football and deserves to be recognised as such”, Nick described in great detail the amazing work and positive impact Chris has had on the club and local community – which we share with you below.

Chris Berry is the manager of AFC Boscombe U-11’s, based in Boscombe, Bournemouth, England. Berry was first appointed after replying to an advert searching for a volunteer to ‘assist’ in coaching a new age group of the club – U-10 girls. Chris arrived with a Level 1 qualification achieved in 2009 through his community work as a Police Officer, Chris felt that he could offer some support to an already successful club.

Ladies coach, Lou Fern, really put Chris in at the deep end by awarding him the role as “full-time” coach having only just turned up! Chris led session one training on a sunny Tuesday evening at Littledown Centre, where he must have been like a rabbit in headlights with a group of twelve excitable girls who just wanted to ‘play a match’. The interest for the team grew over the weeks and more girls arrived at the training sessions, enough to form a team to enter into the New Forest Girls League… This is when the silverware started to come…

AFC Boscombe U-11
Photo: AFC Boscombe U-11s team after winning the end of season shield

In their first season they won two tournaments, were successful in their pursuit for the league shield and were defeated only two times! However, it is not just Chris’ success on the pitch that caught our attention but also the vision to use football as a redirection to teach girls transferable skills such as leadership, team work, resilience and encourage friendship.

Nick Wall’s detailed nomination (below) will give you an insight into the importance of Chris’ work and the positive impact he is making both on and off the pitch.

The challenges faced by families and children in the Boscombe area are different to those in the rest of the Borough. Crime, substance misuse and domestic violence are not uncommon and can affect a family even if they are not directly involved in it. With Chris’ professional job as being a Police Officer, it was evident that he was keen not just to use football as a redirection but to teach the girls transferable skills, such as leadership, team work, resilience and encourage friendship. The bond formed between the girls was becoming infectious. Girls were inviting each other to birthday parties, sleep overs and day trips. Friendships were being formed between those that may not have done though other walks of life. This was all down to the environment Chris sets up each time the girls meet at training or match day.

Bournemouth Borough Council has a Boscombe Regeneration Programme and part of that statement is to make sure local children have the best opportunities for learning. And teaching is one of Chris’ best skills. Chris’ passion for coaching is not just because he loves football. He loves to develop. Not only himself but others.

An example of this would be a recent introduction of a player written behaviour agreement. Some of the players are excitable characters and Chris recognised this and how it may affect others around them. So, Chris introduced some positive recognition between the group. Having sat the girls down before one training session, Chris got THEM to write their own behaviour contact (that included suggestions of keeping shoe laces tied and less water fights !) The team ‘signed’ the agreement and each week, a player is awarded a trophy should they display the qualities as written by the team themselves. Since the introduction of this agreement, the behaviour of the girls is instantly recognisable. (Chris also volunteers for a Charity called Over The Wall and utilises ideas from there to aid development at the club)

As mentioned previously, despite the girls formed only a few months before start of their first season, they went on to only lose twice in the season (non-competitive results recorded), win an outdoor tournament, win an indoor tournament and win the league shield in front of Reading FC Ladies player Shelly Cox, who spoke nothing but positive things for the style and spirit of the team.

Chris Berry
Photo: Chris Berry with Reading WFC player, Shelly Cox

Furthermore, Chris has managed to apply and receive funding of £400 from Police Mutual Community Team and from a local business, which enabled Chris to purchase the girls their own kit, rather than play in oversized hand me downs. This in itself has given the girls more confidence.

Chris Berry is a great example of someone dedicating their own time to benefit others, Nick Wall explains:

As with most Grassroot clubs, it is normally a parent that is the Coach. They have some connection with the team and are selected or chosen to take on the role of a coach. Chris does not have this direct connection. He does what he needs to by giving up his own time, with passion, to develop each and every player. Over the year, he has expanded his football coaching knowledge through courses not for himself, but to benefit the girls he coaches. He is starting Level 2 coaching in September and also volunteered to take on the position of Safeguarding Officer for newly formed New Milton Ladies (AFC Boscombe are the feeder club) in order that they can achieve Charter Standard. Chris tries to get away with paying for these courses (and new equipment) himself as he does not want the money being taken directly away from the club. Chris has displayed a massive amount of selflessness over the time he has been associated with the club and the only person who does not recognise this is Chris himself.

All of us at Women’s Soccer United and TeamSnap would like to congratulate Chris Berry on receiving this award and hope that this small token of recognition highlights how much the club and local community appreciate what you do.

Nick Wall finished his nomination with a quote Chris said at the end of season awards held earlier this year and it sums up Chris’ reasons for coaching, we will end on that too:

‘Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen’.- Chris Berry

You can continue to follow Chris Berry and AFC Boscombe on the official website: www.afcboscombe.org

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