Chairman’s Report for AGM 23rd June 2014
This chairman’s report is the first for me. As we are a grassroots football club I will start my report by talking about our achievements on the pitch and I will start with the eldest age group down to the youngest.
Our Under16’s finished their youth football careers a few weeks ago and we will say goodbye to some of our most loyal players, coaches and supporters. It looked like they might go out with a real bang as they were topping their division and unbeaten before Christmas but alas they slipped back to finish a credible 3rdplace. I would like to say thank you and well done to Mark Watson, Richard Sprosson, Richard Thorpe and all of the players and families in our departing Under16’s, I am pleased to see a few of the boys training with Buntingford Town, but whatever path they choose – I wish them well in their football careers and their adult lives.
Our Under15’s had a great season. The Whites kept us on the edge of our seats by trying to achieve fourth place; they certainly punched above their weight and were a real credit to Jason Rowley and the club. Meanwhile our U15’s Blues led by Sean Curran reached the league cup final and a week later won the league title, they also won the Knebworth tournament yesterday. At the cup final it was good to see all of the Whites players there supporting their team mates. I would like to say well done to all of the U15s players in both under15s teams for a great season and congratulations to Sean and Jason for creating a team ethic in the Under15’s that every age group should aspire to.
Our Under 14’s were pioneers for us as they competed in the Mid Herts Rural League. Chris Adams, Bruce Knapp, Andy Share and the boys certainly held their own in the top division of that league and claimed a couple of notable scalps along the way including some County Cup winners.
It was pleasing to see our Under13’s playing as a year ago they nearly folded. Fortunately we found a way to offer Under13’s football in Buntingford and they enjoyed a good season with Kev Ridgewell and Glenn Atkins.
A year ago our Under12’s were facing some challenges but I am pleased to say that they are now well positioned with enough players to seamlessly progress from 9v9 to to 11 a side football. They enjoyed a good season with the Blues finishing fifth in division 2 and the Whites topping division 3B. It’s fair to say that our Under12’s section is an environment where the children really enjoy developing and improving – we have even had a few boys selected for Norwich City trials so well done to Richard Thorpe, Bobby White and Dave Johnson.
Another age group struggling structurally last year was our Under 11’s but under the stewardship of Paul Skinner they had a good season finishing third in division four and growing the squad well.
Our Under10’s (that’s the age group I Coach) changed from playing with mixed ability teams to structuring teams based on coach’s assessments of the players performance against the FA’s four corners. My personal view is that it was proven to be the right thing to do for the players as it enabled the children to develop alongside and against players of similar ability to their own. Our Under 10’s now look forward to 9v9 football with enough players for two teams which will enable us to provide football for everyone and align players again to their own individual levels which I firmly believe best supports player development.
The Under9’s squad has grown under the stewardship of Barry Tokely and now Danny Miles too. I have seen a few of their matches where some great football has been played. I am also impressed at how well supported they are too which suggests that someone is doing something right. I know of at least one of our Under9’s is at Stevenage too.
Our Under8’s with Danny, Fitzy and Paul has experienced the issue of having two very polarised teams playing against the same opposition, usually resulting in the Whites being heavily beaten but I am delighted with the way that squad continues to grow and flourish and I know we have Cambridge looking at one of the boys there too.
It was the first season of matches for our Under 7’s as well as being the first year of the new 5v5 format. I watched a few of their games and was always impressed with what I saw both on and off the pitch so well done to Wes Cook and Spencer Pugh. Last September Wes was concerned with player numbers but I am pleased to report that he is now looking to field two teams next season which is great news.
With our Under6’s with Luke and Ricci are coaching about 25 players, more than ever at this age group. Undoubtedly this is no fluke – it’s down to raising the clubs profile and initiatives such as soccer schools and Cougars Cubs, we have proven now that when we combine those activities with committed Coaches we have a formula to really grow our club from the bottom up.
Our youngest children aged four to five are in Cougars Cubs. This was the first full year of Cougars Cubs and my Thanks go to Phil Allen, Emma Hawthorne and Craig Ivison for welcoming over twenty children to Cougars Cubs. Next season they will become our Under 6’s and a new group of Cubs will come through, developing a pipeline of children and coaches from Cubs to Under 7’s, which was always the plan.
So that covers things on the pitch – I am now going to spend a few minutes talking about the year off the pitch . . . . . .
At last year’s presentation weekend some special awards were made for “Outstanding Dedication and Commitment to Buntingford Cougars” to a few people that I think deserve a mention at our AGM so congratulations to Sharon Hyland, Jason Rowley, Darren Fitzgerald, Frank Pyke and Mark Ganellin for their much deserved awards. At last year’s AGM we also made Jason, Barry, Mark and Fitzy Vice Presidents of the club – again congratulations to you.
Our media efforts have seen the club’s profile and awareness increase significantly. We are now in the Buntingford Journal every month and The Mercury every week. Online our website is up to date and social media with Facebook and Twitter have been invaluable for communicating the clubs successes and initiatives and in turn growing our membership. I would like to thank Helen and Pete for driving our media efforts as well as the Managers who write match reports because when children and parents see their names mentioned they love it. Other initiatives such as the Callum Eveleigh Schools Tournament also promote Cougars in the community and it was good to see this return after missing a year or two thanks to Barry, Sharon and the team who delivered that.
Next onto our soccer schools; they are now really well established with people asking about the next one all the time. In the last year we have staged a soccer school during every school holiday except Christmas, a total of ten days have seen over 300 individual bookings. I expect our nett profit is over £1,000 and as a bonus we have had players join Cougars at Cubs, U6s, 7s, 8s, 9s and 10s after they have enjoyed one of our soccer schools. I would like to thank our partners First4Football for making our soccer schools so successful – particularly Lewis Endacott. I would also like to thank Emma Vater who manages the soccer school bookings and registrations for us.
On the subject of club welfare; We should all have a high regard for our club welfare policies and qualification requirements because they are important and a legal requirement. If I am concerned that any Coach ignores a request to do something in a reasonable time frame then I consider it to be unacceptable and I now simply ask them to stop coaching at Cougars. I think right now we have every Coach properly qualified or qualifying and for that I want to thank Charlotte Garratt because her tenacity has ensured our club is a safe place for children to enjoy.
Fundraising is important for us because it supplements our income and enables us to keep membership costs down. It also enables Cougars to show compassion and support for our loyal members and partners. Indeed we decided to help some families who were touched by misfortune in the last year and also support The Bury and Freman College facilities. Getting last year’s presentation weekend sponsored was a good start, soccer schools will have helped and then who can forget the Halloween party arranged by Helen, Sara, Emma and friends which added to the coffers as well as being a fun family event. There were also two quiz nights and a BBQ at The Sailors. Another aspect of fundraising is grants and we have done well with grant funding from East Herts to secure a defibrillator, making The Bury a safer place, and again from East Herts a grant to pay for soccer school venues into 2017. From Buntingford Town Council we received money to support coaching courses. I would like to thank everyone who has supported our applications including Pete, Helen and Dave plus Susan Lankaster who I hope will be joining our committee tonight. Our biggest fundraising event is of course our 5 a side tournament which I will come to a bit later.
Before that though a few words about our committee. In my experience grassroots football club committees are often dominated by arrogant people who rant on about outdated views and are more interested in their own voices and egos. I believe these people simply sap the energy of youth football clubs so I have worked hard to ensure that that does not happen at Cougars and I believe recent events show what can be achieved when we have a really strong committee focusing on the right things. I want to thank the committee members who are stepping down; Elaine, Sarah and Charlotte for your contribution over the years and the ones who are standing for re-election tonight thank you so much for your efforts and support – as Jason said at last years AGM “a strong Chairman does not make a strong club, a strong committee does” and although it’s quite rare I will say these words “I agree with Jason”. Rest assured though if I am your Chairman after this AGM I will continue to focus the committee on club, facility and player development initiatives and together we will make this club even stronger.
I have left to last a few words about our 5 a side tournament. We had 164 teams and well over 3,000 people here. Feedback has been nothing but positive. I targeted £3,000 profit this year; I suspect that we might have made a bit more over the four days but I don’t know for certain yet. What I do know for certain is that on each one of those four days we saw hundreds of children enjoying football, hundreds of supporters enjoying our hospitality, dozens of coaches, managers and referees – many of them young local lads – doing a great job. We felt pride in supporting a local new photography and art business. I would like to thank everyone who helped at the tournament, some of you were part of the organising team for months, some were here all day every day, some just chipped in with an hour in the car park, on the gate or on the sweet stall – it doesn’t really matter how much you did – if you contributed in any way then you helped and you should feel good. For me such an important aspect of our 5 a side tournament is the fact that a group of people, many in this room, can voluntarily work together to deliver such a fantastic event that showcases our community and Buntingford Cougars in such a positive light and we should all feel good about that.
On that note I will sign off the Chairman’s report for this AGM by saying thank you to all the managers, players and committee members for your efforts, your commitment and your passion and whatever role, if any, I might be elected for tonight I look forward to another successful year for Buntingford Cougars. Thank You.
Chairman – Buntingford Cougars Youth Football Club