A stunned Brent Windelburn now has the trip of a lifetime to look forward to after being named the second ever McDonald’s Junior Football Coach of the Year.
Brent, who coaches at Capital Football club Upper Hutt City, follows in the footsteps of inaugural winner Nic Millichip and his reward is a football experience for two people in Abu Dhabi, including a behind-the-scenes look at Auckland City’s preparations for the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup.
He knew he was in the running for the big prize after being named as one of seven regional finalists but was still left shocked when singled out as national winner.
Steeve Sharpe, Football Development Manager for Capital Football, popped into training this evening to surprise Brent with the news and he struggled to put his emotions in to words.
“I’m speechless really, it’s so unexpected,” he said. “You don’t do it for this sort of thing but to get some recognition is obviously pleasing.”
Brent is planning on taking his wife with him to Abu Dhabi and is looking to make the most of the unique opportunity.
“You watch the Club World Cup on TV and read all about it so to experience it will be amazing. And it will be good to show support for Auckland City as a New Zealand team.”
All seven regional finalists – as well as the 6,000 other dedicated volunteers who coach the country’s kids – are well deserving of huge gratitude for their selfless efforts but Brent’s numerous nominations stood out with their heart-warming nature.
“My son has learned so much from him and he loves playing more than ever now,” said one parent of a player in Brent’s Upper Hutt City 9th grade premiers team.
Others mentioned how he had “rearranged his whole working week to fit in his trainings around the kids” and that “he has a positive approach to empowering the players to perform at their best”.
Many other themes coming through from Brent’s nominations included his emphasis on important values such as good sportsmanship, fair play, team work and commitment, as well as his infectious positivity.
“When the boys make a mistake Brent simply takes the opportunity to educate them on the options they could look at next time,” said one nomination. “Most importantly, he always makes an effort as the boys sub in and out to commend them on at least one positive action they have displayed.”
While Brent has claimed the ultimate prize, 21 of New Zealand’s most deserving volunteer coaches had their efforts recognised as regional shortlist finalists. Each received a coaching pack consisting of footballs, cones, bibs and a football bag while the regional winners were also provided with a Nike coach apparel pack including socks, shorts, training shirt, rain jacket, coaches whiteboard and weatherwriter clipboard.
Nominations were encouraged for positive behaviour both on and off the pitch, including supporting players positively from the touch line, introducing new players to the game and helping out in the local community.
The McDonald’s Junior Football Coach of the Year competition is a joint initiative from McDonald’s NZ and New Zealand Football and will enter its third year in 2018.