The selfless efforts of seven volunteer coaches have been recognised with each being named as a regional winner in the McDonald’s Junior Football Coach of the Year competition.
Nominations from all over the country flooded in but only one individual from every federation could be singled out and they will now go in the hat to be named national winner – which brings with it a once-in-a-lifetime football experience for two people in Abu Dhabi, including a behind-the-scenes look at Auckland City’s preparations for the FIFA Club World Cup.
After earlier being named among the regional shortlist finalists, each was already set to receive a coaching pack consisting of footballs, cones, bibs and a football bag. As regional winners, they will now also be provided with a Nike coach apparel pack including socks, shorts, training shirt, rain jacket, coaches whiteboard and weatherwriter clipboard.
McDonald’s NZ Head of Communications Simon Kenny says volunteer coaches play a vital role in helping Kiwi kids fall in love with the beautiful game and is delighted to be able to reward some of the 6,000 who give up their time each season for the cause.
“McDonald’s congratulates all of the highly-deserving regional winners of the Coach of the Year competition. This is an opportunity for us to recognise the commitment of thousands of junior football coaches across the country,” he says.
“The role of the coach is of utmost importance to getting more children playing and loving the game. The number and standard of nominations shows that we are providing a positive experience for young footballers and helping them to kick start their dreams.”
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.
Each of the regional winners fully embody this ethos. For example, the enthusiasm and dedication of the Northern Football winner, Jaron Burbidge from Birkenhead United, stood out among his numerous nominations. “You can see in his eyes how much he loves it – his eyes light up,” one said.
In Auckland, the positive attitude of Grant Abbott from Three Kings United is “remarkable to behold” and he always supports the players “with lots of praise and encouragement” while WaiBOP winner Maia Ririnui from Papamoa “never gets flustered on the sideline and the focus is very much on individual player development”.
Central region winner Sam Parkin is usually last to leave the field and “always has a smile on his face” when coaching two teams at Mangapapa School while Capital’s Brent Windelburn has “a positive approach to empowering the players to perform at their best” at Upper Hutt City and emphasises “qualities such as team work, sportsmanship, commitment to the team and fair play”.
It’s a similar story in the South Island, where Mainland winner JD Dennen “eats, sleeps and breathes football” for Nomads United and whose “support and encouragement for each player is exceptional”. Down in the deep south, teenager Sam O’Brien is only a few years older than the children he coaches at Alexandra United but still commands their “absolute respect and attention” and gets his coaching points across without ever raising his voice.
New Zealand Football Junior Development Manager Owain Prosser says the selection process was far from easy after each federation was inundated with entries.
“The calibre of coaches nominated was very high and we have received glowing recommendations for them from their club staff, parents, players and also their regional football federation,” he says.
“Whilst the seven regional winners are sharing the limelight, New Zealand Football and McDonald’s would also like to thank all coaches involved with providing junior football during this year. Coaches like these are helping to grow the game in New Zealand and it is fantastic that McDonald’s are able to recognise and reward them for this.”
The national McDonald’s Junior Football Coach of the Year winner will be announced by New Zealand Football on Tuesday 22 August.