Phoenix United Football Club are part of the Bring It On Brum programme based in Erdington, working with roughly 60 young people per day aged 8-14. As well as hosting football sessions throughout the summer, participants got to take place in enrichment visits across Birmingham, including a hands-on construction day experience with RMF Construction.
Phoenix United also took part in the Street Games #Gen22 programme, giving young people aged 16 and over the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the local community in return for Commonwealth Games tickets, mentoring support and much more.
We caught up with Professional Footballer turned Coach, Simon Sturridge, to talk about the challenges and rewards of being a Coach and the importance of education within the sporting industry.
Tell us about yourself and your role with Phoenix United FC?
I was born in Newtown near the Jewellery Quarter. I was a Professional Footballer for 13 years, my clubs included Birmingham City and Stoke City and one of my career highlights was playing and scoring at Wembley in the Leyland Daf Cup Final. I went to the same secondary school as our Chairman, Wayne Henry, and my son Romayne played for the first Phoenix United football team 20+ years ago. Since then, I have kept in touch with Wayne and joined the Phoenix United family last year as a Camp Co-ordinator and also a coach for the younger football teams. This September I will be using my UEFA B badge to coach 16-19 years olds that have enrolled on to our new Phoenix Education Programme.
What is the most rewarding part of being a Coach?
Unlocking the potential within someone and setting them off onto their journey of greatness is hugely rewarding and fulfilling. Being a football coach is much more than improving a young persons football ability, it’s equally as important for them to grow as a person, equipping them for their next steps whatever that may be. Quite often our role is as much about being a mentor as it is a coach.
Do you have any memorable players that stick out in your mind? If so, why?
Saido Berahino played for Phoenix United and I can remember seeing him in his first under 9’s training session and thinking ‘wow!’. Within that season he signed for West Bromwich Albion’s Academy and went on to progress to the first team. Saido’s footballing ability was evident but his attitude at such a young age was impressive -he listened, observed, spent extra time training and was eager to learn.
What do you think is the most challenging part of coaching?
In addition to being a coach, I work in education and have done for 20+ years and Covid has impacted greatly on children and young people. Having had their education interrupted for two years it has meant you are working more on resetting key skills and behaviour such as attention span, concentration. At the moment this is needed more so than the practical skill development.
What are your hopes for the club in the future?
To create more opportunities for young people to advance in life and to become independent, mature and responsible individuals. For example, we want to offer more education programmes for young people and through funding opportunities we want to improve our facilities to include a 3G pitch and clubhouse which will also benefit the local community. Following the amazing success of the Lionesses, we want to provide girls with access to coaching to enable them to not only have an equal opportunity to progress within football, but also encourage them to participate more in physical activity, improve their confidence, meet other people and make being active fun.
What is the main advice you give to young people in sport?
My advice to young people is to understand your sport and the sacrifices that are needed to get you to where you want to be. You also need to understand that it takes hard work and you need to be dedicated to your craft. You must be able to listen, remain focused and be prepared to take feedback whether that’s good or bad in order to improve yourself. Education is a really important part of working in the sports industry. For example, football clubs offer a wide range of careers beyond being a Professional Footballer, with roles such as nutritionists, performance analysts, marketing/commercial teams etc so by being equally as focused on your studies it will give you a greater chance of a successful career within the industry.