Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Woven into the culture of everything at SK Football Coaching, the SK Way defines the behaviours, practices and attitudes of its coaches, players and parents.
Sat side by side in a Warrington coffee shop during the summer of 2017, founding members Joe, Peter and Ryan had an idea. Rain bashing against the windows; the weather was dull, but the mood was bright. What had originally been devised as a hobby, swiftly turned into a successful community-based organisation, designed to support the growth and development of footballers and junior clubs in the North West – SK Football Coaching was born.
From the early stages of three coaches, one session a week and a selection of mismatched equipment, to the current model: a multi-faceted organisation with over 200 registered players, the SK Way has remained SKFC’s guiding principle throughout its journey to becoming one the region’s most established names in grassroots coaching.
Upon viewing an SKFC training session or matchday, the method is clear: dominate possession, attack with a patient build up, maintain a fluid tempo all over the pitch and expressing creative freedom when appropriate; an equation that when added together leads to an exciting, meaningful and expansive style of play unique to junior level.
SK players are encouraged to be comfortable playing with either foot, understand where to create angles on the pitch to receive the ball under pressure and be able to use a range of moves to beat opponents in different situations - individuality is championed whenever a player pulls on the SKFC shirt.
“It is embedded in our philosophy, our culture and the reason we exist” explains co-founder and Director Joe Godfrey. “The SK Way stands for everything we do on the pitch, as well as off it.”
Perched on the touchline, Joe watches over an under-12 training drill: a ball starts in the centre circle and is played out wide. Swift linkup play sees players interchange positions freely. With every new pass the fibres on the onlooking coach’s neck twitch. Eyes staring forward with a disregard for blinking. The ball is worked to the by-line and cut back to the penalty spot, where a waiting striker places a side-footed effort in the bottom right-hand corner. Goal. A sharp “Yes!” is met with a short burst of applause. An attack as inventive and creative as it was precise. “Okay let’s go again” shouts Joe. The players repeat the move.
“We try to match the enthusiasm of the players when we coach” continues Joe. “The SK Way concept defines the values we operate by on a day-to-day basis: dedication, ambition, humility, determination and respect. Our aim is to progress players as individuals within a team setting.”
One of the key components in making the SK Way succeed is the commitment to working alongside junior sides, through recognition of their importance within the community and acting as an ally to them, not an enemy.
“SK Football Coaching are not a junior football club and we never will be. We want to build relationships with existing teams and support the volunteers that make the clubs at the heart of communities so special” explains Peter Shaw, co-founder and Operations Manager.
Peter was in the final stages of a university degree in football coaching & management when he was sat next to the other founding members in the Warrington coffee shop. For Pete, as he goes by on the training pitch, football was a way of life.
"It would have been easy for me to join an already established coaching company, so getting involved with the formation of SKFC was a risk at the time.”
Pete is one of the coaches at SK who has bridged the gap between foundation and youth stage football, coaching sides ranging from under-8s all the way up to under-17s.
“Whether it is introducing the basics of 7-a-side football for an under-9s group, or a session that looks at how to breakdown a deep block for one of our older teams, the guiding principles for all of our coaches remains the same.”
Whilst it may stipulate the ‘hows and whats’ of SK Football Coaching, the SK Way allows for flexibility from one coach to another.
“Basics will stay the same, but our coaching philosophies might differ depending on who the coach is and who we are coaching” elaborates Peter. “We do not expect coaches to be robots and all sing off the same hymn sheet and what I might believe in, another coach might not. It is a part of why we all have such a healthy working relationship.”
Just like the players are given the freedom to express themselves as individuals, the same mentality translates to how the coaches operate – a unique approach which constantly works towards evolving the practices and methods of grassroots football coaching.
Having bounced around various other jobs after SK Football Coaching was launched, co-founder Ryan Worrall returned on a full-time basis in late 2018, operating as the business development manager and growing SKFC’s profile in the region.
“For anybody who has seen how the SK coaches play football themselves, it will be clear that whilst we might be a group of great coaches, not all of them are great footballers.” Ryan, who has previously gone on record and backed himself as the most technically gifted footballer within the SK coaches’ ranks, formed a bespoke specialist programme, aiming to develop footballers in a tailored and individualised environment.
“As much as I love seeing football teams play well and win matches together, the bit I love most about the game is seeing those individual performances that really make you sit up and go ‘wow’” expresses Ryan. “The SK Way looks to progress players whilst simultaneously developing people, it is at the heart of all our operations.”
Whether a player works with SKFC for half of a season, or they are together throughout their entire grassroots journey, the values and aims presented by the SK Way ensures coaches are committed to the progression of all people, regardless of their ability when or if a ball is at their feet – an ideology defined by Joe as the ‘we do more’ concept.
“For me and the other SK coaches it doesn’t matter how long it takes, we will often continue our work after we have left the training pitch.”
Whether it is assisting a child if they are struggling with any issues away from football, supporting a junior club to recruit players to start a team, or even organising a charity football tournament to raise funds for a local cause – the SK Way stretches far beyond the specifics of grassroots football coaching, instead creating a lifestyle for those involved with SK Football Coaching to live by and through striving to constantly do more for others, a belief exists that in time players will too strive to train, develop and behave the SK Way.