One day when cleaning out the flooded canteen.I was cleaning out the smelly rubbish with a shovel into my open trailer when I came across a piece of paper in almost pristine condition.
It was a circular from the late and great Johnny Warren to all the Clubs in the St George district. Johnny use to play for St George Budapest. The letter was written several years before but what I read transfixed me. It was almost as if the letter had been planted for me to read, to guide me in this new endeavour of running a soccer club, something I had never done before. At the top of the page was this question, who are you running your soccer club for?
The circular pointed out that very few players will ever reach elite status in soccer for a variety of reasons. Less than 1% of players that pass through any soccer club will go on to representative honours and few from there to international honours. Therefore the great majority of players will be there for enjoyment and personal development.
The article did not denounce elite success or achievement or winning. All of these are important. Competition at a personal and team level is critical to provide the challenge that drives commitment and achievement. However those of us that run soccer must have a broader view of the child.
We must dedicate ourselves as being an important program in the child’s overall development of mind, body and soul. Our program must strengthen the values the parents want for their children, sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork, competitive spirit, will to win, compassion for others, understanding of the rules, respect for authority, love of team, club, family and country.
We are there to put back and to give back to our children what was given to us by our forebears. We are investing in healthy mental attitudes, in building great men and women. Soccer, football is our means. The welfare and healthy development of our children is our goal. Many of our children have gone on to representative sports. I am most proud of them. Some of them are playing in the senior rugby league/rugby union competitions, others in soccer comps at a senior level.
The thing we can give all children is a desire for commitment and a love of the game. Just before Johnny Warren died he came to speak to the players. One of our most gifted young boys about 8 years old asked him, what do I have to do to be a great player? The answer, (wait for it) came quickly from the great man.
To be a great player, you must first become a great person. You must learn to thank your coach and all those who help you. You must consider others who contribute to your enjoyment of the game. Then you can go forward and strive to imitate the best and greatest players.
Johnny Warren summed up the philosophy of Rockdale City Raiders Soccer Club in one, we are about helping parents build great Australians.
The guiding message for all of our registered team officials, is that the welfare of our players comes before all other considerations.