Inspirational football coach from Hatfield school nominated as Role Model of the Year
- Credit: Ian Randall Photography
A Welwyn Garden City man’s passion for football and youth development has led to a nomination as Role Model of the Year in the Welwyn Hatfield Times Community Awards.
Gary Bailey, 35, set up the Onslow St Audrey’s School Football Academy from scratch in 2013 after working as a police schools officer, where he saw the benefits that football can have both on and off the pitch.
“With the police you get to see a different side, it’s more reactive,” he said. “I wanted to be more proactive.”
The academy currently runs two under-18 male teams, an under-18 female team, and an under-15 girls’ grassroots team.
The academy has notched up success after success.
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Onslow St Audrey’s pupil Lisa Milliken, 18, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “He honestly just changed everything for me.
“I went from grassroots to semi pro in two years.”
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Lisa has recently made a transfer to the London Bees, and now has a prestigious scholarship to play in the USA. But he’s also made his mark on pupils academically.
“His coaching involves the development of our life skills, confidence, resilience and motivation to achieve our full potential,” said Lisa.
Gary says that some of the pupils he started with did not have the grades to get into college - yet ended up going to university.
One pupil has gained a scholarship to Nottingham Trent University thanks to her footballing prowess.
Remembering his own educational struggles, he knew how sports could give pupils confidence in the classroom.
“I think some pupils are a lot more natural when they play.
“Some kids they just love sport, but they struggle educationally.”
He emphasises risk-taking on the pitch, ensuring pupils can bounce back from mistakes. “They relate that back to their coursework and their lives.
“They have the football team to take risks on the pitch - and then they can do that in the classroom.
“It empowers them to go on and improve themselves.”
“He’s changed the life of everyone that’s walked through the doors of the academy,” said Lisa.
To nominate a Role Model of the Year, see www.whtcommunityawards.co.uk