Fresh from winning Best Volunteer in Youth Football at last month’s Central Region SFA Grassroots Awards, Milton AFC secretary Josephine Rodger spoke to YFS to discuss her time with the club and why the opportunity to play football is so important for kids.
Josephine began volunteering at Milton in 2004 when her eldest son, Paul, joined the club’s new soccer school. Her younger son, Marc, joined the club not long after and, although Paul has since left the club, Josephine remains to this day, and is now one of the most respected and involved people at the club.
She explained what convinced her to get involved all those years ago:
“I’m one of these types of people that’s always been quite hands-on,” she said. “I wanted to try and help where I possibly could, it was just part of bringing up my children.
“I was living in a house with my husband and two boys so I had to resign myself to the fact I was going to be buying football strips and football boots, so I just got involved naturally.”
She did admit that when it came time for her son’s to get involved in football, her family ties with Milton made choosing a club a no-brainer:
“My grandfather used to follow Milton when they were just a one team outfit way back in the 70’s,” she said. “He used to follow them everywhere.”
“Him and my dad had an affinity with Milton Football Club, so it’s always been in my family.”
Since those early days, Josephine has worked her way up through the club; starting as secretary of the 1994 team, she was in charge of - amongst other things - organising matches, washing kits and fundraising for trips abroad. Not long after, she began splitting her time between the 1994 team and the 98 team, and for the last eight years she has been secretary of the executive committee, meaning she’s now involved in co-ordinating with all youth, ladies and academy teams at the club.
And she says she is proud to have been part of the club for so long and to have played a part in it becoming the accredited SFA Community Club it is today.
She said: “I’ve watched Milton grow from a club just dipping their toe in the water and getting a soccer school, to a club with a structure put in place that’s creating a pathway for these kids.
“We’ve got these kids coming in at the age of four right the way up and feeding into our amateur team.
“That’s what it’s all about in my eyes and I can see it happening now so it’s been fantastic for me to witness and to be a big part of – and to actually still be enjoying it is great.”
But even after 14 years of tireless work, Josephine admits the Grassroots Award still came as a huge shock:
“That was the biggest secret ever,” she said. “Being the secretary of the full club means that when the Grassroots Awards come up I’m always plugging these things.
“With the amount of volunteers we’ve got at the club – over a hundred – and every one of them is a hero in my opinion. They all do a fantastic job - they’re all a cog in the huge wheel of Milton - and I send out emails telling them to get their nominations in because there’s loads of worthy people in our club that deserve to get these kind of accolades.
“I didn’t know that behind the scenes they were all scheming and it was me that they were actually nominating.”
Josephine was presented the award at a ceremony at Motherwell’s Fir Park, where she accepted it on behalf of the entire club, and dedicated the accolade to Mick Mullane, a founding member of the club who sadly passed away in June.
She spoke of how amazing it was to learn first-hand of all the amazing work being done to improve and promote grassroots football in this country.
She said: “I was really humbled actually when I went up and received the award because to listen to what actually is getting done in football at grassroots level, all the different projects that are on the go and all these people who are volunteers, what they do. It’s fantastic.
“I think football sometimes gets a bad press but it’s great to see people getting recognised for all the good things that happen in the sport because there is an awful lot of good happening out there – especially at grassroots level.”
Without volunteers, Milton – and clubs all across the country – wouldn’t exist. So what motivates someone to invest so much of their time and effort in youth football? There are few people more qualified than Josephine to answer that question:
“I think some parents do it because they have ambitions for their kid and want to see them progress,” she said. “But when I look at the size of Milton Football Club now, we’ve got 400 kids on our books.
“It’s just outstanding how it’s all run by volunteers – there’s no paid people at Milton at all. We’ve got to keep that going because if anything happened and our club collapsed, where would these kids end up?
“We’ve got some areas around about us that are deprived, and these kids may well end up hanging around on street corners or whatever. Sometimes I feel like the politicians and the council should stand up and take notice because if it wasn’t for these teams, and the volunteers, then these kids would potentially be out vandalising and costing them money.”
Josephine is not the first person from Milton to be recognised for their services; club co-founder Pat Griffin is a past Grassroots winner who has also been recognised at national level and by UEFA, and she hopes that in years to come more Milton volunteers are awarded for their efforts.
She said: “There’s hundreds of volunteers out there belonging to Milton and I would love to see them continually getting awards because they definitely deserve it, in my eyes.”