Fresh from being crowned Young Volunteer of the Year at the 2018 Scottish FA Grassroots Awards at Hampden Park this past week, Ben Mitchell took the time to speak to YFS about his love for coaching, his work with the SFA and his aspirations for the future.
21-year-old Ben has been involved in football for almost his entire life; he played between the ages of five and 15 and – after leaving school at the end of fifth year – soon found himself involved in coaching.
His took his first steps with Active Stirling- who ran coaching classes on behalf of the SFA – before moving on to coach with Stirling Albion and now Airdrie Academy U18s:
“I love it,” Ben told YFS. “When I was younger a lot of coaches thought it was their job to make me an amazing player, but actually it was their job to make me love football.
“Especially at grassroots level, you’re going to get kids through the door that you’re not going to be able to turn into the next Messi, but if you can make them love football the way you love football then that’s your job done.
“I think a lot of coaches feel they have to win every game, when actually it’s about trying to develop players and make them fall in love with football.”
When he’s not coaching, Ben now works in the football development department of the SFA and has been an SFA Youth Ambassador for Change for almost two years now.
The ambassador role is one he’s relished, because it’s allowed him to represent young people at the top table of Scottish football.
He said: “The programme is basically a way for the SFA to hear the voices of young people in Scotland.
“We’ve got a whole team of us in different areas, and we get involved in projects, with the end goal of trying to get an idea of how young people feel about certain things in Scottish Football.”
Ben’s hard-work and dedication have not gone unrecognised; he was named Best Young Volunteer at the Central Region Grassroot Awards in July, and then was honoured with the national award this past week:
“I’ve worked quite closely with the SFA for a while now so whether that had something to do with me winning or not I don’t know,” he joked. “But the award ceremony was a good night.
“Obviously, it was a very busy event being at Hampden; there was a dinner and I had my family there, I was quite proud.”
And what advice would Ben give to any young volunteers looking to follow in the footsteps of himself and the countless others that dedicate so much of their time to promoting the growth of the sport we all love?
He said: “I think first and foremost you need to understand that what you put in you’ll get out – it’s not them giving you, it’s you giving them.
“Volunteer for your own experience, and if you can help others and make new contacts along the way then even better.”
Ben will graduate from his role as a youth ambassador in December and isn’t entirely sure where his future will take him, but - as long as football is involved - he’ll be happy:
“I enjoy what I do day-to-day,” he said. “I also enjoy coaching with the kids in Airdrie so to be honest anything in football would be more than enough for me.
“But I think full-time coaching at an academy would be the dream.”