Ray Lee, a football coach for 150 young players every week at Chigwell FC and in East London, is the Nationwide Mutual Respect Award for April 2021.

The Nationwide Mutual Respect Award, as part of The Football Association’s Respect Campaign, aims to help make grassroots football more respectful and positive. The brand-new award recognises outstanding contributions, achievements and behaviour in grassroots football across the country by young players, coaches, teams, parents and referees.

The Nationwide Mutual Respect Award panel said: “We are delighted to give this prestigious accolade to Ray.

“Ray not only receives a trophy and the accolade of being the Nationwide Mutual Respect Award winner but also wins tickets to a forthcoming England game.

“Huge congratulations to Ray and his constant reinforcement of mutual respect values in grassroots football. Ray is doing so much great work with young people in his East London area through the power of positive football.”

Ray commented: “I coach four teams at Chigwell FC, a FA Charter Standard Club, playing in the Echo League.

“I see ‘Respect’ as a vital issue in football and I try to support it in everything we do.

“As a coach, I see the children as ‘people’ not just players. Their development does not lie within the bounds of a one-hour match, or a season, but way beyond in lessons that can help them throughout their lives.

“When The FA made the decision to remove league points from the Foundation Stage, it enabled the focus of children’s football to be about development.

“I see the pitch as a classroom, a place where learning should be supported. When I referee our U9 & U10 games, I usually do it without a whistle and encourage the players to help me.

“Before the game I ask the players, would you rather play for one minute and win or one hour and lose?

“Invariably they respond with playing for one hour and lose. The focus then becomes about ‘playing’ being the most important thing.

“At the start of the match, we do not toss a coin, as my players will offer the kick-off to our opponents because they are our guests.

“When the ball goes out of play on the touchline, I just ask whose ball is it? And the children will say it’s the opposition ball. I then praise them for being honest.

“When the ball goes out of play on the goal line, I will ask the goalkeeper if it’s a corner or a goal kick and they usually state the truth and again I praise them.

“From the start of the game I try to learn and remember the names of the opposition players and when praise is deserved, I praise them by name, for being honest or after good play.

“I try to encourage parents not to shout out instructions to the players. As the pitch is a ‘classroom’, the players have to make their own decisions. Parents would not shout out the answers in a classroom at school.

“One may ask why Respect is important? I would say, you need to respect both your teammates and opposition. Without your teammates, you have no team. Without the opposition you have no game.”


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