The convention, which featured a stellar cast of coaches and speakers from the United States and Great Britain, saw three days of lectures, workshops and networking alongside the annual Coach of the Year awards ceremony.
The President of the Coaches’ Association Jim Messenger said he was thrilled that so many coaches had joined together to make the convention a great success and praised the Coaches’ Association team who had worked so hard to put together the event. "Without the support of so many committed volunteers this would not have been possible. I want to thank those who continue to invest their time in the Coaches Association in support of the coaching community."
Among the world class coaching sessions it was for many the awards ceremony which stood out. The event opened with an inspirational keynote speech from former NFL star Cecil Martin who spoke passionately about the positive influence which a coach can have in the lives of people both on and off the sports field.
After the closing remarks of Martin’s speech a succession of inspiration coaches were announced as Coach of the Year recipients for their sterling work in the different aspects of coaching across Great Britain.
Coaches’ Association Director Andrew Gambrill announced Coach Arnold from the Kirkcaldy Bulls as the recipient for the Coach of the Year award in the Flag football category, pointing to Coach Arnold’s record in not just producing great teams but also strong programmes which underpinned success on the field.
Coach Hume, the recipient of the University Coach of the Year for the 2009/10 season presented the Portsmouth Destroyers Head Coach, Russ Hewitt, with the 2010/11 edition of the award. Hewitt led the Destroyers to their first Neil Reynolds Championship Trophy in 2011.
Coach Hill from the University of Birmingham Lions, presented the Adult Coach of the Year award to Jay Alexander of the Tamworth Phoenix. In his presentation remarks Hill not only highlighted the tremendous on-field success which the Phoenix have achieved under the guidance of Alexander but also his commitment to building an environment which supports coaches to work closely to identify and share best practice, thereby enabling them to flourish.
The Youth and Junior Coach of the Year award was presented by Coach Purcell of the Lancashire Academy to his colleague, Coach Leigh. In a moving speech Purcell paid tribute not only to Coach Leigh’s coaching abilities but also to his commitment to the young people in the programme, even when facing challenges in his personal life.
As the awards ceremony drew to a close time was made for one last, surprise award.
The Coaches’ Association has been led for the past eight years by Coach Messenger. Over the course of this time Coach Messenger has served both the coaching and wider football community with distinction. The value of the body of work undertaken by Coach Messenger over the eight years and the character of a person who has given so much to many coaches on a personal level was recognised in the awarding speech fittingly given by Coach Hatcher, who is not only a colleague of Messenger’s on the Board of the Coaches’ Association but also part of the same coaching staff at the University of Hertfordshire Hurricanes,
BAFA Chairman Gary Marshall reacted to the presentation of the award to Coach Messenger:
‘Jim has given the Coaches Association both structure and direction and along with the BAFCA Board of Directors made the Association the envy of many a European Federation, most of whom want to emulate the BAFCA Coach Education Programme and are always asking for advice and guidance from Jim and his peers. He is rightly held in high regard both in Europe and on the wider IFAF stage where he has spoken at conventions and contributed to the training and development of other Federations' coaching associations.
Jim has contributed enormously to the way the BAFA Board of Directors has worked and developed and has taken on board the necessary changes to make us more adaptable and attractive to outside agencies. While representing BAFCA's interests and speaking out for Coaches' interests he has always been able to see the bigger picture and the need for BAFA to work as a unified body.’
Marshall concluded ‘I have always found it easy to work with Jim and valued his input and opinion both personally and as a fellow BAFA Director. BAFA is putting in place, both in our interim and final structure, procedures that will enable us to retain the skills and experience of people like Jim and continue to make them available to the Board of Directors as we cannot afford to lose them. His work on the landmark Kick-Start programme shows just one example of his value and commitment to the wider football community’
The President elect of the Coaches’ Association Russ Hewitt also paid tribute to Messenger. ‘It is an honour to be elected President of the Coaches Association and to follow on from Coach Messenger’ he said. ‘The impact of his work cannot and should not be underestimated, not just in terms of coaching but also in wider football development.’