Meet the grassroots coach - Daren Bavister

Club Website is on the lookout for grassroots football coaches. We want to give you a platform to talk about the beautiful game and what drives you as a coach. This month, we're pleased to introduce...

Name: Daren Bavister

Location: Basingstoke, Hampshire

Clubs: Hatch Warren Phoenix U12s & U7s Flames & Blaze

Position: Coach

Coaching Qualifications: FA Level 1

Number of Years Coaching: Three

Affiliated FA: Hampshire County FA

How did you get into coaching?

I fell into the role by luck. I had been a willing helper at my sons club for a couple of seasons and was persuaded to take up coaching by other members of the club and parents, who said that I had a natural ability to enthuse and encourage whilst still getting an important message across to the kids. I always enjoyed the time out on the pitch, the pre-session prep and the banter with the players and parents alike. It just seemed a natural fit.

I spent a couple of seasons picking up drills and tips from friends who coach other groups, as well as subscribing to some coaching websites. After my second season I realised that taking my learning further was the next step and the only way to really do that was through the FA’s coaching courses.

How would you describe your coaching philosophy?

Disciplined - so that players don’t shirk their responsibilities to me, the team and each other; Fair - I will never raise my voice to the kids in frustration. Kids should do something because they feel empowered to and understand and not because they are fearful of the outcome of doing something wrong; Progressive - I strongly believe that the sessions should challenge each player at their age and level, regress if I have to and turn up the pressure when needed to ensure the stronger and more talented are equally challenged; Fun - whilst there is a lot for every player to learn it doesn’t stop me chasing them into space on the pitch to prove my point with a water pistol or a muddy glove!

Who or what has most influenced you as a coach?

As a child playing at under-9s and 10s back in the late 70s, I remember being left with the other kids who ‘couldn’t’ play football properly! We ended up as subs week in, week out. Stood in the cold, wet and wind, but turning up to training no matter what. As you can imagine, I didn’t continue with the sport much after that. The lasting memory of being treated as worthless, untalented and unable has made me ensure that I will never become a coach with that attitude. I hope that the parents and children who see me at work would agree.

What skills does a grassroots football coach most require?

Patience, tolerance and empathy to be able to recognise that not every child is able to run all day, cross a ball or cut a defence to shreds, but every child brings something to a team and they deserve a fair chance to prove it.

You need to be able to put yourself in the child’s shoes just long enough to recognise how difficult it can be for some, but also push those more naturally gifted to hone their talents to be the best they can be.

What are the most frequent challenges / hurdles you have to overcome as a grassroots coach?

Our under-12s are becoming young men and now have to realise that, at this age, they have to be honest with themselves, as do their parents. If they haven’t progressed sufficiently then they reach a crossroads where their decisions make a difference to their friends and team mates. This shouldn’t mean giving up on the game, far from it, they should always find fun in the sport, maybe with Futsal or 5-a-side.

The under-7s pose very different challenges. Keeping them enthused and on focus can be entertaining, but keeping their sometimes over-enthusiastic parents in check on game days can prove somewhat more interesting.

What is your favourite coaching drill and why?

Gladiator Dual - Two lines of players with the coach facing away from the goal. Throw a ball over your shoulder or roll through your legs, one player from each line runs for the ball. The player who gets CONTROL of the ball first becomes the attacker, whilst the other has to defend. To progress this I add a keeper or make the goal smaller. Stage 2 - I add a defender so it will be a defensive overload, or get two reds vs two blues making it a 2-v-2 situation.

The lads love this one as it plays to the competitive side of them, allowing them to use their body weight to lean on the player. From a coach’s aspect it focuses on change of scenario, change of roles, asking the defenders to drive the attacker to the wide angles making it difficult to shoot.

What sort of environment do you create for your team and how do you create it?

I am a stickler for preparation. If the children turn up and see everything ready, it makes a marked difference to their approach. It adds a certain control to the session, knowing that the coach knows what is happening, when and how.

It’s similar in a way to a school classroom - if a child turns up and the teacher hasn’t got everything ready, time is wasted, opportunities are missed and it’s far too easy to lose focus. A well-planned session allows me to open up the banter and fun freely and where appropriate and easily bring the players back on track because I am in control (most of the time).

When judging a player, what are the top five attributes you look for?

Strength of character – Lends players to be able to hold a team together through tough times and gel positions together;
Effort – If a lad is of bigger physique but shows that he can give 100% when called upon, that puts him higher in my book than a fitter child who is lazy;
Vision – I would rather have a player able to see opportunity to move into space and hold position than one who is skilful but loses the ball trying to take on one too many players;
Passion – I appreciate and celebrate those who may wear their heart on their sleeves and whose lips quiver when they miss a shot or have recognised they may not have played their best for the team;
Team ethos – If a player joins our squad they must bring something that adds to the big picture, a team is the sum of all parts and every player should recognise that. A team relying on one talent will fail but one with various talents will grow.

How important is it that youth football coaches receive education geared specifically towards coaching young players (as is the case with the FA Youth Awards)?

Having been through on Level One, I cannot sing its praises enough. It gives such an insight into how a child sees their coach and what he/she stands for. There are too many managers and coaches living in their past trying to teach the way they learnt 20 years ago. We all need to move on and recognise where we can all make a difference to the game as a whole.

What do you think of the FA’s new approach to youth football as a result of the Youth Development Review?

We have benefited from it. It is an opportunity to ease the children into the many facets of the game - rules, pitch and goal size, team structure and opportunities - to allow the players to develop at a pace that isn’t so daunting. The additional cost borne by the parents and clubs, however, has been painful to address.

Winning; Enjoyment; Development - As a grassroots coach, in what order do you prioritise these three aspects of football and why?

Development – With good foundations and recognising where players need to develop their game and skills it will bring out all of the other aspects;
Enjoyment – No one should ever be asked to partake in anything that isn’t fun! Why would they do it for any prolonged period of time? It just doesn’t make sense;
Winning – eventually follows if you can get the two aspects above correct, admittedly there is a small window of opportunity to capitalise on this but it is our responsibility to manage all of the above.

With this in mind, should all young footballers get the same amount of game time regardless of their ability and why?

Ah! Admittedly we have done this for the last 2 seasons and it can work if - and it is a very BIG IF - everyone, players, management and parents buy into the plan.

Eventually though, as we are finding, there comes a time - typically entering secondary school - when the players reach a point where you have to field the most competitive squad BUT always leaving opportunities to those on the sidelines to earn their place. If you are the constantly the whipping boys, you won’t have a team to coach in less than a season as the players will be looking elsewhere to ply their trade.

What is the best thing about being a grassroots football coach?

Get it right and the positive impact and legacy that you can leave behind you is something that can never be taken away from you.


Five aside - a few quickfire question

Describe yourself as a coach in three words: Fun. Empathetic. Patient.

What professional manager/coach are you most like: Stuart Pearce – Made a few mistakes, puts them behind him and passionately gets on with the job at hand. Never worried about speaking his mind and getting his hands dirty.

If you could add any footballer (past or present) to your team: Alan Shearer - He knew where the goal was, worked like a mad man, solid, robust and led by example for England every game.

Describe your perfect team: Quick, relaxed, nimble, robust and resilient – moving the ball quickly, patiently waiting for the right moment, never fearful of trying something creative, working for each other and never letting their heads drop.

Your proudest moment as a grassroots football coach: Our team – then Under-11s - winning the Peter Houseman Fair Play Award 2013.

You can find out more about Daren's team and Hatch Warren Phoenix FC via their club website.


Have your say!

Thanks to Daren for giving is his views on life as a grassroots coach. Now, what do you think? What did you like most about Daren's take on the game and what might you disagree with. We'd love to hear what you think, so please leave your comments below.

If you'd like to be featured in 'Meet the Grassroots Coach', please email your name, contact number, location and details of your coaching qualifications to

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