SWALLOWS football club junior development coach Roy Mitchell regards himself as more of a life-skills coach than a soccer coach.
But whatever the label, it’s working, as his u-17 team has for the past two years been turning heads at the biggest youth tournament on the continent, the Metropolitan u-19 Premier Cup in Cape Town, which took place this year over the Easter weekend.
The former Swallows player started coaching in 1996 when his son Uzair began playing for the club.
“I never thought I would be coaching at the level I am now. Initially I started coaching because my ‘laatie’ wanted to play and I was sitting and waiting for him. Being a lover of the game I thought I might as well assist,” he said.
Mitchell’s growing interest in the coaching aspect of the sport saw him attend Northern Areas Football Association (Nafa) coaching forums under the leadership of Godfrey de Kock.
This laid the foundation for the introductory level coaching clinics with the SA Football Association (Safa) where Mitchell excelled, and saw him become the Safa u-15 coach in 2009 and Nafa coach for teams through the age groups u-9 to u-17 for over 10 years.
Mitchell said the stronger his local players become, so too did his love for the game.
“I am a teacher at Soutpan Primary but my passion is my Swallows team. I take the time to really know my players. I know who they are dating, what they are doing at the weekend, etc.
“We train about three hours a week and in that time we support each other and push each other to the point where we are more than just a team, we’re family.”
Mitchell is the only coach at the Metropolitan tournament who posts a team which is not from an academy. But this has never deterred his team’s spirits, and he has produced six boys who were chosen to play for various academies over the last three years.
“The team has won all the tournaments Port Elizabeth has to offer. And now my boys and I share a common dream of winning the Metro Cup. Last year we managed to finish first within our group. But that was a more experienced team.”
Mitchell also said that although these players were spotted by scouts, a lot of them were not mentally ready for academy-level football.
“They are not ready for the mental adjustment academy football requires. Being away from home is a problem for them.
“This is why I believe that if we have proper coaching and facilities locally we will be producing top level footballers regularly. ”