Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Football League Family Club of the Year

This year I’m helping the Football League decide which of its 72 members deserves to be crowned their Family Club of the Year.

I’ll be part of a judging panel that will evaluate entries from football clubs of all three tiers of the Football League, and as well as recognising divisional winners, will look whose doing the best job of providing a quality experience for families.

Whilst plaudits and prestige are rightly awarded for the performance of football teams on the pitch, the Football League has recognised the importance of rewarding the efforts that go on off the pitch.

Families, and the attendance there of, are of vital importance to all Football League clubs in securing their long-term futures.  Without a future generation of supporters, who make a genuine difference and impact at any club, teams will struggle to compete and, possibly, even exist.


I love supporting one of my local teams, and I love it even more now that my son comes to games with me.

We actually generally go as a three-generation family, as it’s usually Max sandwiched by his dad and granddad at Walsall games.

I’m proud of how easy my club, The Mighty Saddlers, have made it for youngsters to come to games.  They were the first club in the country to introduce the concept of free football for all under-18s.

And the access they give to their players is second to none.  Fans regularly interact with them, as it is so clearly drilled that we are a community club that cares about its support.

Walsall Player, Romaine Sawyers with Max (mini-Tommy Bradshaw)


This will be my third time on the judging panel of the Football League Awards, and there have been many highlights, including seeing Portsmouth, despite their financial trouble, crowned Family Club of the Year in 2012.

Some of their initiatives were brilliant, and simply required effort rather than cash, as they were working on a zero budget basis.  My favourite was having an end of season camp out on their pitch.  Families were invited to play games, and set up a tent for a night out camping on the famous Fratton Park pitch at the end of the regular season.

Huddersfield Town have always impressed with their consistent work for families.  They created their own version of football cards for children as well as run the excellent Huddersfield Town XI vs 200 Kids match annually.

But initiatives don’t have to be huge.  In fact, when we visited Carlisle United last Easter, they were giving away a free single sweet to children coming through the away turnstiles.  Which led to one of my friend’s little girls ask if we could come every week!


I’m looking forward to seeing what clubs have come up with this year, and what they are offering to attract more local families to games.

Would also be great if you could share any good or bad experiences you’ve had with your local Football League team.

To help us decide who deserves the accolade this season.

Drop us a line, leave a comment, Tweet or visit my Facebook page to tell me more about your experience as a family visiting the football.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

I Love My Nephew (and Jonny's Sister)

It was my nephew's Christening at the weekend.

He's approaching his first birthday, and it was about time that his arrival was something those that love him should get together and celebrate.

His parents did a marvellous job of arranging a Christening that one guest described as the Christening if Carlsberg did Christenings.

Enough said.

Even if I has my doubts when I was wrestling with a load of tangled balloons minutes before we should all have been in Church.

I'm in there somewhere

My nephew, Bertie, was the real star.

It's unbelievable how you seem to find new love for a new person, and there was a lot of love for him on Sunday, as I'm sure there will be forever.

I find it overwhelming at times how much I love Bertie, which is something I have in common with both my son Max, and my wife, Helen.

We couldn't love him any more.

The last 10 months or so have been an absolute treasure to have been part of. 

We love looking after Bertie.

His overnight stays here have been a mixture of tears, laughs, nappies and discovery (Probably shouldn't have coupled nappies with discovery).

However his 'sleeps' here have all been exhaustively brilliant.

I'm in awe of the way my sister has taken to parenthood.  She's a brilliant mum, and his dad is doing top job too.  Bertie really is one very lucky boy.

What do you get for the boy who you love so much it aches?

Whilst time and attention should always win out, there are times when material things can be very appropriate.

Times like Christenings.

I remembered back to what I've bought my own son, Max, for significant events in the past.  And also what I've bought another godson of mine.

It's so difficult to find something that isn't too cumbersome, truly is a gift in the sense as you wouldn't necessary buy yourself, and that will last a good length of time to perhaps become a treasured possession.

And my tip for such a present is Jonny's Sister.  I love Jonny's Sister.  Amongst other things, they make letter cushions to an unparalleled quality, which is important when you are looking for a gift that will stand the test of time.

My boy's 'M' is still proudly on display despite nearly being ten years old, and I hope Bertie's 'B' also can be treasured for many years to come too.


Monday, 6 October 2014

Should we reward expected behaviour?

How do you reward your children? Or anyone else's for that matter?

For your kids do any of these warrant reward?

Doing their school work.
Putting their clean clothes away.
Cleaning their plate and putting it in the dishwasher.
Making their bed and opening curtains.

Or is this expected behaviour that should go unrewarded?

I've long had a problem with the 'good middle' when it comes to children.  And what I mean by the good middle, is the children not particularly excelling at anything, but still plodding on with a decent and expected level of performance.

I've spent a little time mentoring in schools, and have had more than one disagreement with an inclusion manager or two on rewarding those that generally can't be bothered, and ignoring those that get on with it unaided.

I mentored one particular child who didn't see the point in writing stuff down, or proving to anyone else that they understood or could perform a task.  If they knew the answer to a question, that was good enough for them.  I've absolutely no idea why we were paired together.

However, to encourage this reluctant genius to complete work the inclusion manager suggested that they were rewarded with something, a favourite biscuit or treat, when they did.

There was loads wrong with that idea in my mind, even ignoring the more sugary crap in schools being a terrible idea.  Lets start with what about all the other kids that were getting their work done, in time, the generally unrecognised?

There were many amongst them that didn't find it as easy, nor wanted to do the work either, but it seems all we'd be doing would be providing an incentive for these kids to not do their work in the quest of getting on the 'encouraged with treats' list.

I know schools are under pressure for quick results, and therefore quick fixes, but that really isn't a game I'm going to play.

With my boy now nearing ten,  we've decided to have a weekly reward, or pocket money, which is provided on the basis of a few chores getting done.  Like those listed above.

We've not got a rule book, but have reduced the weekly reward for forgetting things, or not sticking to what we've asked for.  But we've also added to it, for things like getting elected to school council.

Our boy started getting the school bus this September, and we've been impressed with how easy he's taken to the change, and for staying out of bother when other children have been fighting at the bus stop, or straying onto people's gardens without care. 

It was not only good to reward him for this, but to also let him know I may have eyes and ears wherever he is.

Not having fixed rules for reward, also means we can hopefully avoid manipulation, a child that may repeat something purely for the reward, or worse, con us in to thinking they have.

I appreciate one method will never work for all children or families, and am very interested to learn about other ideas and successes and failures elsewhere.

Do share yours with me.

My Tips For Rewarding Kids

1. Keep the amounts low

£5 might not seem a lot, but to a child it can be huge.  Don't make it too easy for them to save for what they like to spend money on.  Even a couple of pounds each week adds up quickly.

2. Ignore the 'peer' pleas

"Johnny gets £10 a week and doesn't have to do anything at home." Like I mentioned what works for one won't work for another, and only trying to keep up or better someone else's arrangements will quickly lead to missing the point of rewarding.

3. Mix fixed rewards with random changes

Try not to make your rewards system too complicate, nor something that can be manipulated.  Sometimes rewarding a child once for something is much better than doing it overtime.

4. Explain reductions and praise

I like to explain, both the good and bad, when I'm dishing out a reward. And even weeks where nothing exceptional has happened, then that is a default good week that needs recognising.

5. Talk about goals

Talk to your child about what they could aim to save for, what really matters to them.  I leave my boy free to buy what he wants, but do point out when purchases have been instant hits quickly forgotten.


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