On Tuesday evening, 19 youngsters took their first steps towards a future in a Tonbridge Angels first team shirt when they signed their forms to be a part of next season’s Angels Under-13 squad. After a vigorous, enthusiastic training session, Wink Tomkinson spoke to one of their coaches, Dominic Welsh, who is just 18 years of age himself.
Alongside him in the dugout this coming season will be another of last season’s Under-18 squad, Callum Adonis-Taylor, who was on holiday at the time of the interview.
Dom and Callum had been doing their coaching badges to Level One 18 months ago when they were asked by John Gibbons to take on the Tonbridge Angels Community Scheme that involved putting on Saturday morning clubs and half-term courses which they have now been doing for a year.
They obviously drew the attention of the senior staff as they were asked to form a new Under-13s team as there was no under-12 age group to replace the 13-year-olds that have moved up a year under the guidance of Todd Tyrie. So they had to start from scratch with a couple of trials in June.
Having watch the session, I made comparisons with a Breakfast TV interview with Andy Murray that day, who made the point that first and foremost at this young age sport has to be fun. Dom said they tried to make every session enjoyable alongside the fitness work. In this session the youngsters did a lot of running but it was joyously embraced and rewarded with a good amount of ball work and there could be no doubting that all the boys were prepared to work hard. As Dom explained everyone wants to play and for their name to be the first on the team sheet. He said that attendance at training is excellent with just the odd absence for cricket or school sports.
Dom and Callum have a five year plan to take this group through to 18-year-olds with each year overseeing the next batch of 13 year-olds into the system, thereby increasing year-on-year the age groups at the club and potentially bettering the opportunity of unearthing the gem for the club.
I had certain concerns with two coaches of tender years coping with the pressure that might come from parents whose son perhaps might not be on the team sheet when, inevitably, they think he should be. We have all heard the horror stories. Dom explained that the sponsorship that has been offered by D S Barden will help relieve that stress. Dom maintained that he and Callum are strong enough characters to withstand this and because of the sponsorship everyone starts equal and players will be picked on merit and hard work. Whilst making his point, he was also keen to emphasise that he had a good set of parents onboard and everybody had been made aware from the outset that interference would not be acceptable.
The under-13’s will play league football and Dom feels that forging a winning mentality and development can sit comfortably alongside each other and, indeed, feels that that mindset is important as the lads grow into the senior end of youth football.
Dom reflected on where his own future lies at Longmead and he certainly isn’t giving up on a playing career of his own. “Playing is still a massive part of my life, I had 30 minutes with the under-21s in the trial game on Saturday and loved every minute of it, but should that not work out, then I have this opportunity in coaching. I could have trained with the first team this evening, but I recognise that I have a responsibility to these lads and have coached them.
The youngsters have pre-season friendly games coming up on Sunday against Sheppey; 30th July against Hythe Town and VCD on 13th August, all at Hadlow College and your support would be greatly appreciated.
Updated 16:56 - 6 Jul 2017 by Steve Churcher