In the first of many exciting initiatives to bring broader activities to first team training – from sports psychology to master-classes – AFC Unity will be welcoming Chris Honor as a guest coach on January 19th, 2014.
“We’re not even a year old yet, but we said at the start that we wanted to be a club with a difference, finding innovative, interesting, and fun ways to give players a richer experience with us,” said manager Jay Baker.
“One of the key reasons for why we set up AFC Unity was to try new approaches with the aim of getting more women – at different levels and from different backgrounds – involved in football,” added co-founder Jane Watkinson. “This includes holding master-classes – such as guest coaching, alongside involving a range of people in opportunities from sports journalism to sports psychology, and through such events, activities and roles we provide players, supporters, volunteers and others involved with the club the chance to see the game from different perspectives, rather than sticking to a one-size-fits-all mentality.”
Chris Honor started his coaching career at the age of 17, when, while at college, he became involved with Northampton Town’s development centre, working as assistant coach as well as watching regular sessions with Leicester City FC during Peter Taylor’s time in charge there.
He moved to Cambridge United, becoming community coach with a short spell as ladies manager at just 18. He had further experience with Histon, Darlington, and Rotherham United elite development centres, where he was assistant to the under-15’s in the famous Umbro Cup, testing his knowledge against coaches from Stoke City, Port Vale, and Holland.
Since gaining his Level 2 in 2012, Honor has run his own football develoment centres and had spells coaching at Middlesbrough FC Ladies, Burnley FC Girls Centre of Excellence, and holding down a job with Grimsby Town FC, where he works alongside what he affectionately calls “a great team.”
Recently, he was open age manager of Shaw Lane Aquaforce, who beat Leicester City in their respective tournament and gained the Respect trophy for their performances voted by teams in the FA Women’s Premier League, which Chris calls “a great honour.”
It was during his time at Shaw Lane that he and AFC Unity manager Jay Baker first connected, organising a pre-season friendly with the expectations of facing each other in Division Two of the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League. It was not to be, as the friendly fell through, and the division was split into two, so they’ve yet to meet.
Honor is now coaching with Barnsley FC Ladies to pursue his dream of coaching in the Women’s Super League in the next five years, and also helps out with other clubs such as Leicester City Ladies and Barnsley FC, when his busy schedule permits.
“This man has staggering experience beyond his years and his passion for women’s football is infectious,” said Baker. “We need more like him, and I’m excited to bring his own unique perspective to our training at AFC Unity.”
Watkinson, who also happens to be team captain, added: “As a player, I find opportunities like this helpful, as football is a sport that can be approached from a number of directions, but sometimes people can get bogged down in the same, traditional approaches, afraid to try new things out. Therefore, getting as many people as possible involved in the club – with the aim of engaging as many women as possible by offering a range of interesting and diverse things to get involved in – is important to us as a club.”
Meanwhile, regular AFC Unity first team coaches Jonny Hodgson and Olivia Murray welcomed the news.
“Guest coaches will always benefit us to give us ideas on how they approach training,” said Hodgson.
“It’s is a really good idea because it gives variety to sessions and keeps people on their toes,” added Murray.
Honor feels the same way.
“Guest coaching can benefit both players and coaches as it allows both parties to get new ideas, and establishes contacts for a good professional working relationship,” said Chris. “We’re all learning, always; I’ve benefited by watching others coach, regardless of experience, and it’s an ideal way to get feedback on your session from a different group, which helps in coaching development.”
AFC Unity hope to bring in more special guests from the community soccer scene going forwards towards the summer break and their second season in the league.