Russ Johnson, Co-Founder Ballon, reflects on his journey to prominence in the ‘beautiful game’.
Having been a goalkeeper in my youth – I was ecstatic when my Son volunteered to go in goal for a local grassroots team. He turned heads, and immediately caught the attention of opposition managers and scouts at that young age.
I knew I had to help him, so I embarked on teaching myself the technical basics. Fast forward 4 years, I’m now FA Level 2 outfield qualified, FA GK L1 qualified (course colleague Nick Culkin and tutor Brian Peck had me down as the most improved GK of the Course) and now I have 4 years experience at grassroots coaching and team management, as well as a paid goalkeeping role with Select Soccer in Bolton operated by ex-Bolton Wanderers professionals.
My coaching knowledge, is expanded as I am now Youth GK coach at Stockport County Ladies FC. It’s quite a niche situation for a girls football team to have a dedicated goalkeeping coach. Subsequently, following the appointment of a Head Goalkeeping Coach, I have been asked if I’d like to help coach the senior goalkeepers at the Club.
The role now consists of creating and delivering sessions that hone in on technical detail, following a framework and playing philosophy set out by the Club. It’s a challenging role with GKs of varying ability and ages. It takes planning, dedication, commitment, patience and a willing to teach and be taught.
I’m also the Manager of my Son’s Stockport Junior Blues team – again, a role that has synergies and different challenges to the SCFC ladies role. So why do I coach? There are a few reasons. The first one, and most important one is to watch my Son play the game I’ve always loved. I consider myself very lucky to have a Son that plays and loves the game as much as I do. The truth is, I’d always intended to get into coaching. Myself and a friend completed a level 1 light course in 1997, we then delivered a session to some foundation players at the time. I got the bug. It was my plan to get into coaching eventually from that day – it’s taken until now, the arrival of my Son and a bit of luck for me to start my coaching journey.
Secondly, everyone deserves a chance. I didn’t get any football coaching until I was 16 – even then it was purely drills, a world away from where we are today with coaching and embedding a playing philosophy. I consider myself to be untapped talent – ok, I probably never would have made it as a professional, but with some coaching, especially on confidence, I’d have gone a lot further in the game. Therefore it’s a real passion of mine to give everyone a chance – send them home happier, more confident, with more life skills and better at football than when they arrived.
And lastly – just to be involved in the game. I love the game so much that I don’t want to get to later life and have the regret of not trying to get into the game in some capacity. I have high ambitions and targets, which is where Ballon comes in.