Milton Keynes-based football coach shortlisted for Local Hero award

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This coach ran a series of activities to keep his students engaged during the pandemic.

Milton Keynes-based goalkeeping coach, Lee Reade, has been shortlisted for the UK Coaching Hero award, for his virtual sessions in lockdown.

Lee had to completely recalibrate the way he taught his students, to keep his business going, after years of running outdoor sessions.

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He's also received recognition from the UK Coaching Awards for his willingness to go that extra mile and ensure his students were coping with the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus.

Lee Reade in actionLee Reade in action
Lee Reade in action

One parent commented on hearing about Lee's nomination, saying: "He had check-ins, making sure everyone was doing ok mentally as well as physically. One of my sons was not coping well with lockdown and was really struggling mentally.

"Lee took time just to talk to him via WhatsApp and Zoom to help him through it. Not only did he do this with my son but also with others too."

Lee coaches dozens of students, ranging from adults in professional leagues to 4-5-year-olds who are keen to learn about the unique goalkeeping position.

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The coach based in Morton explained, to The MK Citizen, the motivation behind both keeping regular contact with his students. And also why going live on Facebook and Instagram, offering anyone the chance to join his fitness sessions was important stating: "I knew I wasn't going to be Joe Wicks, but I still had a chance to affect other people's lives.

Lee ReadeLee Reade
Lee Reade

"I wanted to keep people going and that really helped keep me going through lockdown too. In between lockdowns when I could, I went on a dog walk with one of my students, socially distanced, just to make sure they were doing ok and to lift their spirits."

Towards the end of the first lockdown the experienced coach saw his charges were beginning to lose focus mentally. So in an attempt to keep his students engaged he launched a Jurassic Park adventure series.

The budding goalkeepers had to discover hidden dinosaur eggs to become champion of the virtual quizzes. Lee ran virtual game shows to make sure the monotony and strain and lockdown didn't become too much for some of the youngsters he coached. He explained: "I saw that they weren't quite there, mentally.

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"Everyone seemed fed up, their mindset had dropped, lockdown was starting to have a bit of an affect on their mental health. So Jurassic Park, was just a bit of fun for four weeks. I wanted to get the parents involved helping them search for the clues and gain cyber points too, as that really helps."

The coach often references the importance of parental support. When announcing his nomination Lee mentioned the way his clients had come together as a family, during a year of restrictions and stay at home orders.

He recognises the role parents play in taking their children to games and acting as mentors to youngsters who want to achieve within the world of sport. He added: I needed family help, that might be a sister helping her brother log into Zoom to get online. Or Mums and Dads making sure their kids don't miss a sessions. I wanted to say that it is a family effort."

The lifelong athlete laughed at the idea that he might be technically-savvy, when asked whether adopting, the Cyber Coach personna, was a challenge.

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He said: "I've spent my life kicking and throwing around a football. I'm used to being outside. I believe I was born to coach and I've been told I float when I'm out there coaching.

"So no, (laughs) I'm absolutely not technically-savvy. I'd had Instagram for years and posted only 300 times, now I'm at over 2,000 posts and update my social media every day. Setting up was a nightmare. It turned my six to eight hour working day into 18 hours. I was using a old tripod for my videos, I've now actually got a professional one.

"I'm a perfectionist too, so if I got anything wrong in one of my videos, instantly it was scrapped, and I'd have to start again. I knew I had to get it right. It was important that I wasn't seen to be struggling with technology. I had to be a role model. If I'm online and I'm getting the technology right it sends the message to the kids and the parents that you can too."

Lee also detailed the stress of a two-week period where the reports from his family living in Spain, crystalised the fact lockdown was coming to the UK. He commented: "I knew I had a two-week head start to get organised. If I didn't, I'd lose my business. I had savings, so I wasn't going to lose my house, but coaching is my life and I didn't want to lose that."

Voting for the UK Coaching Hero award is open until 12pm on June 14, you can vote here.