We are delighted to announce that Mark Upstone of Polegate Grasshoppers has won The Spirit of Grassroots Football Award as part of The FA and McDonald's Grassroots Football Awards.
The awards aim to recognise and reward volunteers, match officials, clubs and leagues across the county who have made a difference to grassroots football in their local community.
Mark stepped in to coach at Polegate when six 11-year-olds were left without a team or coach. Despite the fact that Mark had stood down from coaching his son in another team, due to studying for a degree and being a paramedic, he could not leave the boys without a coach. He’d just lost his own dad suddenly and COVID-19 had also hit England.
Together with the parents that were left, the team has been rebuilt. He gives every child the opportunity to play no matter what their ability.
By reassuring these boys and giving them encouragement, the team has become bigger and stronger. They may not be top of the league, but they have built great friendships and courage from what was an awful experience.
Mark works shifts as a paramedic but sometimes stays up after a night shift to train the team or take them to matches. It has been therapy for losing his dad, who also loved football. A sense of achievement knowing he is a role model to his son and the team.
It is also a distraction from the traumatic jobs he has to deal with. He has never once complained about his job as a coach. Mark is incredibly dedicated as a coach believing that all kids should be given the opportunity to play football, no matter what their ability level.
Mark can quite often be found two hours before a home match or training setting it all up on his own ready for when everyone arrives for the match. Painting lines on the pitch on his days off. He just wants the best experience to be had by everyone on match day.
Enjoyed not only on the pitch but off the pitch too. Mark is very organised and keeps everyone updated with itineraries games and training. He sits and writes a lengthy in-depth positive reports after each game, which the parents love to read out to their kids. He makes sure that every child is featured in the report.
Mark always welcomes feedback from the players and parents and he treats every player equally. Players have come to the team with very little experience in a team and with Mark’s coaching and encouragement, many have become great little players and team members.
He understands disabilities and the barriers that can come up against as he also is hard of hearing. He coaches his team that although one may have a disability you need to play to your strengths. Polegate Grasshoppers may be laughed at by some, but they describe what grassroots should be about developing the player and being part of a team.
To find out more about The FA and McDonald's Grassroots Football Awards please contact: