Tuesday 04 September 2012
Former Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday striker Mark Bright sampled the groundbreaking work of the Premier Skills initiative when he took part in a recent programme in China.
Together with Fulham coach Emma Stringer, Bright travelled to Kunming in south-west China to assist head coach Gareth Prosser from Wolverhampton Wanderers in providing a week-long course for 40 local coaches.
It was the first time that Bright had been involved in the programme and he has compiled a special diary for premierleague.com that you can read here.
"I thoroughly enjoyed it and I will definitely do it again, no question," he told premierleague.com. "You can’t believe the difference in the trainees between the start of the week and the end of it.
"These projects are massively important - it shows that you care"
"On the Monday, if you had asked them to come in and put on a coaching session, they would not know what to do. But by the end of the week some of them would be able to come to a club here and take an Under-18 session.
"I would say that if you can do something at the end of the week that you can’t do at the start, that is a success."
Premier Skills is an international partnership between the Premier League and the British Council and operates in 20 countries worldwide including Mexico, Malaysia, India and Botswana.
One of its main aims is to develop grassroots coaches in other countries so that they, in turn, can pass on their expertise to others, particularly young people, in their local community.
Since it began five years ago, more than 350,000 young people have benefited from the programme, while 1,500 community coaches and referees have been trained.
"These projects are massively important," said Bright. "It shows that you care.
"The Premier League is a fantastic product, it really is one of the success stories of Great Britain in terms of industry, and what they are showing is that they are willing to go out and spread the word, not just of the League but to assist countries that don’t have the infrastructure to develop the grassroots level of the game.
"You feel proud in terms of what you are going out there to do, and achieving that. It gives you immense satisfaction that you are representing your country. You just feel like you are helping somebody move forward and be better at what they do.
"We are going out to help coaches organise and construct coaching sessions to help their kids to keep them off the streets, to entertain them, to nurture them and try to improve their skills.
"When you go on these coaching courses, you are total strangers, you get given a group and at the end of the week you feel like that’s your baby"
"Hopefully, one day somebody will come forward and say they were a product of what we are trying to achieve now… by making it as a professional footballer or by playing for their country. That will be really nice to see in the years ahead. But right now we are looking at helping other nations that do not have the infrastructure that we have."
Bright's trip ended on a disappointing note, however, as he fell ill and was unable to attend the final day when the trainee coaches take what they have learnt and coach a group of youngsters by themselves.
"That was my greatest regret about the week," he said. "I was gutted I couldn’t go on the last day.
"You bond with people and although you can’t speak the language, it’s bizarre how something like a handshake, a smile, a hug or a high-five all goes a long way to gaining trust and showing appreciation.
"It's like joining a football team. As the days and weeks go by, you integrate into the side. When you go on these coaching courses, you are total strangers, you get given a group and at the end of the week you feel like that’s your baby, you have helped that team and helped them come through."
The Kunming programme is part of a number of Premier Skills initiatives that have taken place in China this summer, in collaboration with the Chinese Football Association and the British Council, with courses in Chengdu, Wuhan, Guangzhou and Beijing.