As a gunnabe school teacher, Curtis Heywood has faced a demanding first up test this year leading the NPL North Coast Under 13s squad.
The coronavirus has smacked all from pillar to post, but he’s been loving the turbulent ride in his debut as a coach in the NPL.
“It’s been a really good season though the impact of COVID and the start-again, stop-again, start-again nature of the competition has been challenging,” Curtis said.
“The kids have developed a lot and you could see that each month when you look at the different styles. They’ve taken everything that we’ve given them onboard and they’ve grown in things like tactical awareness.”
When the North Coast 13s found themselves outside of the NPL bubble when health rules changed mid-season, Curtis’ team were amalgamated with the other North Coast players from the 14s and 15s – and split into two sides and entered into the local club Under 15s competition.
That was crucial in giving the youngsters continuity, but the return to NPL action was like a mini brick wall.
“It was a bit of a shock to them when they came back (to the NPL) because of the pace of play,” Curtis said.
“But they’ve shown they can match it with the top teams.”
Curtis – who normally plays for Northern Storm but took this year off to focus on university studies where he is studying teaching – would like to stay with the current crop as they progress to the 14s in 2021, though that decision will come down to a matrix of the available coaches and fitting the shapes into the right spots.
Of 2020’s learnings, Curtis said: “It’s still kids’ football and things happen. There can be disappointments but it’s important not to get caught up in the detail and to enjoy the game and the progress.”