What does not thrill you makes you stronger – that could well be the takeaway on 2020 for NPL North Coast Under 14s coach Darren Schafer.
No one, of course, has been chuffed with the disruption wrought by the global pandemic – but at least in football-land, the game has gone on, while other codes have hoisted the white flag.
Against all odds, Darren said he has seen his charges rise remarkably despite all that was thrown at them.
“There’s been a lot of progress and great improvement,” he said.
Overall, season 2020 had been “very difficult” for the 14s.
A shortage of numbers in the North Coast 15s had seen some of his squad called upon to “play up” an age.
“And it’s been a fairly new team too – we had some come in halfway through the season and we’ve got a couple of girls who have played extremely well,” Darren said.
When the COVID rules changed suddenly, the North Coast 14s found themselves locked out of the Newcastle-centred competition – but a solution was quickly found to keep them active.
The team switched to the local Under 15s club competition, where they performed well, sealing a couple of wins.
“They enjoyed themselves (against the 15s) but were pleased when the NPL restarted,” Darren said.
As an NCF coach, this is Darren’s third year guiding an NPL squad – progressing from the SAP (Skills Acquisition Phase) program and taking youngsters to State titles.
He said the progress in part of the 14s this season was a credit to NCF Technical Director Jack Dover – who had set up the coaching groundwork for young players to flourish.
“Given what they have had to face, I think they’ve (the 14s) done very well,” Darren said.