When you spend your working life assessing numbers, it must be incredibly satisfying to see a different set of numbers growing all the time in your football life.
Sean Hartrey has spent three decades as an accountant but it was his insatiable passion for the beautiful game and developing young players that saw him named the Devon FA Grassroots Coach of the Year at our recent annual awards ceremony.
The coaching recognition stems from Sean’s fantastic work with Crediton Youth FC in building an extensive programme for young female footballers to train and compete in the Devon girl’s leagues.
“Over the last four years Crediton Youth Girls have developed into one of the largest girls grass root clubs in Devon,” said Sean. “When we started the girls’ team, the Crediton Youth FC chairman at the time, Martin Daniel, picked up on an FA initiative to increase participation for girls.
“The first team formed was in the Under-11 squad, this season as under 14’s and they have enjoyed a lot of success and publicity, after winning the Devon Girls League and cup and reaching the County Cup final.
“We have managed to develop players who had never kicked a ball four years ago into County players.
“Each year, we have added at least one extra age group to the club and we are backed by fantastic support from parents, coaches and the club to help us evolve. In addition to under 14s, we also ran league sides at under 12s and 16s (pictured below).
“We started our Under-10s last year and now have 20 players in that group ready to start their first season in Devon Girls league.
“The final piece in the jigsaw came with the Wildcats license, a FA programme designed to introduce football to girls of a Primary School age. We’ve have 16-20 players in the Wildcats and they will go onto form an Under-9 team for next season, as well as five and seven year-olds who will continue training as Winter Wildcats.”
The love of coaching young players has developed into providing a holistic football experience for Sean and the team of volunteers responsible for creating such a special environment at Crediton Youth FC.
The girls at this fabulous club are given a clear football pathway, so players showing particular promise are allowed the opportunity to develop their game at an elite level.
As well as an elite pathway, the club places specific emphasis on fun & enjoyment and ensuring the players are given the chance to visit professional clubs and international fixtures.
“My role is to help develop the girls section and find the right coaches for each age group and ensure the players achieve their goals,” said Sean.
“As well as football, we provide regular trips for the players, including mascot days at Exeter City and we went to watch the England Ladies play a friendly match.
“In the past we have been a sister-club with Yeovil Town ladies and have players in the development centres who we work closely with at Exeter City, Plymouth Argyle and Yeovil Town, as well as those in the elite pathway at Devon FA.
“There has been a lot of effort and backing from Crediton Youth FC. We have won leagues and cup, which is great, but the primary focus is to bring enjoyment and a love of football.
“We train all through the winter on an astro-turf in Crediton and our coaches, and players, always generate a positive atmosphere. We have a great time, play football and have some music in the background on those cold winter evenings. There are obviously lots of players from Crediton but kids also travel from surrounding areas to be part of Crediton Girls Youth.”
To reach this personal achievement of being named Coach of the Year, Sean has developed his own knowledge and approach from the humble beginnings of working as a volunteer coach at a village Primary School.
It is from those early experiences and the superb support of his employers, that Sean has worked with everyone at Crediton Youth FC to provide one of the great success stories in Devon football.
“My personal coaching journey started at a tiny school called East Worlington, which my daughter attended and there were only around 50 children, with two teachers,” he said.
“The teachers allowed me to go in as a Level 1 coach and work with the children. My employer kindly allowed me to take the time off to coach at the school and we have around 35 kids from the school training on a tiny patch of grass.
“We formed a strong team of girls who won the Primary School Cup in North Devon and a lot of those girls still play for me now at Crediton Youth FC. I have loved watching the kids develop and some have reached the heights of playing for the Devon girls’ elite squad.
“My day-job has been in accountancy for the past 32 years and I am extremely grateful to my employers for their support, allowing me to take the extra time to follow my passion for football.
“It is a never-ending labour of love, with the latest project to organise matches in an Under-18 league, as many girls can drop out of the game when the league football stops at 16 and they are not yet old enough for women’s football.
“It is hours and hours of time but, if you love it and enjoy watching the development of young people, you have just keep striving to be the very best you can be.”