The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of people across the world. For months, people were confined within the four walls of their homes and at the peak of the Covid-19 waves; the mere act of stepping outside was fraught with danger. In these circumstances, the importance of sports and physical activity, even when pursued within the confines of one’s home, gained immense importance. These pursuits were critical in helping people stay physically and mentally fit, during these challenging times.

During the nationwide lockdown in March 2020 when all social, educational, and commercial activities were brought to a grinding halt, our participants grappled with feelings of anxiousness. Moreover, there was uncertainty about the future, and they were compelled to press pause on their dreams and aspirations indefinitely.

To address the increasing isolation and feeling of fear among our participants, our coaches started engaging them virtually to continue their football training. The coaches would send a video of a particular drill or skill which the players were required to perform and share with them. The coaches would then review the video and give feedback on the areas of improvement. This innovative model of remote football training received a lot of positive feedback and was crucial in refreshing our participants mentally.

To take this learning forward, Slum Soccer, with the support of You WeTogether, had organized a virtual workshop on 9th May 2021, which was aimed at spreading and building knowledge to help improve football training at the grassroots level. YouWeTogether is an organization based in Delhi which aims to provide sports and learning equipment to those in need.

The workshop was conducted by Vikas Kumar, the head coach of the I-league U-13 Boy’s team, Noida FC. Mr. Kumar has also worked with the former captain of the Indian national team, Bhaichung Bhutia, in his football academy in Delhi and provided invaluable insights based on his extensive experience. During the workshop, he spoke about the approaches that football coaches need to adapt, to produce footballers who can then become part of the Indian national team. He also shared his views on age-appropriate training, basic skill training, and a coach’s roles and responsibilities, particularly when working with children at the grassroots level. He highlighted how, according to him, a major impediment in the development of top-quality footballers in our country was the lack of grassroots training on fundamental skills, such as passing, dribbling, controlling, and shooting. He advocated for the approach of merely engaging children in football training to be replaced by an increased focus on improving their skills and attributes by eliminating mistakes.

The workshop was attended by 15 grassroots coaches from Delhi, Pune, and Nagpur, and was a resounding success. Through the learning gained from this workshop, the coaches were empowered and energized to continue working with the children in their communities and ensuring that our participants are able to continue their football journey.