Chris Smietanka, Founder and Coach at Plymouth Marjon Football Club was awarded The Steve Betts Memorial Award at The Grassroots Football Awards this month. The Steve Betts Memorial Trophy is awarded each year by Devon FA Football Development staff.
The trophy is awarded to an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to the development of grassroots football in Devon over many years, and has demonstrated all the FA Pride values, for example, continually seeking to improve, setting standards for respectful behaviour, making sure football is a game for everyone, and sustaining excellence.
Plymouth Marjon FC, an FA Charter Standard Development Football Club, has been running since 2008, when Chris decided to start the club for students who played football for the University on a Wednesday, but were eager to play in a Saturday league. The team won the Chartered Standard Development Club of the Year in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Speaking about being recognised by Devon FA, Chris said: “I feel so humbled to have been recognised for this award. When they announced the award, I looked up at the big screen and there was my name. It was such a surreal experience."
Chris has been involved in grassroots football in the south west since his son was playing football as a youngster. He said: “I was a dad who took his lad to football, a classic story. I was asked to volunteer to coach a group of six-year-olds, and I felt I needed to be educated to fulfil this role properly. I did an introduction to football, which is now called The FA Level 1.
Dai Carpenter, Senior Football Development Officer at Devon FA said: “Chris has been key to the rapid growth of Plymouth Marjon FC to become one of the largest youth clubs in Plymouth, providing an opportunity for hundreds of children. The panel were also impressed with his commitment to quality of coaching, and there is no doubt Chris is hugely deserving of the award”.
After getting a degree in Applied Sports Science and Coaching at Marjon in 2000, and following on with a postgraduate degree in Exeter, Chris started working as a volunteer at Marjon, and worked his way up through the ranks, until becoming a Lecturer here at Marjon.
Chris continues to develop the grassroots football scene in Plymouth and beyond, and endeavours to create a safe and nurturing environment for children to learn and play football in. He said:
“I started the junior section of the football club, because I had students from different sports degrees here at Marjon saying that they wanted to get experience coaching, and that’s still running today. 320 children later, and students at Marjon can get hands-on experience coaching for placements, which sets them apart when they enter the working world. My hope for the future is that Marjon continues to be a safe place for children to learn and play football.
Chris hopes to defend his title well over the coming months, as he continues to volunteer his time and efforts in developing grassroots football. “Our motto is ‘with education comes performance’. We’re educating players in the art of football, and we’re educating parents on how to effectively nurture their children as players and how to support them to the best of their ability.”
“The best part for me is the social rewards for the children. They sit and eat and talk at the end of every game and I would argue that it’s probably the best environment in Devon for nurturing children to play sport.”
Find out more about Football Development and Coaching at Marjon.