Sitting down after the Christmas break in 2016, Dave Smith having already handed in his notice to leave the legal world was looking to pursue a different start. What followed was months of contemplation and collating ideas.
After much deliberation, all signs pointed towards a career in football coaching. To get paid for what he enjoyed doing the most.
Dave Smith initially delved into the coaching world when his son was younger and had indicated an interest in playing football. He had no intention of getting involved in the coaching side but that quickly changed when he discovered his love for the sport was more than just playing himself.
“My side-line encouragement lasted all of five minutes and straight away I was hooked into the idea of getting involved and coaching kids’ football.”
Smith, from Widnes, eventually coached his son’s team all the way up to Under 18’s and kept the coaching bug, to start again with a new Under 7’s team.
He also moved up to a higher role, becoming Chairman at Whittle Hall Junior Football Club.
At that time, he was working as a claimant personal injury lawyer at Scott Rees & Co in Skelmersdale.
He had been at the company for seven years, but in the legal world for over thirty years for multiple companies across the North West.
“After a long time in the industry, I had finally hit a brick wall. I felt that my career was at a standstill, the industry was changing, and I saw no progression.”
The lack of satisfaction in his work forced him to take a bold stand and hand in his notice before the Christmas break. He explained: “I’d toyed with the idea of quitting over the years, but never had the guts to do it.”
Dave had little clue of what his new career would be when he decided to leave. But in need of a new career, Smith decided to follow his heart and set up a football coaching business.
“I thought what do I enjoy doing? What do I want to get paid to do? It was all pointing back to football coaching.”
After a few months of finalising the business and working with St Helens Chamber of Commerce, Enjoy Football was born. Football coaching is highly competitive but he felt he could bring the sport to all who wanted to play, from all ages and skill range.
The business is now over two years old and striving, as it provides different outlets for everybody to participate.
Enjoy Football host two-day football camps across Warrington for children aged 5-10 every School half term.
The camps consist of two/three full days of football in areas like Winwick and Great Sankey, with the enjoyment factor at the forefront of the camps.
He stresses the importance of having fun across the skill days with the development of young people playing football being best when they are making friends.
“Playing football is all about the experience. Meeting new people all the time and forging those friendships. The laughs, the highs, the lows. If you win something as well, then great.”
The company holds weekly coaching sessions on Saturdays for children aged between three and five.
Similarly, they have branched out into Futsal training, by providing it for Key Stage 1 children in multiple primary schools across Warrington.
Dave Smith enjoyed a long-playing career himself, therefore uses Enjoy Football to coach people of all ages, not just children. A spinal surgery forced him into retirement at forty-five and Smith thought his playing days were over until he discovered Walking Football.
“Out of sheer chance of a conversation on a plane on the runway of Manchester airport whilst the baggage machine had broken down and waiting for it to be fixed, I discovered the game of Walking Football. I had seen the advert, but I discovered it was taking place on my doorstep (how I missed this for nearly six months I’ll never know) then of course that was the answer.”
He now hosts three Walking Football training sessions a week, even teaming up with Wargrave Big Local to provide the services in Newton-Le-Willows.
Aside from the football and helping people to realise they can continue to play, the camaraderie he achieves in the group is important to him.
He stresses the importance that sport can have, both physically and more importantly, mentally in providing people with a feeling of belonging to a group.
The business has taken a slightly different direction as of late as he has begun to work with groups in the community, like the Stroke association in Runcorn and (A.I.M) an amputee group in St Helens.
Also, Enjoy Football has recently become a Community Interest Company (not-for-profit-organisation) which could allow further funding for him to do more work in several areas.
The grassroots aspect is what Dave Smith concentrates on most and making sure anybody can enjoy football, hence his business title.
“There is a place for all in football, but in my view, grassroots is what it says it is. Football played by anyone for fun no matter what ability.”
Smith found football at an early age and his aim is to spread that same love he had for football to the children he coaches today.
He recalls playing with friends in the street from dawn to dusk at a very early age. He added: “No set teams, no one kept scores, just friends enjoying football.”
His passion for football has never left and will never leave.
With the on-going cuts to grassroots sport, the importance of coaching is becoming more and more. Smith expressed the need for more incentives to be offered to people to start coaching and to keep coaches in the sport for a long period of time.
As he found out, football coaching changed his life. It led him to his dream job.
It was a big risk leaving the legal world after three decades, but one he would make every single time.