Wendy bags coach of the year title - and at Wembley

North Devon Gazette

On Saturday, August 7, local football coach Wendy Benson attended the 2021 FA & McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards national ceremony, held at the home of football, Wembley Stadium powered by EE. Wendy was named the national winner of the prestigious Grassroots Coach of the Year award.Â
The FA & McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards recognise and celebrate the tireless volunteers who dedicate countless hours to inspire those in the grassroots community. The awards are now in their twelfth year and Wendy Benson joins a long list of inspirational grassroots football heroes who have been recognised by the programme. The awards held a special significance this year, as they also celebrated those who have done exceptional things during the pandemic to support their clubs and communities.Â
Wendy is a remarkable coach who always manages to go the extra mile. Her hard work and dedication to providing footballing opportunities for disabled children is inspiring. Since Wendy joined the Braunton FC Ability Junior team in 2019, the side has seen an increase in participation from 2 to 17 players. Â
Her impact on making each session accessible to anyone of any ability cannot be understated. Wendy often consults with the parents and researches each child’s disability. She then modifies her sessions to ensure each child gets the most enjoyment out of them.Â
Most importantly of all, Wendy sets the bar for commitment. Even during the pandemic when she was forced to shield, she still ensured that the spirt of Braunton FC lived on by putting on extra football sessions outside of each lockdown and was described as a consistent source of positivity. Her drive, coaching aptitude, warm personality and steely determination makes Wendy a deserving winner of the Coach of the Year award.Â
Wendy accepted her award from football legend Rachel Yankey ahead of The FA Community Shield, supported by McDonald’s, which saw Premier League champions Manchester City play Emirates FA Cup winners Leicester City. During the half time break, Wendy joined the other winners on the pitch in front of the Wembley crowd.Â
“It has been a really tough year for the grassroots football community. That’s why I’m so proud to be here at Wembley to honour these incredible winners. Wendy Benson should be extremely proud of all of her accomplishments and for all she’s given to her club and community,” said McDonald’s ambassador Rachel Yankey.Â
“We saw this summer that the England squad is one of the best we’ve seen in years, with the majority of the team starting their football journeys with a grassroots club. It’s an honour to be an ambassador for McDonald’s grassroots football programme, which in the last 19 years has supported so many of the clubs that started the careers of our Three Lions heroes. Our national team wouldn’t be where it is without the hard work of our grassroots volunteers – every player has to start somewhere.”Â
McDonald’s is the longest-standing supporter of grassroots football in the UK, having worked with all four home nation FAs for the past 19 years. In addition to championing local grassroots heroes, McDonald’s is committed to giving thousands of youngsters the chance to play football for free with its Fun Football programme, which provides introductory coaching sessions for kids aged 5-11 all under the guidance of top UK FA coaches.Â

The 12 award categories are:Â

  1. Grassroots Coach of the Year for Adults – Mary PhillipÂ
  1. Grassroots Coach of the Year for Youth – Wendy BensonÂ
  1. Grounds Team of the Year – Graham RoseÂ
  1. Grassroots Club of the Year - Omonia Youth FootballÂ
  1. Grassroots Volunteer of the Year – Charlie O’BrienÂ
  1. Rising Star of the Year – Cameron WoodÂ
  1. The Spirit of Grassroots Football Award – Cara WallÂ
  1. Grassroots Project of the Year Award – Westend Junior Football ClubÂ
  1. Grassroots Match Official of the Year - Kristian SilcockÂ
  1. Grassroots League of the Year - Northumberland Football LeagueÂ
  1. The Bobby Moore Award – Dr. Sarah GriffithsÂ
  1. Football Restaurant of the Year – Ashford McDonald’sÂ