Darcy Cannon gives up endless hours of her free time to coach seven and eight year olds at Gillford Park FC in Carlisle each week.
When she is not working as a customer services assistant at the Brampton branch of The Cumberland she will be out with her young team through the football season, whatever the weather. She coaches them on Thursday evenings and at weekends when they have their matches and has found time to take them to Brunton Park to cheer on Carlisle United as part of the Cumberland Community Ticket Scheme.
Her involvement began when she saw an appeal on social media and decided to volunteer as a coach.
“I played football a lot when I was younger and just over four years ago, I saw an advert on Twitter for football coaches in the area. I explained I had not coached before but had played a lot and that I enjoyed working with children,” she said, adding: “They must have been confident that I could step up to the role as I had 25 children aged three and four in my first ever session.
“The children come from many different schools and so there are many friendships that have developed purely through the love of football. It's so rewarding to watch them socialise with each other and it will be a huge benefit to them especially when they go to secondary school, and they have a wide network of mates.”
A former Trinity School pupil, Darcy attended the University of Cumbria and achieved a degree in Primary Education, however she made the decision not to go into teaching following the pandemic, and started her role with The Cumberland last year.
The building society promotes an ethos of kinder banking and offers its employees the chance to take a day off each year to volunteer locally, but Darcy’s colleagues have been impressed with how she has taken it to the next level.
Barry Ridley, manager of The Cumberland’s branches in Brampton, Longtown, Haltwhistle and Gretna, said: “It takes a special person to dedicate so much of their free time to give something back to the local community. We are very lucky to have someone as compassionate as Darcy as part of The Cumberland family.”
Darren Scaife is also impressed with Darcy. He coaches the older boys’ team and his son, Max, seven, is coached by her. “Darcy is 100 per cent committed to coaching. This is something that she doesn’t have to do, it's not like she has her own kids, she does it purely because she is a dedicated and caring person. She always shows up, hail, rain or shine. She’s amazing.
“Max absolutely loves coming to training, not just for the sports aspect but also to see his friends and have fun. At this age it's so important that they have these opportunities to get outside in the fresh air, socialise and get away from things like screens.”
Zac is eight and has been working with Darcy since he was four years old and loves coming to training sessions with her. “My favourite part of training is trying to hit the crossbar and scoring goals. Darcy has taught me how to dribble and pass and how to get into a space and scan the area around me. I love playing in matches and seeing all my friends as they don’t go to my school.”
Darcy has worked with a lot of the same children since they were pre-school age and has seen how their skills on and off the pitch have developed.
“Youngsters join with varying abilities, however the traits that I really notice developing are emotional resilience and a determination to do their best. They learn to bounce back quickly from defeats and this year I have really seen the boys come together and work as a team,” she said.
Darcy also assists with the Wildcats initiative which encourages girls aged 5-11 to play football. “There has been renewed interest since the Lionesses win last year and we have created six teams from this scheme which is great. It's not just about the game either, it's about having fun, making friends, socialising and learning a new skill set.”
Having lost only one game in the last ten her team are on top form, which gives Darcy an extra sense of pride in the impact she is having on young lives. “It’s great to see the boys putting all they have learnt into practice. I’m so proud of the dedication, determination and resilience they demonstrate every session – it makes the cold and wet training sessions worthwhile.”