“Chrissy Ryman! We’ve got players to do that, your job is to pass!” My heart sank. I didn’t quite understand why in that moment, but I knew something wasn’t right. Here I was, 17 years old at a professional football club playing U18 and reserve team football and only a year away from becoming a professional footballer – my dream since I was 7 years old – and my coach was telling me, rather, shouting at me, not to dribble (I had dribbled from near to the halfway line to the opposition’s penalty box before losing the ball).
Something was wrong.
It was only a few months later that I ended up walking away from a future in professional football – the culture of bravado, bullying and clique had become too much for me and it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was falling out of love with the Beautiful Game, the game I had loved since I was a young boy.
Something was wrong.
I carried on playing football into my mid-twenties and then gave up. The culture and serious lack of good, thoughtful coaching had become too much for me. I had had enough.
It wasn’t until 10 or so years later that I started playing again through a friend who introduced me to futsal. A few months later, I attended an Introduction to Futsal day run by the English FA to begin to get to know the basics of futsal as a game. Immediately after the session, I remember driving home and beginning the process of grieving the loss and disappointment of all those years before.
I wished I had grown up playing futsal, if only it had been around. I couldn’t help but think my life with a ball at my feet would have looked a whole lot different. Not that I saw futsal as a replacement to football, rather the core elements of this simple small-sided game has the ability to develop players 360 – positionally, creatively and technically.
What was my loss and very difficult experience, I was beginning to realise didn’t need to be the case for future generations. There was an opportunity for a redemption and restoration that involved ensuring the culture and development of younger players was a wholistic one and one that was centred around a culture of Enjoyment, Encouragement and Respect and a vision of developing Creativity, Confidence and Intelligence with a ball – whatever the player’s ability.
And so SoulBall was born.
To get where SoulBall is today has taken a lifetime and 5 or so years of developing and refining ideas and practices that always involve lots of ball, lots of fun and lots of creativity.
And it doesn’t stop here. There is still much to explore and develop as SoulBall continues to dream of playing its part in ensuring generations of children grow up being creative, confident and very happy with a ball at their feet and all in an environment that is encouraging and caring.
– Christopher Ryman, SoulBall Founder