Football coach who created JFC’s Rhyl Commandos in memory of partner wins national award
A COACH who founded Rhyl Commandos JFC in memory of his partner received a national grassroots award.
Sonia Fleming, who founded and coaches Rhyl Commandos JFC, was named the national winner of the prestigious Community Coach of the Year award at the 2021 FAW & McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards on Saturday, November 13 at Cardiff City Stadium.
The FAW and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards recognize and celebrate the tireless volunteers who dedicate countless hours to inspire members of the grassroots community.
Football legend Robert Earnshaw. Image: Andrew Dowling / FAW
Sonia Fleming founded Rhyl Commandos JFC in memory of her partner Michael Taylor who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. The couple had sons Ethan, Wesley and Charlton.
Over the years, the club has grown steadily, Sonia now coaching two teams open to all levels and open to any child wishing to start their football career.
Throughout the lockdown, Sonia, who is also the club’s secretary, kept her football community united by hosting weekly video-call fitness sessions and regularly raising funds for local charities.
Sonia accepted her award from football legend Robert Earnshaw ahead of the Wales Men’s World Cup qualifier against Belarus in front of a full crowd at Cardiff City Stadium. During the half-time break, Sonia joined the other field winners to be celebrated for their achievements.
Robert said: “It has been a very difficult year for the entire grassroots community. That is why I am so proud to be here in Cardiff to honor these incredible winners.
“Sonia Fleming embodies what it means to be a popular heroine, and it is clear that she is a true role model in her community.
“The Grassroots Awards are a special occasion and a chance to show how grateful we are for the hours of dedication volunteers make to make football what it is.”
Sonia joins a long list of inspiring grassroots heroes who have been recognized by the program. The awards took on special significance this year, as they also celebrated those who did exceptional things during the pandemic to support their clubs and communities.
Stewart Williams, McDonald’s franchisee and grassroots football supporter at Rhyl, said: “Sonia is a shining example of what it means to go the extra mile to make a difference in your community. My restaurants support several grassroots teams across North Wales so I know firsthand how important volunteers like Sonia are to the game. It is always an honor to participate in the awards ceremony and celebrating volunteers like Sonia who are the heart and soul of local football.
Earlier this year, Sonia braved Snowdon to mark the 11th anniversary of Michael’s death.
Sonia raised funds for Scotty’s Little Soldiers and Rhyl Commandos JFC through the challenge.
McDonald’s is the UK’s longest-serving grassroots fan, having worked with all four national federations over the past 19 years. In addition to championing local grassroots heroes, in 2021 McDonald’s celebrated offering more than five million hours of free introductory coaching to 5-11 year olds with its Fun Football program and pledged to spend 1.5 million hours of overtime over the next 12 months. .