Elevating Excellence through Football

Date: 05 Jul 2024

When Keith Taylor took on the role of Dilworth’s First XI football coach two years ago, he was tasked with elevating the professionalism of the Dilworth football programme. 

In that short time, he’s had a strong impact, with higher participation, more teams competing, and a culture of hard work, commitment, and continual improvement, which are hallmarks of the growing programme. 

"It’s really been about a change in mentality and culture to be more professional. We work hard, train well, have the same kit, and have real structure during the week. We’re still in the early stages, but the change is happening,” he says.  

Performance wise, Taylor draws inspiration from the success of Dilworth's basketball and rugby programmes, aiming to raise football to similar heights.  The main objective is developing skills for promotion and progressing through the leagues for the First XI, Second XI, 15A teams, and two junior teams in the programme. “It’s not a big gulf with the teams in higher divisions. We’ve competed well in friendlies and the knockout cup. We just need to keep growing the programme and pushing forward.” 

But it’s not all about results, he adds.

“Obviously, we want success and the sports teams to do well, but it’s really about the life lessons. Students see the results if they attend every training, and train how they play, with high intensity and high energy. They understand that the work that they put in is directly related to what they get out of it. When they get to training on time and take ownership of the warm-up, they’re really incorporating life skills into the football programme – time-management, organisation, ownership.”

For Taylor, football is more than just a game; it’s a way to connect with students and impart valuable life lessons. Though he no longer plays himself, his passion for the sport runs deep and stems from his upbringing in Lincolnshire, where football was an integral part of life. “Yes it’s about the football, yes it’s about the coaching, but if I can use football to help develop boys of good character, that’s as important as results for me,” he explains.

Two years ago, he joined Dilworth from St Kent's, where he’d held roles as a teacher in charge of football, assistant football coach and manager, and a dean for five years. The journey in sport, curriculum and pastoral care continues at Dilworth, where he’s busy wearing a number of hats, including Head of Health and Physical Education and of Dilworth’s Year 13 boarding house. 

His teaching philosophy is influenced by his desire to provide students with a different experience from his own school days in the UK which, he says, were less than ideal. It wasn’t until he went to college (the British equivalent of Years 12 and 13) to study sports studies that his outlook on education was transformed. "I thrived in that environment, had some amazing tutors, and it led me to teaching because I wanted to give students a different experience than I had," he explains. 

Through his Boarding role, he strives to use the environment to provide students with the skills to be independent. "I want them to have more ownership, more learner agency. I believe in the life skills that underpin everything else and develop you into the person you’re going to be. There has to be structure and routine, but the boys need to know how to manage themselves," he says. 

Across all his roles, Taylor's approach is characterised by communication, fairness, and mutual respect. He encourages students to express their opinions and engage in open dialogue. Whether in the classroom, on the football pitch, or in the boarding house, his efforts and constant presence are geared towards creating an environment where students can flourish and thrive.  

“Students might not think about it now, but as they leave school and look back and reflect they will see the value of what they did here and the opportunities they took. At Dilworth, the opportunities are phenomenal. You only have to walk through the sports hall in the evening to see the commitment the coaches make to sport, for example. It really shows the value and the benefits are far and wide.”