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Is youth coaching really flawed?- An interview with a coach

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Something which seems to be repeatedly appearing since Englands loss to Germany is the issue of youth coaching. Some are pointing to coaching as being part of Englands problem when it comes to major tournaments, and people are worried that the coaching of the youth today isn’t good enough for England in the future.

In light of this, I’ve got in contact with my twitter contact Andy who is a coach in his local area, and I quizzed him about youth coaching and the future for England. Andy has his own (very good blog)

Firstly a little introduction of yourself. I know you managed last season and are taking on a new team for the new season – but how did you get into coaching initially? 

Hi, i’m Andy Smith and i’m an FA Level 2 qualified coach.  I played Sunday League all my life but was forced to give it up about 7 years ago as the opposition suddenly became much younger, stronger and fitter and I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t keep up with the younger players anymore. 

I’ve been coaching for 3 years as part of the Hessle Sporting Club in Hull, one of the largest Football Development Centres in East Yorkshire, with over 250 players aged from 4 -10.  I fell into coaching as there weren’t enough qualified coaches at the club to cope with demand and have enjoyed every second of it since. 

I currently coach the Hessle Sporting Vulcans who will be playing at under 10’s in the Hull Boys Sunday Football League next season. 
What sort of training/coaching courses have you been through yourself to become a youth coach? 

Under the FA Charter Standard rules, every team must have a Level 1 qualified coach as a minimum.  There is a formal pathway for qualifications that coaches can take to develop their coaching skills: 

Your browser may not support display of this image.  

I have completed both the FA Level 1 and Level 2 courses. 

The FA Level 1 is an introductory course to give coaches a basic understanding of the “Four Corners” of player development (physical, psychological, technical & social) and how to prepare and run an effective training session.  It also includes First Aid and Safeguarding Children.

Level 2 is a lot more in-depth and covers areas such as coaching the basic skills and techniques, developing an appreciation of the coaching process, the needs of the player and related issues in sports science and how to plan, conduct and evaluate a series of sessions in a systematic and progressive manner.

Essentially, Level 1 is how to put together a training session for shooting, for example.  Level 2 is how to assess and improve players techniques. 
What sort of philosophies about football do you try to impart on your players? Do your sides play a pass and move game, or do they have the tendancy to knock the ball long down the field?

My philosophy is very simple:  I don’t care if we win or lose as long as we try our best, have fun and play football as it should be played.

Being a Hull City fan all my life, I have seen enough long ball tactics to last me a lifetime.  This has helped me to ensure that my players are taught that this not an acceptable form of football.  It is certainly not a natural aspect of any young players game.

Young players have their heroes who they try to emulate, such as Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka and Beckham.  7, 8 and 9 year olds are naturally selfish and their natural instinct is to hold onto the ball as long as possible and use various skills to take on 4 or 5 players.  I have never met a player yet whose natural instinct is to hoof the ball up front to a waiting striker.

It is very important then that, as a coach, I work with their natural playing style and try to add passing and movement to their style.  There is no greater sight than a move of 5 or 6 passes being played which results in a shot at goal.

I must point out that I am not alone in coaching this passing, keep ball style.  I would say that 99% of teams that we have played are also developing their players in this way.  Yes there are those coaches that send their players out to punt it long at every opportunity but you do find that their turnover of players is quite high.

What do you think is the most important aspect of coaching youngsters today?

Quite simply, Football has got to be fun for the kids. 

I have seen coaches and parents screaming at kids from the sidelines and criticising their every move.  All this does is create hostility towards the game and stifles the player.  The most important thing you can give to a young player is praise and a feeling of worth. 

My players are encouraged to take risks.  I want them to try a Ronaldinho flic-flac or to have a go at Ronaldo stepovers, because the feeling that they get when they pull it off in a game will live with them for a very long time and will encourage them.  And if a trick doesn’t quite work, so what?  It will next time.  I even post videos on the team website of other skills that they might like to try. 
Quite obviously since the England loss on Sunday, people have been trying to place the blame on various aspects, and youth coaching has been attacked by some fans. Has there been anything you’ve read that you entirely disagree with (and why)?

Unfortunately its not just the fans that are questioning ‘grassroots’ football.  Henry Winter, Oliver Kay, Mile Parry and Ray Parlour (to name a few) have all commented that there is an issue with grassroots.  I can only conclude that they do not see what is actually being done.

In my opinion its way too early to be making these kind of accusations.  The FA planted a ‘grassroots’ seed a few years ago and I think we will start seeing the benefits of what they are doing in the next 5-10 years.

The FA are working very hard to develop young players with initiatives like Tesco Skills Schools and their backing of Futsal.  In my home town of Hull there are free Tesco Skills Schools every week and there are a number of Futsal leagues that are available to teams.

Whilst i don’t think the FA are to blame, I do feel that Professional clubs need to re-assess their methods of selecting, coaching and developing players.  A colleague of mine’s son was invited to train with Nottingham Forest at age 9.  He went along for 3 weeks and told his dad he didn’t want to go anymore as “all they do is shout at everyone”.  What a shame that a talented young player has been affected by poor management.

It is also clear from looking at the young players that some local clubs are signing (aged 8, 9 and 10) that their overriding requirement is pace.  Not passing, tackling or movement but pace.  I like to think that Theo Walcott is proof that pace is useless if you have no other aspect to your game.  Look at Beckham, never blessed with lightning speed but had so much more to offer.

Of course youth football could do with more investment but money isn’t the be all and end all.  The County FA’s could maybe do more in terms of offering support to youth coaches and maybe a yearly assessment of their coaching would help to eradicate the minority that is rogue coaches. 
If England coaching isn’t to blame for the constant failure in international tournaments, then what do you believe to be the ‘English disease’?

In my opinion the answer is simple, form.

The last England manager to pick players based purely on form was Sir Bobby Robson.  Too often over the last 15 years have we seen players being picked for the team on reputation.

The most prolific striker in an England shirt over the past few years is Peter Crouch, yet he hardly got a look-in at the World Cup.  People will argue that he only scores against lesser teams – perfect for USA, Algeria and Slovenia then.  Or so you would think.

Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard (particularly against Algeria) were clearly out of form.  I like to think that Sir Bobby would have recognised this and, instead of blindly hoping that all would come good, would have made changes to the team.

Everyone has their opinions and there probably isn’t a perfect answer.  Rest assured i’m looking forward to seeing the talent that will come through in the next 10 years. 


Written by Nicole Carroll

June 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm

One Response

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  1. Is youth coaching really flawed?- An interview with a coach…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    World Wide News Flash

    June 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm

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