Every weekend throughout the football calendar, thousands of junior level teams play against one another. At most football clubs you will find either a well-intentioned parent, who has decided to take over their child’s local team or an aspiring youth football coach who has always wanted to get into coaching and decided to start with a junior side. Despite their being no shortage of volunteer coaches and thousands of youth teams playing on a regular basis, we are not producing enough skillful and tactically sound players in the United Kingdom.
Why are we not producing players like Gascoigne, Scholes and Hoddle? players who are capable of running with the ball across defenders or spotting those passes that split defences? Why are smaller nations (in terms of population) like Holland and Spain produce a large number of players that tend to be more skilful and tactically sound than our English players?
In this post, I will address how a novice Youth football coach can help produce better football players and also outline what they must do to take them from beginner to an expert youth coach.
“Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play it simple” Johan Cruyff.
Without the right coaching philosophy, you will be limited to how far you can go as a youth football coach. In the beginning of a child’s playing career, their football development should be more important than winning. This should be the main aim of every coach that works with players at youth level, instead of focusing on winning they should encourage them to take more risks and accept the fact that their players are likely to make mistakes and lose some games playing this way. One of the greatest basketball player’s Michael Jordan said “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed” in order to succeed in anything you have to accept failure and learn from it, that is how we progress and become better players.
Allow me to make this clear I am not telling you to totally forget about winning the game. I am stating that you should concentrate on providing the tools they need, that will allow them to play the game more effectively in the future. A top football coach understands that every game they play is an opportunity to showcase what has been taught in previous coaching sessions.
The problem with creating a win at all cost mentality is that you encourage your players to only use certain skills and tactical moves which are considered important to win the game, such as playing long balls regularly. Encouraging your players to play this way may bring rewards in the short term but you also hinder the development of your players in the long run.
Creating the right environment
Young players need to feel that it is ok to make mistakes when they train and play in matches. In order for the players to feel at ease, the youth football coach must refrain from criticising them when they happen to make mistakes. Instead of just criticising, you need to help the young player find the solution to the problem. This doesn’t mean doing it for them, but creating realistic situations in your training that help the young players realise what went wrong. This form of training is far more effective than taking the command approach in coaching. Football coaches should try to be ‘great facilitators not great dictators’ when working with young players, this will help encourage their creativity producing natural players, not ‘little robots’ who rely on everything you say. Here are some tips for creating the right environment:
- Try to avoid criticising, give praise whenever possible.
- Always use game-based learning, to stimulate creativity.
- Use Q&A; involve them in the learning process.
- Use humour and other methods to help engage you players.
- The player’s development is the most important thing.
- Make sure the sessions are fun and meaningful.
Read my other blog post on how to plan a soccer coaching session, for tips on how to prepare a session.
Even though the amount of qualifications you take doesn’t guarantee you becoming a successful football coach, they do provide a good foundation for coaches to begin their coaching journey. You also need to be qualified to a certain standard if you ever have ambitions of progressing up the coaching ladder and maybe become an academy coach at a professional club. Every country has their own qualifications structure, in the UK to be considered for a paid coaching position in the community you should have at least your FA level 2 certificate. This can be completed in 6 months and requires you being assessed on one coaching session plus completing a portfolio.
If you happen to have ambitions to further progress your knowledge and coaching career then taking the FA youth modules at some point will be a must. The FA youth modules are aimed at further developing the coach’s knowledge when providing age-appropriate coaching sessions. There are three modules that you can take to complete the FA youth award. If you happen to have ambitions of coaching at a professional academy you will be expected to at least have the FA youth module 2 along with the UEFA B Licence, before someone is likely to take a look at you.
The best coaching course I have personally taken is Practice Play by Premier Skills. Practice Play is designed to produce innovative coaches that will in turn, produce outstanding players. The course has a focus on recreating the elements of ‘street football’ that will progress to advanced full game understanding. What set’s Practice Play apart from other coaching courses I have taken, is how each session is a gradual progression of what was previously taught. Each practice has an element of Realism throughout, that keeps each player fully engaged and accelerates the learning process.
To find more information on the Practice Play courses click here. I am currently a Premier Skills licence holder for the West Midlands area, if you would like to hold or attend a Practice Play course then Click here.
Watch good youth football coaches!
As mentioned earlier, just taking qualifications will not make you a great coach. I highly recommend that you watch top coaches whenever possible, and learn what you can from them. Watching good coaches allow you to access the knowledge and techniques of how to provide high-quality coaching. I personally learnt more watching other good coaches then I ever did on most of my coaching courses. Luckily for us, we now live in an age where we can access information from the comfort of our homes. Websites such as YouTube and many other social sharing sites allow coaches to watch and communicate with others, creating many opportunities to be mentored by some of the great instructors.
Great leaders are readers!
Another way to learn from others is to read great content. A lot of the top youth football coaches around the world now have books or write regular articles, so finding great content isn’t hard to find you just need to know where to look. Below I will include some of the books that have helped me on my coaching journey.
- Teambuilding: The Road to Success by Rinus Michels
- Football for the Brave by John Cartwright
- The Modern Soccer Coach 2014: A Four Dimensional Approach by Gary Curneen
- Coaching Soccer: The Official Coaching Book of the Dutch Soccer Association by Bert van Lingen.
Take action and have fun!
Learning is important, but at some point, you have to put what you’ve learnt into practice. I recommend that you practice what you learn whenever possible. Just as you do with your players, you will learn more from trial and error then you will just reading books all the time. If you follow these steps then you will be on your way to becoming a better coach.
Let’s Play the Game Ltd. is a provider of excellent personal football coaching in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, and Solihull. For those who would like to try our services don’t hesitate to contact us.
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