Without doubt, the most important period of a footballers development is their formative years in grassroots football. A players first introduction to football should be a positive experience that gives them the best opportunity to progress in the game.
Our game in England tends to follow little direction from the English football association despite the massive investment which went into St Georges.
St Georges was built to help develop our ‘future game’ but I am yet to be convinced that this facility will dramatically improve our young players. Now I do think that St Georges is an excellent facility that will benefit anyone who decides to use it, but I believe that it would cost our FA a lot less to focus on improving the standards of coaching across grassroots level. Focusing on getting more coaches the right education and providing better support for our junior football teams, would be better use of the Football Associations funds.
In this article I will mention 5 important things you can do to help run a successful junior football team. I believe having these 5 things in place will help your young players understand what is required from them and create a better environment for learning the beautiful game.
Create a club culture!
” if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself “
Your football club shouldn’t just be a place with a bunch of teams and a few parents/coaches who have decided to just come along and give coaching a go. It should be a club that has a vision, a philosophy, values and a clear way of doing things. Your players need to develop an understanding that at this club ‘we do things differently’. In order for this to work every member of the football team needs to understand and abide by your clubs philosophy. This is very important because if one member decides to use their own approach which deters away from the club culture, it could derail everything that the club has worked on.
Your players and coaches should develop an understanding that at this club winning isn’t the most important thing, winning with a certain style is more important. The development of players is the most important thing, and every player and coach needs to understand these club values.
The main aim is to produce skilful, creative and innovative players in order for this to happen you will need coaches who are innovative enough to produce those players.
Recruit the right coaches!
With grassroots football being mostly voluntary it is difficult to get the right people on board, but not impossible. When recruiting other’s to help run your teams make it clear from the beginning what your club is about. Doing this will make them decide whether they can achieve your aims and if your club is right for them.
As I stated before every member of your club needs to be on board with the philosophy and ethos. Having your coaches understand this will not only give them guidance in terms of their development but also ensure that every player at your club will be on the same development plan. It is the club’s goal to have their under 7s playing the same style of football as the under 16s, having this continuity is very important in youth development.
To ensure everyone is on the same page the club can produce their own development plan which will show everyone at the club what is expected. To give you an example of a development plan here is the Ajax youth academy plan. Use this only as a guide and try to make your plan suit your own philosophy.
Encourage Them to Get educated!
All members of the football club should be encouraged to improve their coaching. whether it’s on a coach education course, reading books or watching other professional coaches all staff should be improving their coaching knowledge on a regular basis. If your club has a certain playing style or identity then you will need to educate your coaches on how to implement this style of play. This may require some in house coach education from some of the more senior members at your junior football club or putting them on a certain course that promotes the playing style you wish to implement.
Your FA courses are not the only way to increase your coaching knowledge. They are very important in terms of getting you on the coaching ladder but it’s not the only way to develop your coaching. There are other courses out there such as the Coerver Youth Diploma which I have not taken myself but you can check it out here. There is also the Practice Play course by Premier Skills which I have taken and highly recommend, you can check this it out here.
As I stated in my earlier post How to Become a Top Youth Football Coach: a Guide for Parents and Coaches you can watch great coaches from your computer or your even smartphone. Watching professionals coach and talk about their beliefs or coaching philosophies, I believe can teach you a lot more then just attending regular courses.
Even the best coaches in the world are committed to their own personal development despite being seen as the experts. If you and the other coaching staff at your club are committed to improving your coaching methods then you will always be ahead of coaches who aren’t.
Recruit the right Players!
If you have developed certain philosophy at your club, then you will need the right players to fulfil your vision. Every junior side will have their own way of recruiting players and unfortunately we can’t take every child even at junior level.
Unlike academies we don’t have the privilege of picking the best players in the area. What must do is look out for certain characteristics and skills, that will fit your clubs philosophy. Have a baseline that your willing to work with and ensure that who ever you recruit are teachable. There is nothing worse then working with players that misbehave or are a disruptive influence on the rest of the team, so make sure you do what you can to identify those players from the beginning. This will help you decide whether or not those players are worth taking a risk on, because in some cases they are (if you feel you can get through to them).
Get the Parents on board!
One of the most important things to establish at your football club from the very beginning is to have parents on board with your vision. I think many coaches underestimate the influence parents can have on their team, and should make every effort to also ‘educate them’ as well. This will help ensure they have a clear understanding of the clubs philosophy, values and ethos.
Even though a lot of the time parents believe kids don’t take on board what they say, children are heavily influenced by their parents decisions. Having the parents understand what you are trying to achieve will accelerate the child’s learning and allow the child to develop without any hindrances.
What I have used in the past with parents is a ‘parent contract’ which I ask them to read and sign before their child starts with my team. This way from the beginning they have an idea of what I expect of them and their child and if they don’t agree we can either discuss it or they can go somewhere else. It is important that the communication with parents doesn’t end here as things can be easily forgotten, so it is down to you to constantly update them on what you are trying to achieve with their children.
All of the information I have put forward can be implemented at every junior team across the country. I have tried to use tips and tools that don’t rely enormously on having a lot of funds and can be implemented by anyone.