Part One: From parent to coach. Introduction.
Enthusiastic parents coach the majority of young kids in this country, and while their dedication is absolutely vital for the future of youth football, these well-meaning parents often have little access to coaching courses when they first start out. There is also a danger that a parent will think that they can coach a group of six year olds without too much of an issue because they used to play a bit and have watched a lot of football over the years. I know this, because I was such a Dad a few years ago. Having started out on a journey of education however I realised that there was so much more to good coaching than I could have ever imagined, and over the Christmas and New Year period I have been reflecting on just how much I have learnt over the past two and a half years.
Coaching was always a part of the plan for me. I always said I would start coaching kids football when I was too old to play, but I think in hindsight that was a mistake. I should have started far earlier than that because the love I have for coaching now is such that I feel that I wasted the last 20 years merely playing the game. If you are a parent thinking of volunteering then I could not recommend it to you more. It is a passion of mine now, and will likely be so for as long as I am able.
I managed an adult football team for 10 years, but that is not the same. The only coaching I was delivering during those 10 years was during pre-season or during a match and it was more fitness and fine-tuning fully developed players rather than teaching youngsters the game for the first time. The joy I get from seeing my young lads improve is difficult to describe. As a volunteer, like every other grass-roots coach, watching my players improve, coupled with the gratitude of the players and their parents makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile with my life and giving something back to the game that has given me so much joy and pain over the years.
I have read countless books, watched thousands of videos, attending numerous coaching courses and workshops and I still find that there is not enough material out there for me as a coach to consume. I have probably spent an average of 10 hours a week trying to educate myself for the past two and a half years, and that doesn’t include the weeks I have spent on FA coaching courses. I have loved every minute.
When I started out, I would to have loved to have read a book by an experienced coach about how the coaching journey ahead might look, from day one, with actionable advice that can be implemented in chronological order. As already mentioned many new coaches are well-meaning parents at the start, and many of the coaching books on the market are too advanced for the novice parent, and not written as a guide to the first year as a coach. I have learnt a great deal from many of those books written by coaches far more experienced than I, but I am yet to find the book I described above, so I decided to write it into this blog. In a sense I am trying to condense all of the reading, viewing, learning and thinking I have crammed into my lifetime with football, and most recently the two and a half years I have spent as an U7, U8 and now U9 coach into one series of blogs for those parents that might not have the time or the inclination to invest so much time into coaching education.
It is also important to stress that I have so much more to learn, so please don’t think I am writing these blog pieces because I think I am the finished article, because nothing could be further from the truth. I just want to share what I have learned to date in the hope it might help somebody in the future.
This series of blog pieces are aimed primarily at coaches who are just starting out with a grass-roots team or coaches who maybe have a year or two’s experience in coaching a team. It is also for fellow grassroots coaches who are perhaps more experienced, and might find my ideas to be food for thought. As a coach, I believe you should always be learning and trying to improve yourself if you want to be able to improve the players in your care. Listening to other coaches and their ideas is one way of improving yourself, and this blog is a vehicle for me to share my ideas with you.
I will hopefully follow a logical sequence from day one on the job, but I am not claiming that I followed this sequence myself. There was a lot of knowledge learned on my journey that I wish I had started out with, and that I hope by sharing through this blog will help fellow parents who are thrust into youth coaching a head-start.
So I will set out what I believe you should focus on as a new coach, and in the order I believe you should do so, with the benefit of hindsight.
A brief note about me. I have spent 43 years on this planet in love with football. Playing, watching, supporting, managing, coaching, reading about it … it has totally dominated my life and I wouldn’t have it an other way. I managed an adult 11-a-side team for 10 years, and I am currently coaching a good standard of Under 9’s. I hold The FA Level 1 & 2 certificate in coaching football as well as modules 1 & 2 of the FA Youth Award, and am currently working on module 3.
Whilst I enjoy writing, blogging can feel a little like talking to yourself at times, so if you found anything useful or have an opinion on anything within these pages please do reply and join the conversation.
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All five in the series can be found here: