Aspiring Young Coaches

By Sam Wilkinson

As a young coach, I am in a privileged position at Premier Skills in that I am able to observe and regularly converse with some outstanding coaches, coaches that have shaped the way I perceive and teach the game.  Like most aspirational young coaches as I continue to develop I find myself eager to experiment with sessions and ideas and develop my own personality as a coach.  This got me thinking about guidelines that a young coach could follow when planning and delivering sessions.  What are the core ingredients that need to be present in any successful session regardless of the session theme or content?  

Having read through the previous articles by John Cartwright, Roger Wilkinson and other contributors I have compiled the following checklist which could act as a guideline for young coaches.

 Is the session a realistic representation of the game?

Unless players follow a development program based on realistic practice involving playing alternatives and options and forces changes of decisions to be made as happens in a game, it could quite easily be said that the practice time is wasted”

J Cartwright – Areas of Play Not Phases of Play.

“From Warm-up through to full game, each individual practice session should reflect, as near as possible, the competitive skills and tactics of an actual game suitable for the age and playing qualities of those involved”

J Cartwright – The Importance of Planned Progression

Are the players making decisions on time and space throughout the session?

“Whether in att. or def. mode players must be capable of making and changing decisions on situations speedily and correctly”

J Cartwright – Areas not phases of play

“….emphasis should be placed on the decision making process”

A Danks – How do Lions think?

Is the session relevant to the game style you have developed?

“Everything stems from the coaches playing vision”

R Wilkinson – Be The Best You Can Be

 “Once a playing vision, is agreed, the plans to achieve it can be organised accordingly”

J Cartwright – The Importance of Planned progression

“having a style of play is more important than an actual formation

Michael Appleton Interview

Does the session have a recognizable and easy to understand theme that runs through it?

“The use of random football practices, like random building methods, should be evaded like the plague if the production of quality players able to play the game to the highest standards is to be achieved”

J Cartwright – The Importance of Planned progression

“Do you understand how players learn permanent good habits by receiving their learning in multiple but single themed practices?”

R Wilkinson – Coaching Aint Easy


 Are the players actively involved in the session at all times?

“…….. players learning the signals of the game according to the actions of their team mates. You cannot learn those signals standing in lines or playing unrelated fun games”

R Wilkinson – Let the Coach and the Real Game Be the Teacher

Is the session a fluid enhancement of the previous session and a preparation for the following session?

“Once a playing vision, is agreed, the plans to achieve it can be progressively organised accordingly”

coaches must progressively teach the players how to play towards a football vision”

J Cartwright – The Importance of Planned progression

Are your key coaching points in a logical, easy to understand sequence?

“…is there a “gradualness” in the delivery that enables the players to learn the detail of the session and achieve progressive success?”

“When delivering coaching points are they in cleverly constructed sequences that effortlessly take the learner through to game understanding?”

R Wilkinson – Coaching Aint Easy

As a young coach I know that if this criteria is evident in my sessions I`m on the right track. Premier Skills coaching is committed to developing outstanding coaches that will in turn develop outstanding players!


5 thoughts on “Aspiring Young Coaches

  1. I agree with all the points made in your post, Sam. Also being a young coach, I find gradually that being a good coach takes a number of very important qualities which everyday you must add to, for the players you are coaching to develop to their maximum potential. Namely, the need for session to be a realistic representation of the game, as well as the need for active involvement at all times, I see as most important. Will certainly take these things into consideration when taking my next session. Thanks

  2. Hi Sam. Interesting ‘blog’ you have posted. All the quotes you have gathered are extremely important when coaching. However. if i were asked what is the most important ‘weapon’ in a coach’s armoury, i would say — LEARN AND UNDERSTAND THE GAME DEEPLY YOURSELF BEFORE TACKLING THE JOB OF TEACHING IT EVEN TO YOUNGSTERS. Football is such a remarkable sport it produces a feeling of ‘managerial’ status to all who follow the game — from the local Publican to a high-flying Banker or the driver of a Heavy Goods Vehicle — everybody believes they know best!!
    The cleverness of being able to transfer information requires deep understanding of the subject first. An astute knowledge of the game of football permits the coach to include gradual, calculated and suitably arranged, age/ability related practises. This has been what our coaching structure in this country has consistently failed to deliver. COACHES OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY SHOULD WORK MORE OFTEN, SPEND MORE TIME AND SHOW MORE INTEREST IN THE WORK BEING DELIVERED TO OUR YOUNGEST PLAYERS. IF CORRECT FOUNDATION WORK IS NOT CAREFULLY INTRODUCED, DELIVERED AND PROGRESSED, ‘CRACKS’ IN PLAYING STANDARDS WILL DEVELOP FROM JUNIOR INTO SENIOR LEVELS. THESE ‘CRACKS’ BECOME EVER WIDER AS THE GAME BECOMES MORE DEMANDING THEREBY REDUCING PLAYING QUALITIES FOR INDIVIDUALS AND THE TEAMS FOR WHOM THEY PLAY.
    The issuance of a coaching certificate to a junior coach must mean far more than is required at present. These qualifications should be of the highest quality and reflect the importance our national association places on coaching and development at the junior levels — I HAVE NOT SEEN THAT IN THE STANDARDS SET IN THEIR COACHING AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS’ IN THE PAST NOR AT PRESENT.

  3. I am very interested in John Cartwright’s post concerning the coaching courses offered by the FA at the most junior end.
    When i started doing coaching courses in 1970 there were just 2 courses on offer – the FA Preliminary Coaching Certificate and the FA Full Award (usually referred to as the ‘Full Badge’).Everybody did the Prelim, whether you were involved in the pro game or coaching a local kids’ team in the park.From the experience of the Prelim courses which i took there was insufficient technique content,particularly relevant to those coaching young children.A large part of the course centred around the Principles of Play which comprised a large section of the manual which was essential for everyone who did the FA courses in that era – ‘FA Guide To Training and Coaching’ by Allen Wade who was the FA’s Director of Coaching at the time.But the problem with the Prelim was that it was not strictly relevant to any particular coaching range and was something you had to go through to gain some knowledge and achieve coaching qualifications.
    I think it was around the late ‘eighties that the FA brought out the Junior Team Manager course which coincided with the introduction of mini-soccer.This was much better because it was aimed at coaches working with young children and together with a video ‘Soccer Star’ and accompanying booklet it gave quite a comprehensive breakdown of quite a number of football techniques,much more comprehensive than what you got on the FA Prelim.When the FA eventually re-vamped all their courses then this Junior Team Manager course became known as Level 1.
    I thought that things were moving in the right direction but then, I think it was around 2000, the FA changed the format and Level 1 became a collection of games for children to play which were in many cases very enjoyable but the technical content of the course disappeared.With the introduction of the FA Youth Award we have an even more game-centred approach.
    It was explained to me on one occasion that one of the reasons for this change in approach was because more women were coacing football to children and they were unable to demonstrate football techniques.I have said before that this is completely untrue because a woman can practice a technique the same as a man to the point where they can perform it sufficiently well to put on a demonstration.
    This I believe is where the Premier Skills methodology starts to be far superior to the FA approach.The practice set up on Premier Skills introduces a game-type scenario but with the movement and awareness necessary for football and which prepares kids for football education right from the word go and in an enjoyable setting.
    There seem to be more and more people doing the Premier Skills Courses and from what i see and hear everybody gives positive feedback on what they have learned.I think that it is important that contact is maintained with everybody who take the courses so that these coaches can share their experiences and make suggestions or air their problems.

  4. Hi Steve. Once again you have made some interesting points regarding the changes in FA coaching programs. I obtained my Prelim. and Full Badge awards as was normal in the early days. I fully agree that these courses did not cover the full development period enough. What it gave to potential coaches was a basic approach to coaching from junior to senior levels; what was more available at this time however was opportunities to ‘get ones hands dirty’ working in a practical way with kids etc.
    I worked at schools and colleges of FE for many years and formulated ideas and methods of working as i went along.
    This was my ‘Coaching University’ and it gave me the time and opportunities to ‘play with coaching’ and make modifications and form new ideas as i went forward.

    We have lost the respect for age in this country. With age comes experience and as long as that experience has been achieved in positive terms, it’s worth listening to. I am not the coach i was 55 years ago when i gained my Prelim. award. Time and events from then to now have moulded my thoughts and formed my decisions on many aspects of life, especially ‘football life’. I have devloped firm beliefs about the game that have not acquired overnight but over half a century!
    Our game is in a crisis state and this situation has been fermenting for many years. Their are numerous reasons for this, but the most dangerous thing is, we don’t accept our game has serious problems,so we continue doing nothing positive to deal with them! We ‘fiddle while Rome burns’!
    The FA have produced a coaching and development ‘maze’ for candidates to enter; a ‘maze that has an entrance but was not designed towards a navigatable exit – (playing vision)!! Whether this complicated and over-structured approach to coaching is beneficial to the game can only be judged by the standard of player that their methods has produced in the past, is producing now and is likely to continue producing in the future.
    We have become excellent at ‘talking a good game’ and ‘writing a good game’, but we are poor at ‘doing a good game’ -by ‘doing’ i mean coaching the game well and playing it to the highest standards.
    Aah! if only i had had the benefit of a full life’s experience when i was 15 years of age,,,, for us, the elders of the coaching fraternity, actions may slow with age, but hopefully the mind and the heart are still alive enough to give the future young coaches and players the benefit of our life in the game.

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