What Are We Trying To Do?

By Mark Fogarty

Over the last 16years I have worked at many Professional clubs and in many capacities, from Dev coach, 9-16’s coach, youth team coach, Academy recruitment, first team recruitment etc.
I have met and watched many different coaches and observed many sessions, some good and some bad. During this time I also worked firstly as a coach Educator for the FA and then over the last 10 years, a Coach Educator for Premier Skills, founded by John Cartwright and Roger Wilkinson.

 I used to put on sessions and follow a technical syllabus, but the questionS that I kept asking myself were ” have I really affected those kids? and how does that session link into the next one?” What exactly is this a part of? What are we trying to do?
I would always doubt myself because I wanted to be the best. I kept coming back to the same old questions all of the time and it seemed so complicated and pointless sometimes. The questions were about the players of yesteryear and how was it that you could always reel off 4 or 5 creative ‘special’ players in every team.Then I’d ask myself “Where did they learn?, How did they learn?.

I always had a bee in my bonnet about why the game always came last as a kind of reward and when I could get away with it I’d play a game first and then coach around it.
The point is, these players of yesteryear practised playing the game!! Yes, it was that simple, repetition of the game itself which bought about self-correction and creative success.
I’ve loved my time learning with the FA and still do and more recently having just completed the new youth modules with the FA, levels 1 and 2 was pleasantly enthused by some of the content, which I recognised.
HOWEVER, when I was first introduced to PREMIER SKILLS and went through their levels 1 and 2 and so on under the tutelage of John and Roger, and then became a Coach Educator for them this was the 1st time that it all fitted together for me for the following reasons;

  1. It was simple.
  2. It was about Practising playing the game.
  3. It wasn’t about the coach.
  4. It was a part of a bigger picture- everything fitted together, session to session, level to level.
  5. Individuality started every course, it wasn’t mentioned once and then forgotten.

I have long held a desire to be an Academy Manager at a Professional Club so that I could make the Premier Skills work my syllabus, for the players to cover and for the coaches to work through the levels.
I know that by working and following this simple methodology of work that I would develop GREAT INNOVATIVE COACHES and SPECIAL PLAYERS. Coaches would know what they were trying to achieve and how it fitted into the next session/level.
As players moved up or down or from age group to age group, everybody would know where that player was in the syllabus and in their development, because of what they had already covered.

Like the players of yesteryear, we should be PRACTISING PLAYING  and PLAYING WHAT WE’VE PRACTICED.
Premier Skills has a Practice Play methodology.

What do you think?

13 thoughts on “What Are We Trying To Do?

  1. Great post Mark, have to agree with all you said regarding practice play and the youth modules, I have done all 3 now, there is some excellent info on developing children, not just in football but building self esteem. They do not compare though to Practice play in terms of what you do on the field, as you said a course that leads on in a clear concise way, that allows children to play more of the time. Play time for kids is so important, children learn so much from playing, socialising with their friends, things that adults can not give them, coaches must allow children to play the game.

    Mark you do not need a pro academy to teach the PS methodology, I have wondered why you guys have not set up your own academy in the midlands, especially as you have so many contacts and coaches that know the PS method? This would be such a great marketing tool for PS, people could then see how well it works and more people would want to get involved.

    I went to cover a coaches session about 2 months ago, they were U12s. I had a session in another court just before, so when I turned up the lads were already in the court playing a game. I left them to it whilst I put some cones out. Once I called them in, they had no interest in doing anything with myself and had the usual back chat from a couple. So I thought I wont see these lads again, so I said just play a game and I went outside and watched. What I saw was 14 lads playing very competitively, trying different skills, lost in the game. No refs, coaches or parents interfering with there game. What I realised is how much time is wasted at sessions with stop start, changing cones etc. I must watch a session and time how much of that is actual play time.

  2. Mark have you now achieved this head of an academy and if so how has the reception been to the practice play methodology ? I know I learnt the game playing countless hours up the park , at every break in primary school with no adult interference . Now days it seems that kids play is over structured with adults telling them what to do at every instance.
    How will they learn to make there own decisions ?
    Having only done practice play level 1
    I believe it makes fantastic sense and I came away reeling from the amount of detail the practises contain.

    I watch centre of excellence football training sessions twice a week and have never heard individualism repeated or hardly mentioned .

    Watching the sessions I wonder whether we as a football culture embrace it or know how to nurture it.
    There are good practices and good coaches and the emphasise has moved towards ” keeping the ball” moving the ball quickly and off of 3 touches .
    But now if a kid looks to hold the ball then even parents are commenting that there holding it for to long ..
    Are we interpreting the Barcelona, Spain , model wrongly. The players are not even getting the chance to try a messi, ronaldinho, ronaldo, neymar type dribble. If they can’t continually try it how are they going to learn when and where to execute it…
    I fear in england we will miss out the supreme individual skill and jump to pass pass pass pass.

    I see each player looking like the other at training .
    Does football also not need daring players ?

    • No Robbie not achieved Head of Academy status but i think ive continually used the PS practises in many other influential arenas. Its really up to us to affect prominent people and try to change old habits.

      Not easy though.

      Thansk for taking the time to reply.


  3. Thanks Mark, for your vitally important article. Premier Skills Coaching Methodology is unique in the way it uses practice time and how sessions build continuously on eachother — the coach has a route to follow and the players are able to see the way forward —- towards a pre-established playing vision. I read in a PATRICK COLLINS article this Sunday that stated that the new England Manager needs to take more interest and have more influence over the way we practice and play the game here. We at Premier Skills have been saying and doing exactly that for the last 11 years but have been snubbed by football’s hierarchy because we tell the truth…………. The FA Coaching Scheme is not fit for purpose and has failed time and time again despite different personnel at the head and umpteen innovations during this time!!
    There is nobody capable of thinking ‘ outside the box ‘ at the FA and so we continue with bits and pieces of ‘ideas’ that lead nowhere. God, how we need someone to inject some inspired direction into development and the playing of the game here. Will it happen ?…. i don’t t believe it will !!

  4. Very interesting read and agree with your points. There seems to be a tradition in England for an un-coached game at the end of each training session, which young player’s now expect. No problem with un-coached games as part of a training scheme; players should be able to play, make mistakes and try to correct things themselves. I’m a big fan of Futsal for this – they always offer high intensity games so players decision making is maximised – a form of the game that is being used more in this country (particularly at academy level) and i think it will continue to develop. But one problem is won’t be able to always work out how to deal with mistakes themselves, particularly young players, and subsequently bad habits creep into their game. Therefore more coaching within game situations is needed in English football! After all they need to learn to make decisions in a changing and realistic situation, which set drills often cannot offer. Great post!

  5. Hi Mark , really enjoyed reading this article.

    Can we really do without the technical unopposed part of training?

    I am a proponent of game like training as you have discussed hear as it builds in decision making along with technical development in a ‘real’ setting. After all of the football programs (coerver, academy programs, tanoke, etc.), if one worked independently to create top players then we should have a lot better players at the top game and a clear path to create top players. Reality is we don’t, but would be interested to follow a study from start to finish in this philosophy.

  6. I quite like some of the technical programs; Coerver, FdS etc. However, I think they have to be a part of an integrated programme. If you do those as well as game related practice, you get the best of both worlds.

    However, don’t think these are just “football choreography” – both Coerver and FdS (Brazilian Soccer Schools) also put their students into small sided games as a key part of the curriculum.

  7. Great article Mark. To be honest I have stumbled across this site, I am a PE teacher who coaches district and county teams, who is very interested in developing my coaching to produce quality players. I like what I am hearing from you all, BUT having followed the FA for guidance on coaching and development – why have i not heard of this organisation PS? Would like to know more for sure!

  8. Hi Steve. practising unrealistically and then sending players into the ‘cauldron’ of a competitive game is what we have been doing here for decades —- and it has failed to produce the levels of individual skill that the game demands. We must begin to discard ‘organised and clean’ practice methods and replace them with ‘chaos’ practice that provides the reality of the game and, if carefully and intelligently used, can conjoin the two-stage learning process into a single learning experience.

  9. Great article Mark. As one of your former players now living in America, I was wondering if PS is available in the U.S.?
    Ashley Martin

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