Individualism…..or the lack of it!

By Andrea Vella

I am no Mourinho or Guardiola, but after undergoing the L1 and L2 Coach Ed courses together with the Licence Holders Course organised by Premier Skills, I look back at my first three years as a football educator before this moment and realise how false my sessions used to be! It has also opened my eyes a lot to the problems I see with coaching in Malta:

I see  many “know­-it-­alls” and ex-­footballers who talk, talk, talk, who believe they can coach  purely because of their position or playing reputation, but who quiet frankly, can’t and don’t!  I see alot of coaches that focus on  their own personal success and results when they should be focusing on developing players – It’s all about how many games they`ve won!  I see a lot of coaches that do it as a hobby or as a side job to earn extra pocket money, without realising how delicate their role is! What most of the coaches have in common is that  they don’t understand that coaching isn’t easy!

We as coaches are responsible for a childs dream – every young kid wants to become a professional footballer! A few percentage end up making it, but that shouldnt stop all good kids becoming the best they can be.  The potential in ANY child is tremendous – and one can only obtain the best out of them with the right coaching!

The Malta Football Association, since the new President Norman Darmanin Demajo was elected 2 seasons ago, has strived to improve the level of Maltese football. They provided70% of clubs with new training facilities, they have improved the running organisation of football events and have worked closer to the Youth FA (association responsible for youth football on the island), and provided and distributed more funds for the academies.  They kicked off an ambitious project with  the 1998 age group – the MFA selected boys to take part in an ongoing program that consists of two training sessions and a full days training every week. Furthermore, they reduced the Coach Edu coaching courses fee from the ridicilous fees they were at. All this sounds like great development on such a small island with limited resources………BUT have they improved the coaching in order to develop better players?  Are the sessions realistic to the  game? Are all the players constantly involved or are they lining up in ques waiting for turns? Do the sessions keep the players on their toes by having them make decisions on time and space throughout?

Everyone in Malta boasts that they are teaching their team the ‘Barcelona way’ – and all you see while going around sessions is control and pass or one touch football. It is a false belief that Barcelona play one or two touch football – they do use it when necessary, but not because the coach tells them play one/two touch because they have recognised that is the right option! How many times do you see Pique running out with the ball from the back and overloading in midfield, or Xavi and Iniesta twisting and turning through midfield. The potential here in Malta is big for such a small island, however, coaches remove that little bit of brilliance which the kid can offer when expressing himself by forcing them to play one and two touch. I am forever seeing players giving the ball away because they try play  one touch when they actually had the time and space  to turn and keep the ball that little bit longer, and create something out of it. Football is a team game, but you need an individual’s piece of magic to sometimes make things happen, that’s why no matter how off Barcelona are on the day, you just know that if Xavi, Iniesta or Messi create that extra metre of space and take full advantage of it, they will punish you. That’s why it is our duty as coaches to let the show their individualism and deliver real sessions and exercises related to the game rather than us controlling them as if they’re PlayStation players. Our coaching must give players the tools which will help their decision making in the game.

I am proud in saying that since having met Roger and Sam in England and been on the Premier Skills courses, my coaching has improved tremendously, and the improvement of every kid, no matter the age and ability has been phenomenal. It was these fantastic results which made me obliged to pass on this to other maltese coaches and introduce Premier Skills Practice Play methodology into my Footy4U Football School.

Having said all this about Malta, what worries me is that after having visited a number of professional academies in Europe, there appears to be the same problem! And with a lot of our boys going up on trial and even on the verge of signing, I ask myself if they will remain good players or even make the step up and become great players if they enter this system?


8 thoughts on “Individualism…..or the lack of it!

  1. Andrea really enjoyed your article it showed insight and perception.The problems you’ve identified are not confined to Malta they are mirrored in many countries.However, as we’ve found when delivering the courses, for example in Malta,those ex players and volunteers, when exploring our work do take it on board and have a commitment to the Premier Skills ideology.So keep up the good work

  2. Great article and so very true! We are experiencing the same problems as yourself and I wrote a blog before called grateful because premier skills was what I was looking for, for a long time as a coach playing style and sesssion wise but did not how to achieve it.

    You make a great point about the problems that you see in academies all over Europe and firmly believe that inengland we are not progressing at the appropriate rate because of the coaches!

    I’ve come across so many talented players over the last 12 years but they all end up the same like programmable football robots!! Premier skills are making a difference but it may well be that you can make a bigger impact in Malta because the attitude of the players is tremendous!

    Keep up the good work Andrea

  3. Hi Andrea. I think you hit the nail on the head when you refer to ex-players who rely on their playing reputation to impress people and make them think that they therefore have all the answers. Many of them talk well but they do little to really develop the young players in their charge.
    To learn new coaching methods you need an open mind. This is particularly relevant to the Premier Skills coaching approach. Some old players believe that the methods they received in their day are still the way to go. They believe that because it brought them playing success then it will still work today. They forget that perhaps they learnt ther vital skills from playing in the street or on rough play areas. They do not recognise that these conditions do not exist today and children are growing up in a different environment, which is affecting their motor skills in general and their football-playing skills in particular.
    At the Premier Skills Coaching Seminar at Birmingham City FC last week, I was particulary struck by how young the Birmingham academy coaches were and the great interest they had in the work which John Cartwright put on. Judging by the quality which the young Birmingham players showed, then they are already doing a good job.
    On the other side of the coin, I have noticed that there is occasionally, however, a tendancy to ignore the ability of a coach if he is above a certain age, has grey hair etc. The important thing is to adapt and take on board new ideas and approaches if it is best for the development of young players. I recall Ron Greenwood once saying that in football you don’t get old, you just get more experienced.

  4. Great piece Andrea. I think you hit the nail on. The head when you say coaching isnt easy & how coaches “think” they are coaching ” The Barca Way” when in fact a lot of coaches find it difficult to see what they are doing is not that way at all!

    A good coach will learn something new every time he/she coaches a session, reads an artical etc etc

    When a volunteer coach enters into a coaching session with thier kids, you can only congratulate them for trying to help those kids!!! If that coach then tries to dictate to their kids becoz they cant see or dont know any different, you need to ask is that coach willing to listen & learn from others? Even the kids they are teaching???

    Premier Skills gives people the tools to deliver quality coaching but at the same time gives the coach the ability to “think out of the box” to realise when something can be changed!

    Rich Eades

  5. Andrea, this is excellent and much like the comments above, I believe them to be very true.
    I am based in the USA, California, and there are so many ego’s and power positions that those who maybe played in the MLS, or those that had a full ride to college playing Soccer feel as though they have the divine right to now be a coach. To dictate all that is going on in their club. What about the players?
    I agree with you, attending new courses does change your style and your view on practices. If only USSF would follow the MFA and reduce the staggering cost, we could get more quality coaches certified, not just those that ‘deserve’ it.

    Thank you again!

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