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?