By Roger Wilkinson
I see Thierry Henry has been outed in the English press for ‘working the system’ by being ‘fast tracked’ through his Uefa A qualification. Hopefully this will put coach education under the spot light because he’s certainly not the first one. However, in his defense – common feedback from coaches that have done the UEFA B or A License is that the methodology shown on the courses lacks quality and credibility. Comments along the line of………“the practical sessions were poor but I kept my criticism to myself because my main motivation was to pass the course” are what I often hear.
When you look at the price young coaches have to pay for coach education courses in the UK and some other countries, you realize that coach education is not about producing quality coaches but is instead a fund raising “cash cow” for the national associations.
Looking back I realize I was so privileged that my easily affordable coach education was during the “golden age” of English coaching. Courses were influenced by the greats -Greenwood, Allison, Howe, Gradi, Sexton, Venables, Cartwright and Bate. All were thinking, innovative football men. They not only talked the game (the salt and pepper shakers were never still at lunch time as they experimented with tactics and formations) but more importantly they showed it on the grass with practically delivered inspirational sessions. Their “pearls” of coaching detail and innovation were constantly there for us to gather. Their credibility was also high due to the fact they were successful football league or international coaches in their own right – they talked the talk but they also walked the walk.
Surely when addressing the current coach education system, the following fundamental questions have to be answered:
Is the current coach education system affordable and accessible?
Do the key development stages – 6-11/12-16/17+ years of age have enough skilled coaches working in them?
Does the current coach education system train coaches to work cleverly and knowledgeably in these different stages?
Does learning and development continue when players leave age group football and are exposed to coaching at senior level?
Does the current coach education system educate senior coaches on how to combine development of players with winning?
If, like me you answered “No” to most of these questions – then you have come to the conclusion that there is a flaw in the coach education system.
So from these questions what are our coach education priorities?
- Director of Coaching.
What becomes obvious is that the Director of Coaching is the most important role in a national Football Association. Let me re-emphasis this – it is the most important role! They must be that rare combination of outstanding and successful coach, visionary leader and teacher with a focus and passion to develop outstanding coaches at all levels.
- National Game Style
The Director’s number one priority is to create an exciting national game style so that coaches at all level know where they heading to. A game style built on great individualism linked to tactical understanding.
- Coach Development
The next priority is to train and develop a team of innovative coach educators. All of whom must be able display and teach with outstanding methodology, especially in their practical demonstrations. I say this because an observation of today’s coach education shows that although modern technology has definitely been an asset, too often power point and paper work has replaced effective practical demonstrations. The power point theory backed up with a poor practical demonstration excused with “It didn’t quite work but you can see what my session was aiming at!!” Is a no!! no!! and does not have credibility.
So it is only when we recognize and face the challenge to inspire and produce an army of outstanding coach educators delivering innovative courses, that Thierry Henry will be inspired enough to attend every minute of the course. When we are regularly developing highly skilled players that can turn “gormless” to great, we’ll know that we have a truly great coach education system.
Sorry one more question! If you were running a national coaching scheme and had one of the greatest coach educators of all time on your doorstep wouldn’t you grab him with both arms and use him as much as you can? It’s amazing how often the outspoken passionate thinkers in the game are marginalized by the ‘powers that be’ when they are the very coaches that need to be involved.