Heading in the right direction

I have embarked on the Level Two Certificate in Coaching Football with FA Learning and Suffolk FA this week, and throughout his time on the course will be sharing his experiences and hopefully encourage others to take their next steps into coaching…

Day Five – 6 April 2012

A discussion about the Respect programme, task ten in our learner packs, kicked off Good Friday at Suffolk One. Along with the many sessions out on the pitch this week, we’ve also had to follow a number of theory tasks, not just about coaching but also on other aspects that could be part of a coach’s role within a club.

With many of the group regularly coaching kids, Respect is quite a key issue. Now, while many talk about the affects at the professional game, everyone in football has a responsibility to behave and think of others. One of the big concerns raised by many of the coaches was the influence of parents on the sideline, who may want the team to win at all costs and put pressure on the young footballers.

So we discussed codes of conducts for all participants – The FA offers its own with regards players, team officials and match officials – but also for the coach of the team to set his or her own philosophy of what they want to achieve. They’ll no doubt all want success, but we all have a different idea of success. Is it winning every game? Is it ensuring every child at the club has a fair share of minutes on the pitch? Or perhaps the notion of improving players to become capable of playing a certain style, regardless of results? Whatever it is, there’s no right or wrong necessarily, but all involved in the club (players, parents, officials) need to be aware of this philosophy and respect it.

It was probably one of our longer debates this week as everyone had a view on what they think needs to happen to ensure that Respect is not just a campaign, but a natural part of our game.

It meant that we were a little later going out onto the pitch for our first session of the day: Finishing. As is the norm, when there’s a chance to get the balls out for some shooting practice, everyone steps forward. Keith needed just 12 of the 18 of us, and I wasn’t quick enough to get a bib, so ended up watching the session from the side.

It was probably for the best, I’d seen the shooting that some of them were doing while Keith was setting up, and I think some of them needed the practice. Besides, I didn’t fancy getting scratched when – not if – my shots went over the fence into the bushes. The drill itself used the five-a-side goals, and was more about the technique of shooting; body shape, contact with the ball, types of shots and being creative to add a clever finish, that just larruping balls at the goal.

While watching from the side, I had a chat with one of the other lads, Kevin, who is coaching at Newmarket Town (Eastern Counties League). Without being rude, Kev is certainly no Peter Crouch, and it came as no surprise when he told me that he used to be a jockey. The connection with the home of horse racing was easy to see now.

Kev, who works at one of the major stables in the town, also revealed that he is friends with Mark Venus, the former Ipswich Town defender who is now assistant manager to Tony Mowbray up at Middlesbrough. Thanks to Venus, Kev had spent a few days recently up at Rockliffe – the club’s impressive training ground where I too stayed recently with the Under-21s – and had been allowed to observe some of the youth and senior training sessions there.

But, similar to Venus, I was more interested in talking to Kev about horse racing as I like to get to Newmarket for the Guineas Festival every May. Unfortunately, this year falls on FA Cup Final weekend so I’ll be at Wembley, if not supporting my team, I’ll be on duty for TheFA.com. Kev has offered to show me around behind the scenes next time I’m in Newmarket, though, which was very kind of him. I’ll have to see what he’s up to Sunday!

After lunch, it was another couple of theory tasks. One was on nutrition and the other on fitness for football. I often talk to Boydy, the Under-21s Fitness Coach, about things like this, and we also have the same diet as the team when we go away, so I felt quite clued up about the types of foods you should, or shouldn’t eat, and when in the matchday schedule food should be eaten.

The final set of practical demonstrations from the course syllabus that Keith had to show us was out on the pitch this afternoon. They were two similar sessions, both on heading, but one was focused on defensive heading, the other on the attacking variety.

Basic points addressed were, when defending, adjusting to the flight of the ball, sending it back from where it came and our contact with the ball to ensure height in the clearance. When attacking, we looked at the back-post header, rising to direct back across the keeper towards the far corner of the goal, movement towards the near post and how we should generate power. I didn’t score when doing the drill, but did force Chichi into a creative save with his, er, midriff.

That wrapped up the practical learning part of the week as we’d seen all topics that are covered, so in theory we should be able to perform our final assessment. But we’ve got until September to prepare for that.

Tomorrow we must all put on a 15 minute game-related session on the topics handed out by Keith, so will be on the pitch all day, starting at 9am, My topic is a defending drill – ‘Pressing’. It isn’t just about defenders, though, but how the whole team should put pressure on the the players with the ball as they carry out the basic principles of defending; deny space, restrict space, predict space.

I’ve now just got to draw up the session plan…

Level Two Diary
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four

If you are keen to get into coaching, whether that’s at Level Two, or any other of the courses on offer, click here to find out about local courses or here for the national course information. There is also a host of online courses available via The FA Learing website.