What are the attributes of a top coach?

4ThePlayer4TheTeam2Achieve

What are the attributes of a top coach?

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I have posed the above question to myself over many years since starting out on my personal coaching journey. Much of this blog will relate to that journey, and includes helpful feedback I have received (via Twitter) from hundreds of coaches from different sports who are unique, in as much as, they are all at various stages of their own coaching development. Some have been coaching for six months and some have knowledge and experience built up over decades.

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4 Must have attributes that I needed to get started some 30 years ago!

As a coach educator and football development officer I was always searching for some definitive answers regards this conundrum, were they traits that you were born with?                                            …

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The inaugural NSJAFC Coach mentoring initiative comes to a close

The final two sessions of the NCYP &  North Shields Juniors coach mentoring programme culminated in the Newcastle United Foundation/NFA Coach the coach event and practical sessions delivered by some of the participants attending our coach mentorining initiative. 

The opportunity for our young North Shields players to observe and play in the excellent CPD Coaching event delivered by NUF football development manager Neil Winskill, and foundation coaches Lloyd Miller and Natalie Henderson, was not only a great experience, but one that underpinned and brought to life the distance learning and discussions we had over the course of the mentoring programme.

With over 130 local coaches observing the theoretical and practical aspects of the evening our students got a real feel for the importance of planning, preparing and delivery of high quality coaching, something they would all be aspiring to do in the not too distant future as they progress towards looking at various career opportunities within sport.

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An introduction to the Coach the coach event and what will be covered in the practical element.

Having looked at planning, producing and the delivery of a “themed” session from technique, the skill and into small sided games (dribbling week 2) our students would get to see more of that type of coaching style plus the Whole-part-whole structured session.

 

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 Lloyd Miller takes our NS Under 11`s through the technical aspects of a dribbling and turning themed session into an opposed situation (the skill).

 

The whole-part-whole session was delivered by Natalie Henderson working with the NS Under 13/14`s with the emphasis on switching play, this worked very well with this age band as they went into a game situation from the start.

Delivered in a logical order the players reponded very well to a young female coach (a whole new experience for the vast majority of them) and could not fail to be impressed by Natalie`s excellent demonstrations and subject knowledge.

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Natalie Henderson making a coaching point within the game situation.

The whole coaching event was a great success but to our young students it provided a very good example of two young coaches (both aged 22) on how to perform in front of 130 coaches with players they had never met. Seeing how it can be done gave our students added confidence in their own ability to achieve.

One of the big challenges throughout the mentoring programme was to get individuals to speak up in front of the group, creating the correct environment is the ultimate aim but it can take a few weeks.

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Speaking to 130 coaches + players is not an easy task…but it does help if you know your subject message. 

Week 5

The following week I posed the question to our students “What messages did you take home from coach the coach!?” …they each took it in turns to write a brief piece of feedback on our Nobo sheet. (some found this pretty daunting)

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Some very good answers, we were all learning together = success.

The distance learning task of the week was based around Small sided games, “what are they?” and “what benefits do they have for young players?”

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Once again some very enlightened answers from the group, hopefully this knowledge can be transfered onto the training pitch.

A 2 v 2 Small side game ideal as the starting point to assist young players understanding the 3 moments…

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3 Moments being, the individual player has possession of the ball, his/her team mate has possesion of the ball, the opposition have possession of the ball.

 

First practical was a possession based SSG, with the players understanding when to use the support players on the outside…

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4 v 4`s are very intense and physically demanding..ensuring the players wil get fit playing in the game situations.

The group have been a credit to NSJAFC and their managers, working together with a great attitude throughout.

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Both Male and female club members showing total respect..

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Martyne Clark and Kane Wears showed immense confidence in delivering a linked session based around shooting and finishing, both were very nervous in front of their peer group but put on an excellent practice for everyone involved.

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Martyne Clark explaining the aims and objectives of the technical aspect…

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Hit the target…accuracy before power, keep your shots low…

Technique sorted..can we now perform the skill?….

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Kane Wears works on creating space to create shooting opportunities…

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Look to receive in an open body shape…where`s the support (those 3 moments again!)

I have to say the quality of the joint session delivered by Martyn and Kane was very good, reflecting on their sessions the following day they both knew which areas they can improve on……..which is what this initiative is all about.

Well done to everyone who took part in our first ever coach mentoring programme and I have to say they have exceeded all expectations….

A final quote from one of our young students Martyn Clark who has moved onto taking his FA Level 2 coaching certificate “The coach mentoring experience has gave me the confidence to progress, I have a much better understanding of the coaching formula”

Helping the next generation today….

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Many thanks to Northumberland Clubs for young people for their invaluable support.

 

Any feedback as always much appreciated.

 

Rob Atkin

 

NSJAFC NCYP Coach mentoring programme up and running

With sixteen enthusiastic North Shields juniors AFC club members aged 14/15 yrs, the coach mentorining initiative has been very well received with everyone taking an active part both on and off the training pitch. By the second session we had individuals prepared to volunteer to take a group warm up.

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Warm ups and cool downs, ideally to include some technical aspect of the forthcoming session.

Following the pre course task of “What are the attributes of a top performing player?” we received some excellent feedback from all of the candidates (and support staff) but interestingly enough (having carried out this exercise on numerous occassions and had a rough idea of what to expect) very few put techniques, skills on their answer sheet!?, see below.
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Most of the answers on the feedback sheet tended to lean towards the Psychological or

Social corner and not the technical/physical aspects as you would expect?.

Then scene was now set as we set off to discuss how important it was for young players to be technically proficient in order to perform the skills.

Week 1 was based around individual techniques regards ball familiarity and the different parts of each foot we could use within the game? inside, outside, sole, laces and heel were agreed within the group…although 1 or 2 needed convincing regards using the toe to move the ball!?
As below:

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We then discussed their perceptions regards the difference between technique and skill? having covered  a lot of turning and dribbling techniques “unnoposed” as part of the practical element the concensous of opinion was “practice makes permanent”, something young players need to buy into if they are to reach their potential within a team situation.

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Everyone took part working with a ball each to gain the understanding that there are no short cuts to technical excellence.

If week 1 was about coaching the individual techniques week 2 was based around a 3 part themed session ,performing the techniques under different levels pressure (the Skills) from passive pressure of going in slowly to turning (or dribbling) away quickly we then set up 1 v 1 practices where the aim was to get beyond your marker/opponent to score a point.

As per below pic from a recent NSJAFC Squad coaching week..

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The understanding of the when and the where was now being debated (this was very relevent as we had some Centre Back`s attending the sessions who we did not want to confuse before their next fixture!?)

To finish the themed session we moved into a 6 v 6 conditioned game (you could only score inside of the opposition`s end zone/final third by dribbling or running the ball into it) where everyone was encouraged to be creative in attacking the oppositions end zone but also offering good support positions to the team mate in possession. As we allowed everyone to become more creative in possession (this was`nt easy at first) we witnessed some very aggressive attacking play with a game that ended up 4-4…we then discussed the attitude required to be a very good attacking player…most top performing skillful players may only break through the oppositions defence on a couple of occassions…but they keep trying!

6 v 6 Practice set up as below…notice no GK`s involved.

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A big part of the mentoring initiative is giving the visual learners the opportunity to view examples of the coaching journey we are covering, we do this via regular emails such as below.

Week 3 will be looking at Small sided games!? what they consist of and how they may benefit young players as a coaching aid.

The following pre session task will set the scene. (you may want to have a try?)

Coach Mentoring Programme

 

Week 3

 

 

SMALL SIDED GAMES

Group discussion/homework task

 

Q. What is a Small Sided Game? (how many players involved etc)

 

 
Q. What are their benefits to children? (How many can you think of?)
A. 1.

 

A. 2.

 

A. 3.

 

A. 4.

 

A. 5.

 

A. 6.

 

A. 7.

 

A. 8.

 

A. 9.

 

A. 10.

 

Week 4 will see our mentoring group attend an exciting event delivered by Newcastle United Foundation/NFA as part of their “Coach the coach” programme, with over 100 coaches in attendance it represents another fantastic learning opportunity for our young club members.

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Many thanks for taking the time to read this blog..I will keep you posted on how the NSJAFC mentoring programme continues.

As always any feedback is much appreciated.

Rob Atkin

The Undiscovered Potential

4ThePlayer4TheTeam2Achieve

The Undiscovered potential

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Helping our young people discover their “Skills to succeed” as future role models.

Following on the theme from my last blog re coaching potential within grassroots club development, over the past year and a half I have been working on a in club coach mentoring programme in conjunction with Northumberland Clubs for young people (NCYP)

The aim of the initiative is to engage with current under 14/15 players in giving them an early insight into future coaching/career opportunities in an industry that they already have some expertise in (although totally untapped at present)

Thanks to the support of the NCYP the first mentoring programme will be road tested by North Shields juniors AFC, a FA Charter standard club that operates with 40 teams from U7 to open age, with both boys and girls squads.

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Kane Wears NSJAFC FA Level 2 coach says “The ongoing mentoring support…

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The Undiscovered Potential

The Undiscovered potential

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Helping our young people discover their “Skills to succeed” as future role models.

Following on the theme from my last blog re coaching potential within grassroots club development, over the past year and a half I have been working on a in club coach mentoring programme in conjunction with Northumberland Clubs for young people (NCYP)

The aim of the initiative is to engage with current under 14/15 players in giving them an early insight into future coaching/career opportunities in an industry that they already have some expertise in (although totally untapped at present)

Thanks to the support of the NCYP the first mentoring programme will be road tested by North Shields juniors AFC, a FA Charter standard club that operates with 40 teams from U7 to open age, with both boys and girls squads.

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Kane Wears NSJAFC FA Level 2 coach says “The ongoing mentoring support I have received from NSJAFC has been invaluable in gaining my FA level 2 certificate”

The mentoring sessions will cover both practical and the theoretical aspects of taking the first steps onto the football development ladder whilst opening the minds towards coaching as a possible vocation in future years.

By the end of the mentoring programme these young players will possess a good understanding of how to plan/prepare and deliver a fun and enjoyable training session to their younger club mates under the guidance of an adult mentor.

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How to design a warm up.

Covering warm-ups, technical work, skills practices and small sided games, the mentees will get regular opportunities to practice their delivery within their own peer group before being placed with one of the club`s mini-soccer programmes in order to gain first hand on the job experience and at the same time helping to develop future players within North Shields juniors.

As a football development officer and FA coach educator with many years’ experience I have witnessed how much confidence young people can gain by giving them the opportunity and support needed to realise their hidden potential. I have no doubt that this type of initiative can be life changing for many young people who are struggling to identify a career path that will be enjoyable and fulfilling, how often have we heard it said about jobs in all walks of life being “right time, right place?”. We hope that by identifying the correct potential at an early age we can place these young players in the “right time, right place” situation.

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Young players already have a good grasp of organising small sided games.

The practical coaching sessions will be delivered in a relaxed environment which will be very much learner led depending on the needs of the group, with everyone’s opinion valued in moving forward through the individual development programme.

As well as covering the practical elements required to deliver a fun coaching session, much of the theoretical aspects such as “why do children play football?” will be distance learning tasks that the group can research in their own time with their peers.

The ongoing individual progress of each potential club coach of the future will be paramount as each person will possess different skill sets, my aim is to help them move onto the next level of their performance.

This development model is tried and tested and proven to be successful, but like all good development plans it will be five to ten years before it comes to fruition, so no better time than to start the journey now.

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The mentoring of top quality coaches takes many years.

We will start taking the first nominations from North Shields juniors team managers of these under 14/15 players over the coming week, the individuals nominated will be then expected to email a letter of interest regards their participation on the mentoring project, writing a brief CV is something they may be doing for the first time, which is already preparing them towards gaining a future career.

The initial NSJAFC mentoring group will consist of 12 to 16 participants in order to ensure we deliver good practice on a weekly basis and keep the communication avenues open in order to evaluate and monitor progress.

We will use this blog as a weekly diary of how the journey pans out for our first intake of NCYP coach mentoring enthusiasts, as well as being a very useful resource and reference point for them.  

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The importance of sound technique in any sport is crucial.

These are exciting times in grassroots football and I am looking forward to learning so much from these young players.

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Everyone learning together.

As always any feedback is much appreciated.

 

Rob Atkin

The Unseen potential

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Experience of child development is key.

With the continued growth in the demand for team managers in grassroots football it is the parents of the players who tend to be the main resource readily available. With over 600 teams turning out on a weekly basis throughout the county of Northumberland it is interesting to note that the vast majority of those teams are managed/coached by a parent of one of the players.

Having observed a lot of grassroots football on a daily basis  I cannot help but come to the conclusion that we need to offer much more support to these enthusiastic individuals’, not only for the good of the game but also for the benefit of the young player`s development that they are entrusted with.

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No parents to be seen as we played out.

As a child growing up in a generation where your parents never ventured into your sporting or social activities, I fully understand that today`s youngsters have access to more structured playing opportunities and state of the art facilities but the massive challenge is to continue to grow the game while not losing sight of providing a quality experience for the children taking part. Developing a fun learning environment on a consistent basis is not easy at the best of times, also taking into consideration that the nature of a results driven mentality can have a negative effect on anyone’s confidence and self-belief we must keep everything in perspective if we are to allow our novice coaches to develop their full potential.

 

 

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Remember it is the children`s game, you`ve had your time!

Having coached within the professional academy environment I have seen first-hand some excellent examples of good practice but I have also witnessed a few things that the most inexperienced Dad coaches would not allow to happen, these concerns tended to be raised around the inability of the qualified coach to fully engage with the young players under their care, the coaches (min UEFA “B” cert) had no problem preparing and delivering the coaches sessions with all of the bells and whistles attached, but their total lack of knowledge re child development was undoing all of the good work.                                                                                                 Even in my time as an Academy recruitment officer I found it a little strange at times that certain coaches made no attempt to build up any rapport or a bond with young academy players or those coming into the academy on trial? The adults who did make the effort to make young players welcome and part of the whole process tended to be those who had parent or grandparent skills and experiences that made the young people feel more at ease.

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How are you today?

I speak to a lot of Dads who have become the manager/coach of their son or daughter`s team and ask how they became involved?, the reason tends to be that no one else wanted to take up the position and without a volunteer coming forward there may not be a team for their child to play in. With this ongoing situation being a continued problem from one season to the next, clubs have to take a greater responsibility to ensure they identify and support the enthusiastic parent by putting in place a comprehensive mentoring strategy that is fit for purpose, an individual programme that helps a total novice to make the transition from beginner to a competent leader who can create a positive child centred environment with confidence on a consistent basis
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Unfortunately for many their only reference point of how to manage is via the media.

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The emphasis on development over outcome has to be the priority at the youngest age bands!

Ultimately any parent taking up the reins as a coach for the first time can only relay on their own personal past experiences of the role of the coach, as a player (which in some cases may not have been a positive one?) or from their own working background, those who work with children or hold down a managerial position on a day to day basis tend to have a good grounding in managing the squad.

Many top professional coaches I have met hold a common belief that you actually improve as an all-round coach when you have the added responsibility of parenting your own children on a daily basis. The social interaction and welfare of your player becomes more important than the aims and objectives of the coaching topic itself.

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Be your players best supporter at all times!

Many individuals collect the certificates and NGB qualifications but struggle to grasp the basic understanding of what children need at certain times at the various stages of their development. The latest systems of play and tactical analysis are all well and good but if the children in your care can`t play without the fear of making a mistake then nothing will be achieved by anyone in the long term.

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Don`t forget your responsibilities as a role model!

I am very fortunate to be part of an FA Charter standard club that has forty teams, with thirty five of those teams (boys and girls) managed/coached by the Dad of one of its players, with the assistant manager/coach also being one of the player`s parent or guardian. My role at the club is to support the individual managers/coaches on a daily basis by observing their fixtures and training sessions, delivering practical coaching sessions and meeting with them to offer feedback and discuss and agree action plans that can be put into practice and be evaluated. An example of this was supporting one of our assistant coaches (Dad) who was taking one of our under nine`s squad coaching sessions for the very first time (the lead coach was away on a business trip) The assistant coach delivered a very competent session based on the whole-part-whole delivery method, something the lead coach had been working on for the past two months. Now bearing in mind that this assistant has yet to attain any coaching certificates (all lead & assistants have CRB clearance certs) it was a very positive experience for him and the players. I observed the session and met with the assistant a couple of days later to go through my notes and offer constructive feedback and listen to how he felt and what changes, if any, he may implement next time?

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At times we have to get down to their level to communicate!

It is a very exciting time in grassroots development but experienced qualified coaches aren’t turning up in their droves to volunteer therefore we have to invest time and effort in up skilling our own workforce in such a way they will stay in the game utilising the caring parent/grandparent attributes they have for decades as opposed to a few seasons, ideally they will find the specific age band that they feel is where their expertise can be best used.  A big problem that has been identified by the parent running their child’s team is that moving up through the age bands with your child from under 7 to under 18`s does not give you long enough to specialise at a chosen age group/development phase.

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A parent coach who knew when it was time to take a back seat!

I must also stress that a growth mind-set from everyone concerned is paramount if the undoubted potential we have in our midst is to bear fruit and help our young players have a worthwhile football experience which in turn will keep them within our club structure for many years to come.

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A Father and son coaching team, the ultimate long term aim.

 

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Most of all enjoy the time you spend together  in your mutual interest as family.

 

But please remember after all it is just a game.

As always any feedback is much appreciated.

 

Rob Atkin

The Wind of Change

The Wind of Change

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“The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not”

The above quotation from the “Wind of change” speech by Harold Macmillan in 1960 could easily apply to grass roots coaching today as we enter February 2014.
I have been fortunate to have witnessed the many changes in the FA coach education pathway from the FA Preliminary award through to the current FA Youth modules and felt the many changes that are part of the evolution, some good and some not so good in my opinion.
Change can be painful at times but it can also be a good thing, it`s not until you realise that change is constantly happening to us all on a daily basis that you can make the conscious decision to see change as a journey and not a destination. If you have a growth mind-set you will embrace new challenges and instead of fearing change you will be the person who attempts to implement the changes.

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It is an ever changing game by its existence and complexities

In a week when the latest transfer window has brought many painful changes, I remember Sir Bobby Robson talking about being devastated as a kid when his favourite Newcastle United player Albert Stubbins was sold to Liverpool. As a child growing up you believe change is something that just happens to you, new house, new schools, new job, new friends etc, you are not really thinking that you have the power to implement change.

Every day the media reports on things that really are just changes, Climate change, financial change, shifting population change, by understanding how this type of change occurs we can forecast what future changes we have to make in order to alleviate the inevitable pain that can accompany change.

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My boyhood hero (see previous blog) was sold by Newcastle United to Arsenal in August 1976, but my pain proved to be someone else`s gain as stated below by a young Arsenal fan of that era.

“As a 12 year old boy standing in the schoolboys’ enclosure at Highbury, Supermac was everything a hero could be. When he came to us he was already a superstar and probably the most sought-after player around at the time. Even his transfer fee at the time stood out, a reported £333,333. Supermac was at Arsenal and I remember all the excitement surrounding him. Every match at Highbury I was willing him to score and when he did I would go crazy. One time during the warm-up before the match, Supermac came towards where I was standing to retrieve a ball and I shouted out his name. He looked straight at me and winked. It may not seem much but when you’re 12 and your hero winks at you it’s a really big deal”.
Charalambos Charalambous, Chingford

The times they are a changing

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As coaches we can`t afford to stand still otherwise you will find yourself moving backwards, this is a criticism that has been levelled at our national game over many years and results in major tournaments tend to back this up? Maybe the lack of a more modern playing philosophy that took into consideration the changes being implemented across the world of football was having a detrimental effect on our coaching beliefs? Maybe as an island race we are just not comfortable with change, with an inbuilt know it all disposition?
Whatever happened in our past regards football development and changing our coaching/playing philosophy is history and there is no point in having a “blaming culture” and holding the previous leaders of our NGB responsible for the inability to seek a positive change in our beliefs on how to play a more creative brand of football based on retaining possession.

I have been blessed to have had a career in football development and I am now in a situation to study our grassroots game and the coaches at close quarters, something I have done on a daily basis over the past eighteen months. I have attended many CPD and coaching seminars on a weekly basis and I feel we are at the most exciting time in creating some real changes that will lift our coaching standards up to a different level of performance, and this in turn will produce players with a greater understanding of how to perform in the modern game with more composure on the ball.

Sergio Aguero scoring the 1st City goal

Two teams who are playing a brand of football that epitomises what can be achieved if you change your beliefs.

I work closely on a daily basis with coaches who are open minded to change, (I tend to avoid those with a fixed mind-set) I challenge them to be positive towards change and work outside of their comfort zone whenever possible. We don`t agree to implement change just for the sake of it, but we discuss how and why it needs to be on the agenda to make the environment and the sessions an ongoing positive learning experience for everyone.

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Don`t fear change.

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If we do what we always did we will get what we always got.

Below are some opportunities for grass roots coaches to embrace and promote change that can serve as a simple checklist to their continuous ongoing growth and reaching their potential as a coach:
FA L1 cert change = into a FALC Membership.
FA YM 1 & 2 change = into a better manager of the parents.
FA L2 change = into delivering more in realistic game situations, WPW etc.
FA L3 change = Coach open age players and agree a playing philosophy.

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If you don`t ride the wave of change you might just find yourself being washed away by it.

One of the biggest challenges we face is how we can help the individuals we encounter who seem reluctant to change? They took a FA L1 award to fulfil the FA Charter Standard club criteria over five years ago and have not attended any CPD opportunities in that time? Ultimately on observation it is evident that they have stood still in their knowledge of what constitutes an enjoyable learning experience, which is not only a sad loss to our game but could be detrimental to the young players they have a responsibility towards? (I have my own personal opinions on how we can change this situation but that is for another discussion)

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Below are some real life scenarios from the past week regards the discussions of how some colleagues have implemented positive changes in their individual performance. No names are used but they will have no problem recognising themselves:
Coach 1: An assistant U9 coach who took a session for the first time: Continued the whole part whole delivery to a very good standard without any support.
Coach 2: A reserve team coach who has the opportunity to take over as head coach in a well-established club with the responsibility for four teams.
Coach 3: Coach looking to complete FA Level 2 re-assessment had to grasp the understanding of the “when and the where” with more in depth knowledge.
Coach 4: Coach who is totally frustrated at the lack of progress made at their club due to the fixed mind-sets of the club committee…….either change your philosophy or you may need to move on?
Coach 5: Recently qualified FA L2 coach has now changed his delivery by coaching more within the game, performing outside of his comfort zone with much more confidence. Producing sessions that are more creative than previously but prepared to accept they may not go to plan.
Many thanks to those five individuals who shared their changes and I look forward to seeing where their coaching path takes them next.
Change is inevitable.
Change is good.
Change can be painful.
Manage your change.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog and may you enjoy continuous change on your coaching journey but be ready for those who are reluctant to change with you.

Check this out for a few ideas on how to start your change process.

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“When you are leading change, there will those who, like rocks in the river, oppose its flow. So, as the river, if they won’t move, go round them” Frank Dick. Athletics Coach.

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This is one change that will change everyone`s coaching performance at the CS club I work with which boasts forty teams, state of the art full size 3G pitch.

As always any feedback is much appreciated.

Rob Atkin