Who Coaches the Coaches ?

Following my recent post on the National Football Centre, a serious issue is raised regarding the future development of English coaches.  I would suggest that we have decent coaches and many young , enthusiastic coaches. I have observed them in Academies and club community schemes.  I have also seen many cases of good practice at the grass roots level.  Player centred coaches who crave further development but find the current system cumbersome and expensive.

I recently followed up my work in Turkey by returning to train Tutors.  I was given the freedom, as I had been with the UEFA ‘B’ and ‘A’ Licences to develop the syllabus from the good practice I had experienced from around the world and from sound research in the field of Teaching and Learning.  The tutor trainees were specially selected from outstanding ‘A’ licence graduates and were a mixture of grass roots coaches, professional club coaches and youth coaches, teachers and former International players and staff. They were there because they wanted to be and saw it as an opportunity to contribute to the development of Turkish football.  It was all paid for by the Tukish Football Federation on the basis that these people would be committed to work in the development programme for Turkey.

I completed the first ever AFC Special Pro Diploma in China last month. The candidates were mostly former International players now coaching at the highest level; the Superleague.  All coaches and their assistants must obtain this award by the end of 2010 or risk losing their jobs.  Part of the assessment is to identify potential instructors for coach education.  These top coaches see that aspect as important as the professional qualification Paid for by the CFA and A.F.C.

We need to be just as selective, raise the bar in terms of commitment and subsidise coach education so the best people can benefit whatever their circumstances.

I am fed up with the constant references to our coaches and players being no good, there are excellent players out there and highly skilled players, I know because I am out there too and always have been.  As Technical Director I visited the clubs, watched training and took sessions at the clubs.  I watched grass roots football every week as well as Academies and the Pro leagues.  I believed that was my job, who does that now?  Not the journalists who continually ramble on with negativity and a ‘woe betide’ attitude and certainly nobody from the FA!

There is a better way to develop high quality coaches and utilise the talent that already exists. Why can’t clubs become teaching academies for coaches, like teaching hospitals and the newer teacher training schools?  Excellent coach educators developed through clubs from the ranks of practising coaches just like teaching doctors and surgeons and Teacher / mentors in education.  Aspiring coaches could be specially selected for internships to learn on the job at Academies and with the pro’s?

My daughter is just about to graduate with a first class honours degree in teaching and education (fingers crossed) she has done four years training and spent more time in schools than at the University.

Wake up F.A it’s called “Competence Based Learning”.  Real practitioners mentoring gifted, aspiring professionals in the real world, not the simulated tutoring conducted by out of touch ‘instructors’ in the lecture theatre and on the fantasy field!

As for the grass roots the clubs also have excellent Community schemes, many offer coach education but within the current outdated framework.  How about adding a new type of Grass Roots Charter Club?  Extra funding for clubs who are examples of excellent practice to employ Directors of Grassroots Coaching who are specifically trained to organise and deliver level 1,2,and 3 in the grass roots workplace and ensure good practice and who actually work coaching young players?  Get rid of all the Tutor assessors and verifiers and spend the money where it is really productive; inside the grass roots!  I am in the National Training Centre in Kunming (one of three!) giving this advice to the Chinese and developing Coaches for the Chinese F.A. because my own governing body doesn’t want to listen!  I have done this in Turkey, Croatia, Republic of Ireland, Latvia and elsewhere for FIFA and UEFA.  From Level 1 to Pro yet I am considered no longer qualified in my own country!

I cannot be sure but I do not know any member of the League Managers Association; that’s all the current professional managers and all past Managers, who are considered qualified to run a F.A Coaching Course at any level. Remember that’s people like; Sir Alex, Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson through to Peter Taylor, Sammy Lee and includes the likes of Graham Taylor, David Pleat, Alan Curbishly and Don Howe. What a waste of talent and experience! There are many excellent practitioners in Academies like Tony Carr at West Ham, Dave Parnaby at Middlesborouugh and Steve Avory at Charlton who could easily run internships. The possibilities are endless for creative thinkers, perhaps the problem lies therein?

Imagine being one of 12 young interns at Manchester United; coaches, performance analysts and strength and conditioning coaches fresh out of university or former Academy Scholars released from the club. You are managed by Paul McGuiness in the Academy and work in the evenings as assistants in  the 9-16 age groups. You are studying for your, level 2,3,or 4 awards and are mentored by the academy coaches but have sessions with Rene Mullenstein and q & a sessions with Sir Alex as well as sessions with the other performance and sports science staff.  You take part in an overseas exchange programme and spend time at Ajax. What kind of coaches might we produce with such a strategy?

Such ‘out of the box’ thinking would need to be backed up by strong and sound leadership.  Sadly I fear we might be just a little lacking in that area too.

About author

Les Reed
Les Reed 3 posts

Les is former manager of Charlton Athletic FC, Technical Director at the FA and Technical Director at Fulham FC. Now works around the world with his company, Sports Associated Solutions Ltd.

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