Tag: coaching

Its the end of the season, why am I busier now than ever?

Like many other coaches at grassroots junior football I was looking forward to the end of the season in May, a chance to put my feet up for a couple of months, spend some time with the rest of my family i.e. not just the one that I happen to coach and generally recharge my batteries before the start of the season.

So how come I suddenly feel like I am working harder than ever?

First up is the end of season awards, this varies club by club, ours we have a day of football followed by an evening presentation and probably like the majority of clubs, those who manage the team also seem to do everything else. That means, buy the awards, book the marquee, organise the entertainment, get in the food. closer to the day, its mark out the pitches, check we have enough volunteers to man the BBQ, who has the float? all this before we have to face the dreaded 5 mins of speeches at the actual awards.

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So, the end of season awards done, time to rest.. well no. Its now tournament season, so its find an event, book an event, again if your club hosts a tournament its a bit like groundhog day again, lining the pitches, organising the bbq etc etc.

Surely now its time to rest, well no as now comes the challenge of working out what players you will have, the likelihood is some will move on, so you have to be looking for a couple of replacement players and as you move through the age groups you are now faced with finding more players every season, your squad of 8 players which felt very comfortable at 5 a side suddenly feels a bit light when playing 7 a side. Where to get them from? How will they fit into the team? anyone got a left-footer?? All of these challenges can take up your time.

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The more diligent among us will be trying to spend some time reading up on new drills, or getting that next qualification to ensure that we are armed with fresh new ideas for our first day of training for the new season. Which may be July, before pre-season friendlies start in August ready for the season start in September.

Sorry coaches spouse it looks as though those jobs you’ve waited patiently all winter for us to do will have to wait a bit longer !!!

The life of a Grassroots Coach…

Standing in work and all I can think of is, what can I arrange for the kids? how can I help them? what sessions can I do? … gets to my lunch break and I still have a million ideas running through my head. . Biting into my sarnie with phone in other hand searching the Internet for ideas and info. ..making the phone calls I need to make and sending the texts out between every bite. ..

Get in from work. . Quick cuppa ( if I’m lucky ) change from work clothes to footy clothes. . Swap bag to holdall and go out the door loading the car and away I go. . ( can’t wait to eventually get home and have tea)

Some weeks are straight forward, some weeks it’s like the kids have just indulged in a bag full of sugar before arriving and even though I’m doing everything I can to make it fun and constant… it still seems more fun for little johnny to grab onto Peter and dive about the floor (constantly), for Steven to do the opposite of everything I’ve asked and for James to want to have a full on conversation with me about his whole day. . Step by step. Minute by minute!!

From start to end I hear “are we playing a match now? “

Quick chat with parents, ideas getting put forward for things we need, things we can do. . Subs to be collected. ..etc. .

Eventually home, see my kids , grab my tea and bed.. ready for the next day. .

Unless it’s a Friday night then I can’t sleep. . Team for next day ?? have they all got  minutes, will they all remember shinnys? have I packed a spare? Eat, breathe, sleep Grassroots football. .!!

Amongst the million other issues and paperwork that you have to sort, parents and children to deal with, meetings etc..

Would I change it? No way !!

Amongst it all. . To see a child achieve something whether it’s as an individual or whether it’s as a team with a smile on their face is the reason why all of the above ( and more) makes it all worth while. .

I’m proud to be a Grassroots Volunteer !!

I’m proud to be a Grassroots Coach !!

The 23rd Barrowford Celtic Youth Football Tournament 2017

Tournament Name:
The 23rd Barrowford Celtic Youth Football Tournament 2017

Tournament Organiser:
Paul Ashworth

Tournament Web Address:


Entry Fee:

Tournament Email Address:

Tournament Address:
8 Eden Close




Tournament Information:
The 23rd Barrowford Celtic Youth Football Tournament 2017 Info Sheet We are pleased to announce our summer junior football tournament for Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th June 2017. This is an all-day tournament; refreshments will be available to purchase throughout the day.

The tournament will be held at Bullholme Playing Fields, Barrowford, BB9 8PU and the adjacent Swinden Playing Fields, Nelson, BB9 8SJ, Lancashire.

The cost of entry is £30 for U9 & U10, £35 for U11 & U12, £40 for U13 & U14. Max two teams per club for each age group. Age groups present season 2016/17. All teams to be County registered. No academy teams allowed or players allowed. All teams must have played in a grass roots league, season 2016/17, league player ID cards will be required at registration to verify player eligibility.

U9s – Saturday 3rd June (7 a-side) max registered players 12.

U10s – Sunday 4th June (7 a-side) max registered players 12.

U11s – Saturday 3rd June (9 a-side) max registered players 13.

U12s – Sunday 4th June (9 a-side) max registered players 13.

U13s – Saturday 3rd June (11 a-side) max registered players 16.

U14s – Sunday 4th June (11 a-side) max registered players 16.

U13s Girls – Saturday 3rd June (6 a-side) max registered players 10.

U15s Girls – Sunday 4th June (6 a-side) max registered players 10.

For an Entry Form and further details contact: Paul Ashworth Mobile: 07855874555 E-mail: info@barrowfordceltic.org.uk Cheques made payable to Barrowford Celtic Bank transfer details: Sort Code: 05-03-83, Account Number: 34594615, please put name of team and age group in reference area. Closing Date: 12th May 2017 Fully sanctioned by the FA All teams will get as much playing time as possible and allowed by FA guidelines, with waiting times and times between games kept to a minimum. Competition format (if all places filled): 12 teams per age group, divided into 2 leagues, top 2 in each group go through into the Cup semi final, 3rd and 4th progress into the Shield, and 5th and 6th into the Plate. Fair play award for each age group. The tournament committee reserve the right to modify the format of the competition at any time.

Club Secretary


Paul Ashworth


The Dangers of Copycat Coaching by FA talent technical coach Gavin Step

Gavin Step, FA talent technical coach, outlines the dangers of copycat coaching and offers examples of how to tailor coaching sessions to individual players.

Never before have football coaches had access to as many ‘off the shelf’ coaching sessions.  Through social media and the internet a huge volume of ideas exist to inform practice design.

The challenge with these sessions is how to deliver the content to meet the needs of individual players. With generic sessions it is unlikely that the whole group will benefit to the same level as if the session was individualised.

Does the girl attending her first football session have the same needs as the boy who has been playing for three years? Does the youth international full-back have the same needs as the centre midfielder returning from injury? For each player in the session it’s important to ask: what’s the point of it?

It goes without saying that the best coaches plan their sessions with learning objectives and outcomes at their core.  Additionally, I have seen some really thoughtful examples of coaches who plan individual learning objectives for every player in their squad.

However, I’ve often wondered what this looks like on the grass.  During a 60-90 minute session, is it realistic for a coach to facilitate and achieve the learning objectives for the session along with 16 individualised learning objectives? Even with the support of an assistant coach, this can prove challenging.

Yet, it is vital that we consider the specific requirements of our players when planning and delivering. Some good examples from clubs I work with include players being set individual targets at the start of a coaching block that remain for the duration of that period of work.

Targets are written, laminated and present at all coaching sessions. On the whole, it is the player’s responsibility to ensure they are working towards their individual target, session on session. The role of the coach is to design practices that allow the player to explore and develop their specific target. What they do not do is set a new target week after week, hoping to achieve these every new hour of work they have with their players.

When I work with players, I list both session objective and success criteria.  Along with what I plan on focusing on, I list criteria I think will help the players successfully achieve the session objective. These will be displayed on either a whiteboard or flipchart. For example:

Session Objective


Help the team progress and penetrate through the thirds

Success Criteria

1) You will make forward passes with quality through defensive lines
2) You will travel with control and composure through defensive lines
3) You will make positive runs ahead of the ball to support teammates

Session Objective


Display resilience when faced with a challenging situation in training

Success Criteria

1) You will use positive language to yourself and with others
2) You will display positive body language
3) You will encourage others when they find the ‘going gets tough’

Players are tasked to select one or more of the success criteria to focus on for the session.They commit to this by initialling and signing against it.

Sometimes I use subtle questioning to lead players towards an objective I feel they may benefit from focusing on.Sometimes I tell a player what I think they should work on.  Other times I say nothing at all.  This could be described as player-centred coaching within coach-determined parameters. To support the players’ learning, I list success criteria that helps guide the players towards the outcomes I hope they will achieve.  With time, players can generate their own criteria.  They suggest what they think they must do to successfully achieve the session objective.

The success criteria are the hooks that I return to within the session. Reminding the players of the session focus and specific elements they have committed to work on at the outset of the session.  This supports them to achieve what I have planned and intended for them to learn.  When I reflect on what is the point of my session, the players themselves drive the individual targets as to what they feel the point of the session has been for them.

In designing individual challenges, I propose a menu of choice and it is up to the player to select the focus of their work.

Gavin Step is an FA talent technical coach working in the women’s game.

10 Top tips to reflect on your Coaching by FA Regional PE Coordinator

FA Regional PE Coordinators, Chris Welburn and Chris Brammall, outline 10 top tips to help you reflect on your coaching.

1) Why reflect?

Effective reflection allows you to examine and explore your experience of being a coach and all that it entails. This can help lead to a new understanding and appreciation of your role and help make positive changes to your coaching style, interventions, and how you interact with your players and significant others at your club.

2) Narrow your focus

If you try to think about too many things as a coach you are likely to miss key opportunities to reflect. Choose a particular ‘attentional focus’ and stick to it. Areas to focus on may include: player needs, the training environment, communication skills, how you seek feedback and how you approach match day.

3) Use the England DNA Coaching Fundamentals

If you are struggling to find focus for your reflection try using the England DNA coaching fundamentals to help narrow your focus. For example, did you design the practice to enable the players to make lots of decisions?  What was the ball rolling time in the session?

 4) Find critical friends

Once you have an area of ‘attentional focus’ ask players, parents, other coaches, a critical friend or a mentor to feedback on that aspect of your training session or match day. Also seek opportunities to video your coaching sessions. Try capturing your sessions on a smart phone, tablet or Go Pro.

5) What are your blind spots?

A blind spot is a habit or way of behaving that everyone knows about you, except perhaps you. Seek feedback from everyone involved in your team to help you become aware of your blind spots and challenge yourself to eradicate these.

6) Have objectives to review against

Set individual and collective learning objectives for the players that link training and match days – this will help you reflect on whether you have achieved these aims. Using the FA Four Corner Player Development Model will help. Look at the characteristics of your players across the four corners and build individual objectives and challenges.

7) Put time aside

There is no one correct time to reflect –  all coaches are different and have different ways of reflecting. Think about the best time for you to reflect and stick to that plan regularly. This could be reflecting whilst driving or walking the dog, by writing notes or by creating opportunities to seek feedback from players at training and games.

8) Reflect on your knowledge of the game

During the summer break from training and fixtures, engage in some research and make a list of the components that are considered to make up the technical/tactical, physical, social and psychological aspects of the game and reflect on your knowledge of these areas. How and when will you build this into your training programme for next season?

9) How well do you know your players?

Similar to the above, use the off-season to consider: what engages and motivates your players? Who needs help developing their self-esteem and confidence?  Create player profiles about what each player is good at, what they need support with or what they would like to improve on. Use this reflection to plan for next season.

10) Deep reflective skills

To help you improve and deepen your reflective practice, consider some of the following:

– move from no questions, to asking questions

– work towards questions with answers

– detach yourself from the event

          – self-question and self-challenge

– be aware of emotional influences and feelings

          – relate to prior experiences

– share the process with others, taking advice and opinions

          – reflect in a critical manner

– move from describing events to analysing them

Author of this article is Chris Wilburn FA Regional PE Coordinator via The Boot Room

“The perfect session” Why players shouldn’t be the only ones learning during a session

The idea of delivering the ‘perfect’ coaching session can prove restrictive for coaches who want to learn and get better, explains FA Coach Mentor, Graeme Carrick.

Asking players to step out of their comfort zone, try new things and experiment, are common coaching requests. However, how many coaches can honestly say they are willing to make a few mistakes in order to improve their own practice?

“As coaches we have to learn and part of learning is that we have to step out of our comfort zone and go through the different stages of learning. If we do a session for the first time the chance is it’s not going to be perfect,” explains Graeme Carrick, FA Coach Mentor.

For Carrick, who has worked in a variety of coaching and mentoring roles at The FA over the last nine years, each session is simply an opportunity for coaches to reflect and get better – whether that is during the session or afterwards.

“As coaches we’re learning as well as the players. We would expect players to self-correct and reflect on decisions and say next time I would do this or that differently. It’s the same as coaches when you find there is a problem in the session.”

Intentionally trying to make sense of experiences during and after a coaching session is crucial to inform future thinking and practice. And that doesn’t just include the parts of the session that ‘went wrong’ but the positive aspects as well, explains Carrick.

“It is important that after the session you ask: How did it go? What was good about it? What would you do again? What would you not do again? And for all of the questions ask: why? It’s about trying to make sense of it all.

“If you can do this over a block of work, you’ll start to see development in yourself over the longer term. You’ll see a shift in yourself as well as in the kids,” he adds.

A clear learning objective and focus for the session is crucial if effective reflection is going to take place, explains Carrick.

“It’s important to have clarity in terms of what you’re going to look for in the session and clarity in terms of the things you want to see and bring out. That will give you things to reflect against during the session and you will be able to look at the things the kids are doing.”

With a clear idea of the aim of the session, coaches can start to focus on observation skills and the ‘art of noticing’.

“Within any group there’s going to be lots of stuff going on – so it’s important to answer: what are you looking for and what are you looking at? Sometimes when you try to see everything, you see nothing,” explains Carrick.

“When we first start out with coaching we’re really concerned with organisation, sessions, and how it looks and a feeling of control. As you become more experienced you realise you are more comfortable with that and so that doesn’t take up your attention as much – you’re quite happy with that so you can move on. Now you’re free to look more closely at the players and how they are getting on individually,” he adds.

Carrick believes that starting a coaching practice with a game can prevent coaches getting caught up in issues of practice organisation and instead focus on setting appropriate challenges and observing the players.

“If you start with a game it’s a great way of getting the kids active but it’s also a great of way seeing how they’re getting on with the task and challenges. You can focus your observations more around that than the organisation and how the session is running.

“The challenge might be as simple as: you want the kids to take up better supporting positions. So you’re looking at what the kids are doing off the ball.

“Then you’re reflecting on: how well did they do and did they get a chance to practice it. If so, why? If not, why? And most importantly: what are you going to do for next time? That might be your reflective process. The same observation and reflective process is also equally important on matchdays” adds Carrick.

This article courtesy of Graeme Carrick via the Boot Room, follow Graeme HERE @Graemecarrick


Managing player behaviour

Understanding what young players want from their grassroots football experience can help prevent poor behaviour, writes FA county coach developer, Mike Antrobus.

Poor player behaviour at training or matchday is often caused by boredom, the desire for attention, or the practice activity being pitched too hard or easy.


From a dream of a season, one training session has left me absolutely heartbroken.

This season has been my first proper season of coaching my own team and I can say it’s honestly been fantastic. I’ve loved every moment, and I’m sure the players and parents have done also. I’ve been ever so excited looking forward to next season, making all sorts of plans.

However, life doesn’t always go as you plan.

One parent told me last night  that their child was potentially thinking of joining another team they had been training with all season; not a problem. I supported him training with another team, as his dad was happy to support him to play more football. I encourage players to make their own choices and am glad it is his decision!

Continue reading “From a dream of a season, one training session has left me absolutely heartbroken.”

The problem with academies…

There’s no doubt that football academies are harsh environments. The FA’s official website even describes the process of getting released by one as ‘heart-breaking’, which, considering they’re trying to increase participation levels, is hardly encouraging…

It’s entirely truthful though and not particularly surprising; when the stakes are so high, the consequences of being rejected become even more considerable. The disappointment of being let go by a big-name Premier League club would be enough to crush any youngster so, when the huge financial influence is also factored in, the pressure can often become unbearable.

Continue reading “The problem with academies…”

What I saw was inspirational, I saw happy kids.

It felt like watching Neville and Carragher discussing a Premier league game…….

Yes that’s right.

On my travels yesterday I was invited to a training session in Leeds to observe the kids, what I observed were a great bunch of coaches with excellent rapport and a healthy team-coach relationship.

Continue reading “What I saw was inspirational, I saw happy kids.”

Coaching, its easy!!! isn’t it….

Before we discuss what qualities and skill sets that make for a good coach, we need to first acknowledge how very difficult this profession of coaching really is. Coaching is sometimes a thankless, frustrating “no-win” kind of activity.  It’s most often done in a public fishbowl.

Continue reading “Coaching, its easy!!! isn’t it….”


When I started at The FA only five months ago, I said how delighted I was to become Chairman and that I was relishing the challenge. I also said that it was an honour to join The FA at such a pivotal point in the organisation’s recent history. In my first few months in charge there have already been a few pivotal moments for The FA.

This week we have another challenge – a perennial one it seems for football – as The FA’s governance will be debated in Parliament on Thursday.

Our governance needs changing. We do need to be more diverse, more open about decision-making and we do need to better represent those playing the game. But we are not sitting idly by. The FA has a set of proposals to improve our governance which we will ratify and then take to the Minister of Sport in order to get her approval. Change won’t be easy, but I am confident it will happen – and it will be substantial.

Delivering real change is my responsibility and I firmly believe this is critical for the future of the game. If the Government is not supportive of the changes when they are presented in the coming months, I will take personal responsibility for that. I will have failed. I will be accountable for that failure and would in due course step down from my role.

However, I don’t believe that The FA is failing football. That’s completely different. In fact I strongly dispute the motion put in front of Parliament that The FA is not meeting its duties as a governing body.

I do hope that those attending on Thursday make themselves aware of The FA’s duties and the great work we are actually doing. Our duties require us to promote, develop and invest in the game; and whilst I freely admit that our governance needs improvement, it doesn’t prevent us from supporting the game from top to bottom. In fact The FA is in good shape. It is investing record amounts into the grassroots game and changing the face of football in England.

Many people hear talk of an old-fashioned FA, but they don’t actually realise how it works or what it does. That’s a real shame. The FA is a not-for-profit organisation that invested over £65m into grassroots football last year alone – that’s more than any governing body in the world invests into a national sport.

Football at the grassroots is alive and kicking. Traditional eleven-a-side formats of the game may not be fitting into modern lifestyles so well, but we are adapting. 12 million people play football every year and flexible formats such as mini-soccer and walking football are growing at record pace.

Women’s football is also on the up. It is the third-most-popular team sport behind men’s cricket – for now, that is, as we have a plan in place to double our number of female players by 2020.

We also fund a massive facilities programme with £22m every year going into desperately-needed new playing facilities. We know other countries have better facilities than us, but we also know that this duty rarely falls to the football authorities in those countries.

Of course one of our primary duties is to deliver winning England teams. Like every English football fan I am desperate to achieve success with England – not just with the men’s senior team but with every one of our 24 men’s, women’s, youth and disability teams. We know England can and must do better, and at St. George’s Park we have a well-resourced and determined team striving to achieve our ambitions.

I hope Thursday’s debate genuinely reflects all the work of The FA and the positive impact football has in communities up and down England. I am also confident that when the time comes to present our changes to the Minister, she will agree that we are making positive and pro-active change.

I’m still very much relishing the challenge here at The FA. Whether it’s The Emirates FA Cup or The FA People’s Cup, we’re getting things done. Having started my football journey as a programme seller at Leicester City, it’s a pleasure to be leading The FA and really making a difference across football.