Tag: coaching


Coaches at every level of the game will experience unexpected changes to player numbers, area size or weather conditions at their coaching sessions. Other challenges include unpredictable player motivation or your well prepared activities not going to plan.

So, what can you do? Here are our 10 top-tips to help you deal with the unexpected scenarios that may occur at your training session.

1) Use arrival activities to assess the scene

An arrival activity used at the start of the session is the perfect opportunity to stand back, observe and assess. To do this, it is crucial that the players can manage the arrival activity themselves – playing a series of small-sided games works well. During the arrival activity you can start to get an idea of player numbers, the attitude of the group (do they need a lift?), the equipment you have and the space available. Make any adjustments to your plan before you get the players to come in to start the session.

2) Coaching sessions don’t have to be balanced or symmetrical

Don’t worry if you don’t have even numbers for your session. If you had planned to play 4v4, resist the temptation to join in yourself and instead try 4v3. Uneven numbers gives you the perfect opportunity to experiment with how you group or pair the players.  For example you may challenge your three ‘strongest’ players to play on the team with fewer players. How else could you group the players to provide different challenges?

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3) Be resourceful – what does your facility offer?

If you don’t have access to goals, cones or other equipment, be creative and look at what your facility already offers you. Most facilities will have some kind of pitch markings or lines that can be used in creative ways. Similarly, if you don’t have a goal, have a look for something that could act as a target. You might use a bench, a chair, the fence or even one of the lines on the floor.

4) Learn how to be a storyteller

If a player has to leave your session early use it as an opportunity to talk about the scenario of having a player sent-off in a game – what would the team’s strategy be?  Similarly, if you have uneven teams you might create a story about using all your substitutes and having a player injured. Telling stories can capture the imagination of young players and help them engage with lots of challenging coaching situations.

5) Not all ‘coaching’ has to happen on the pitch

If the weather forces you to wait in the changing room or your access to the pitch is delayed, you can still provide a learning opportunity for the players. Talk through the session or your team tactics with the players and use whatever space and equipment is available to help you communicate. For example, you might get the players to walk through a pattern of play on the car park (if it’s safe) or get them to put bibs out in a 4-3-3 shape in the leisure centre reception. The learning can continue, when the action has stopped.

6) Ask the kids for help

Children are a rich source of ideas. If you are struggling to think of a way of solving an unexpected coaching session problem ask them for their opinion. You might be surprised at the quality of their suggestions.

7) An opportunity to try new things

If you had planned an attacking session for your centre forward and he/she doesn’t turn up, it’s a great opportunity to try somebody else in a different position. Rotating positions and asking your players to try different roles can be enlightening. For example, if your goalkeeper doesn’t turn up for a session give everybody the opportunity to have a go in goal.

First Aid Kit including Accident book

8) Challenges, points and a timer

If your perfectly planned passing practice is failing, think about how you can inject some competition and challenge. Young players will respond positively to individual and team challenges that involve points, scores, a winner/loser or trying to complete a challenge against the clock.

9) Some things just happen…

Sometimes you can’t stop the kids from being distracted. On these occasions it is worth acknowledging the distraction (like a plane overhead) with the players, rather than fighting it, before letting them get back to the activity. If you have the choice, think carefully about where your practice session (or team talks) take place, so you can minimise the potential distractions.

10) Play games

Don’t be frightened to play a game, guaranteed your players will love it!

Article courtesy of the FA Bootroom.

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“They’ll never make it as a pro” – Football and the ‘Likelihood Estimate’

“They’ll never make it as a pro” is a comment heard on touchlines at every level of the game. But how much do we really know about what talent looks like? Here, Joe Baker, talent development expert, challenges coaches to reflect on their current selection processes and asks: what are the ideal conditions for talent to grow?

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Given Joe Baker has been researching the development of elite athletes for over 20 years his response to the question “what is talent?” comes as quite a surprise.


  “We’ve realised we actually don’t know a lot about it,”  admits Baker, who is a Sport Scientist at York University in Canada, and one of the most respected and well published researchers in the field of expertise, talent development and lifelong physical activity.


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“Even though it’s this cornerstone of what we want coaches and sports scientists to do, we know almost nothing about how to select talent effectively and what talent looks like. We can’t even agree on a definition of what talent is,” he adds.


The Canadian recently visited St.George’s Park to deliver at a number of events and to help shape the new FA Level 3 course in Talent Identification. There was also an ‘open and honest’ discussion about recruitment in football with FA staff. One of the key conclusions was the idea of a ‘likelihood estimate’ to help guide talent selection.


“We need to look at the idea of ‘likelihood estimates’ which basically means:  if you have access and opportunities to certain kinds of things, then it is more likely you’re going to be an elite athlete. It doesn’t mean you are, but it increases the likelihood,” explains Baker.


Unsurprisingly, ‘support’ comes out as the most important factor. But there are other key indicators such as: access to training facilities, opportunity to work with elite coaches and parental and financial support. Family members who have participated in elite sport – particularly older siblings – are also considered as positive indicators for a career in elite sport. But, as ever, there can be no guarantees.


“I always say that if you want to be an elite ice hockey player but you live in Australia, then that’s bad luck. But if you’re in Canada you’re in a different situation because of all the things that environment brings to you.


“Those two people are exactly the same at the start point, but because one happens to find themselves in a certain situation there’s a greater likelihood of success,” explains Baker.


For balance, he is quick to stress that there are many successful athletes who rise to the challenge of a lack of access and opportunity.


To help solve this complex riddle, Baker feels that all sports need to start a more ‘open and honest conversation’ about the approach to talent selection. Gathering research and data is one recommendation.


“The fact we know so little about the talent selection process means there is a lot of room for improvement.


“The downside of that is that it involves honest and frank discussions with coaches about how poor they might be at the moment with regards to something that is so fundamental to their job. It is not an easy conversation to have.”


This is not a problem exclusive to football, Baker explains.


“There has been research done into day-traders on the stock exchange. What they found is: the traders’ decision-making was poor, but their belief in their decision-making was absolute.  It is quite often the same in sport.” Tracking decision-making over a period of time and collecting better data about the players selected, rejected or released, is the recommended starting point. It’s only then that Baker says you can start to apply ‘science’ and start to look at how to remove bias and flaws in decision-making and evaluate the outcome.


In the absence of a long-term study into talent selection in football, what would Baker do in the short-term? “The best approach is to provide everybody with as much support, resource and opportunity as possible.  Then we don’t lose anybody who wants to stay in the system.


“However, the real world means that you have to make decisions about who stays and who goes. So I think all sports could provide more opportunities for players who exit the system and who may re-engage in the pathway later on.


Baker suggests caution when considering to tell a young player “they’re not good enough”.


“Making that selection decision is one of the biggest jobs in sport today, because the repercussions are huge, especially early on.


“The elite 17 year-old who is released may well continue in the sport, but an U11 who is told they’re not good enough may not and could go on to look for something else.”


How much talent does Baker think has been lost as a result of such decision-making?


“We don’t know for sure, but it’s a lot”.


The FA Level 3 in Talent Identification launches this September.

View the full range of our Talent Identification courses here.

Article courtesy of the FA boot room  written by Joe Baker

Role: Associate Professor, York University

Follow: @bakerjyorku



The Comparison Trap – Don’t get sucked in.

As more and more children battle to be the best at younger and younger ages, what is the damage to those children around them, who spend large amounts of time comparing themselves to their higher performing peers in terms of their own long term development and potential future participation?  Potentially it is huge and we must do all that we can as parents and educators to avoid the children we are involved with getting sucked into ‘The Comparison Trap’.

When your child  first sets out on their sporting career and are attempting sports for the first time one of their main forms of feedback is how they compare themselves to others.  You may say that this is mad, but it is one of their most significant forms of feedback.

We know that there are many discrepancies during these early sporting experiences.  Some children are well ahead of the game due to the amount of time they may have spent practising a specific sport or they may be physically and emotionally more developed for their age.

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If your child compares themselves to some of these early developed athletes they run the risk of dropping out of the sport too early and as parents we need to do all that we can to help manage the situation.  We can be all too quick to label our children potentially in a way that may hold them back, comparing themselves to us or other players, or giving them specific positions or even defining them on their sporting prowess in a particular sport.

We run the risk of labelling our child musical or sporty without giving them the chance to properly develop in a particular field.  The reason for this is that a lot of time may need to be committed to improve a particular skill and we take the starting point sometimes as a sign of what they may be capable of.  It is far easier for parents to motivate and invest time for their children in something where there is already some perceived success as opposed to developing areas of weakness.

Children need to know that they all develop at different rates and at different times and as parents we need to understand that sporting development is never the lovely line that we would like to see.

Children will have periods where they plateau, where they grow quickly, where they improve rapidly, where they get worse and this is all part of the sporting process.  The latter one is a difficult one for parents to watch and see but it is a reality.

One thing is clear, current or early sporting performance is not a good indicator of future sporting success.

Think back to your own childhood, people you may have seen or played with who were so far ahead of the game at a young age but then never featured as they hit the teenage years or moved into adulthood.  Many international junior sportsman in a number of different sports struggle to make the jump from junior to senior athlete.

There are so many stories of athletes who were average at a younger age, who never really featured prominently who went on to become far better sportsmen and women than many of their earlier high performing peers.

As parents, understanding this is crucial if we wish to manage the situation successfully. Many children will soon lose the motivation of turning up to training and matches each week if they are regularly comparing themselves to others and see their team mates or opposition as ‘miles better than them.’

This can be even more testing for parents and athletes as many selection and talent programs select the physically dominant performer, the one who is competing well in the here and now and not the one who may develop much further down the line.

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However, as parents we need to understand how and why this may happen and communicate it effectively with our children, letting them know the following in whichever type of language we choose to use:

  1.  Physical advantage – some children are bigger, stronger and quicker and they will always dominate at a younger age.
  2.  Emotional maturity –  some children are emotionally more mature, can listen to coaches more effectively, deal with competition better and cope with situations in a far better way than some other children.
  3. Time spent a child who has spent double the time on a chosen sport or a skill generally as a rule should have a significant advantage over the other.  At a young age this can be even more pronounced but that does not mean that it cannot be caught up but it will need time.
  4. Skills –  can be developed and they are not based on physical characteristics

We have to accept as parents that there will always be someone better.  However, our children need to understand more that they must not compare themselves to others!  They can enjoy playing with these players, competing against them and indeed even learning from them but they must never feel a failure or threaten to walk away from a sport just because they are not as good as someone else.  Not at least until they have given themselves plenty of time to develop.

They will never know what they are truly capable of until they have truly invested the time and effort.

So the next time your feel that your children maybe falling into ‘The Comparison Trap’, be armed and ready to explain to them why comparisons may not be such a good idea! Ensure they know that sport and development is a long term investment and success is not necessarily in the here and now.

Article courtesy of guest author Gordon Maclelland, see more from Gordon HERE http://www.wwpis.co.uk


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Coach quits after row with parent about top goal scorer award…

I’m the manager and coach of a parent run club. We started the club from scratch last May and have just finished our first season.

We were unhappy as parents with how the previous manager, coach and club was run so we set up ours for our children to stay together and enjoy football! Our age group by the way is under 10’s.

We had an end of season meeting on Thursday to discuss plans for the future and our presentation night. We decided on the usual managers, parents and players player awards.

Discussions led to most improved and clubman. One thrown in to the mix was Top Goalscorer. There was a mixed reaction as it was seen as a trophy that not every single player was capable of winning.

There are only 4 or 5 maximum in a team of 11 who’d stand a chance of winning and it would go against the club’s philosophy of being a team.

There are no individuals. The team scores not the individual.

The perfect trophy for a World Cup year.

After getting a show of votes today to confirm 6 were against for the reasons mentioned and 5 for. This has led to abusive texts and threats from a parent whom believes his son has earned the trophy and if the club don’t give it him he’ll not turn up to the presentation and also leave the club.

My assistant has also backed this behaviour and comments from the parent.

I’ve since quit because of this. I’m appalled that I’ve personally been lambasted and blackmailed by a parent.

I’d like you to put this out to people. Let’s see how they see it. Week after week we train and encourage passing, to work together and that most importantly that they are a team not a bunch of individuals. It’s not about winning it’s about enjoying football.

They are just 9 and 10 year olds. Do certain trophies encourage individualism and isolate certain team players from being able to win them?

What do you think?


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A Letter from a dying Coach – The Last Team Talk

Hello to anybody and everybody who will take the time to read this. If I bore you I apologise. If you take something from it, I’ll be delighted.

Now every manager loves a good team talk. They are what motivates and inspires our players. They set instructions and guidance for what our players need to do in a game. What I bet most managers and coaches don’t think about is what their last ever team talk will be.

Unfortunately, I have to.

I have cancer.

Not the okay kind, not even the slightly harsh kind but the deadly kind. I am dying. This cancer will kill me and it can’t be stopped. Let’s be clear, I’m not happy about this. It sucks on so many levels, but what can I do? What it did was it got me thinking. I won’t be taking the Ravens all the way and I won’t see them fully develop into young adults. So I plan to take them as far as I can for how long I’ve got left.

Russ far left

Now this was a decision that it took me a few weeks to come to and to decide to enjoy the ride whilst I can. It offered a clarity that I’ve never had before. The clarity that football for children is all about enjoyment. That is what I’ll be teaching from now on. Football is called a sport, but it’s also a game. Games are there to be enjoyed.

For me this is a message that has gotten lost.

I’ve seen first hand children lose their love of the game because parents and coaches alike have sucked the enjoyment out of the game. Why as managers do we allow this to happen? We have a duty to make sure our players look forward to games with the same excitement week in week out. We as managers need to look forward to these games as much as the players.

We need to make sure that enjoyment is the main priority for everybody. The enlightening thing about being told you’re dying is you get to choose how to live your remaining days. For me I plan to spend as much time having fun as I can and making sure that the players around me have as much fun as they can. I simply refuse to make a player feel bad because they’ve missed as penalty, misplaced a pass or lacks natural ability in their game.

Now you may read this and dismiss it that’s your choice. The one thing to think about is, you never know when your last team talk will be or the last time you see your child play football. I know that time for me is soon and I want to make it an incredible experience.


KAFC Ravens


10 common problems every coach will encounter and the Solution

Rarely do coaching sessions or match days go perfectly to plan. Here, FA county coach developer, Lee Brown, outlines 10 common problems encountered by coaches offering a variety of solutions you can use with your players.

1) The session isn’t working

If your session has lots of intricacies and isn’t going to plan, it’s important to ask yourself “why are the players there?” The answer is always: to play a game. Don’t be afraid to put them into a match if things aren’t going well, but also consider how you can achieve a tangible outcome that links to your learning objective. Challenge the players. “Try to dribble past at least one player before sharing or shooting” is a good match based dribbling challenge.

2) The players aren’t grasping the session topic

Patience is required when players are trying to learn new things. There are times when the group won’t get things first or second time and the coach should be there to support and help. What the players don’t need is for the practice to be stopped as soon as it looks like they’re struggling. Give them time to solve problems and work things out for themselves

First Aid Kit including Accident book

3) Some of the players are finding the practice too easy, or too hard

Using the STEP principle during the session – changing space, task, equipment, players –can help engage, challenge and motivate the group. By adapting, editing and changing different aspects of the practice you can find different outcomes for everyone. Make plans that allow you to simplify or extend practices and appropriately challenge individuals.

4) I don’t have enough players to have even teams

When the team numbers at training aren’t evenly matched, coaches often find themselves joining in or going in goal. Instead, it’s important to try and link the session objective with specific situations in the game where there are uneven numbers. For example, think about a centre forward receiving back to goal against two defenders.

Players need to practise different game scenarios where they have either more or less players than the opposition.

5) What should I do if a player gets injured or has to leave early?

Sometimes players have to leave a practice session early or aren’t feeling well – it is an issue that also occurs on match day. Use the opportunity to practise that scenario. For example: pretend a player has been sent-off. There are lots of scenarios that occur in football where things are out of your control as a coach. The more you practise them, the more comfortable they will become.

6) I want to play a ‘proper’ game but we only have one goal to use

To make a practice game-related you would ideally have two goals to use – but this isn’t a reality for all coaches. If you only have one goal, you might want to consider using a phase of play type practice where one team attacks the goal and the other has to attack a mini-goal, end-line or play into a target player before allowing the practice to start again going the other way.

7) Our goalkeeper hasn’t turned up

It’s not imperative that you have a goalkeeper for training. Instead, let different players have a go in goal just in case the goalkeeper isn’t available on match day. Taking turns as the a goalkeeper can also help shape positive behaviour. By working together to have a go as the goalkeeper the players will develop a number of social skills about co-operation and teamwork.

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8) We’re losing the game but need to make substitutions for equal game time

Match day is the acid test for your coaching philosophy. If your team is 1-0 down and you are concerned about ‘weakening’ your team to provide equal playing time– what will you do? In answering this, it is important to ask yourself what your role is as the adult and coach? If you believe in learning and development at training then your behaviour should be consistent.

9) The kids won’t stop messing around

If the players are displaying poor behaviour then you may feel frustrated and feel the urge to stop the practice. Instead, it is important to understand that you can’t always control the players’ behaviour, but you can control your own. By staying in control of your emotions you can look at tweaking the session to motivate the players with a calm mindset.

10) I get too caught up in the action on match day

Using a notebook or a whiteboard on match day can help to manage the emotion of the event. Making notes or setting observation tasks for the substitutes can help you manage your emotional responses and prevent you from solely focusing on the ball or the result. It will also help you consider what you’re going to say during the breaks. Challenge yourself to be absolutely silent for at least 2 minutes of your next game and evaluate what effect it has on the player’s decision-making

Article courtesy of the FA Bootroom, and written by Lee Brown, FA county developer Follow: @leebrownNFA

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CPD Events for Coaches in England

Below is a full list of CPD events across the England. Click on the event topic to be taken through to the relevant booking page.

FA conference events

Dates Time Topic Location

17 Feb 2018

All day Futsal Conference 2018 St. George’s Park

15 April 2018

All day Goalkeeping Conference 2018 St. George’s Park

CPD webinars for all coaches

Dates Topic Location
12 Feb 2018 Webinar: psychological development – youth phase Online



26 Feb 2018

Webinar: psychological development – professional development Online

12 Mar 2018

Webinar: psychological block – goalkeeping Online

26 Mar 2018

Webinar: modern trends Online

16 Apr 2018

Webinar: goalkeeping Online

28 May 2018

Webinar: systems of play, playing in the half and half positions Online

30 Jul 2018

Webinar: developing observational Online

CPD events for Level 3 & 4 coaches

Dates Topic Location

11 & 12 Feb 2018

FA In and Out of Possession: Developing Midfielders SGS College, Bristol

21 Mar 2018

Paul McGuinness: Intimidation by skill Southampton Solent University

21 & 22 Mar 2018

FA In and Out of Possession: Developing Midfielders Macclesfield RUFC

1 Apr 2018

Craig Hinton: TBC Oxford City FC

8 Apr 2018

Paul McGuinness: Intimidation by skill Rugby Town Juniors FC

15 & 16 Apr 2018

FA In and Out of Possession: Developing Midfielders St Neots Town FC

29 Apr 2018

Craig Hinton: TBC Durham County FA

5 & 6 May 2018

FA In and Out of Possession: Developing Forwards Brooksby Melton College

7 May 2018

Paul McGuinness: Intimidation by skill Cheshire FA

12 & 13 May 2018

FA In and Out of Possession: Developing Forwards Barking FC

20 & 21 May 2018

FA In and Out of Possession: Developing Forwards Brighton & Hove Albion Training Ground

County FAs also host CPD events which you can find out more about by contacting them directly.

Alternatively, if you are looking to access some great coaching insight, guidance, tips and features, why not check out The Boot Room – The FA’s official coaching magazine. This popular resource is published monthly and features articles by coaches from The FA, grassroots football and professional club academies. While it may not contribute directly to your CPD hours, it certainly makes for an interesting, educational and enjoyable read.

Another great resource is The FA Coaching Community powered by Hive – our new coaching social media and community platform. Free to join, it brings thousands of coaches from across the game and the country together to enjoy great coaching content and engage in discussion. Registering takes a matter of minutes and once you’re in you’ll have access to even more coaching insight articles, interviews and top tips. To sign up, visit www.hivelearning.com/thefa.

The FA also have a range of free online CPD courses available.

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Lessons I’ve learnt in my first year as a Grassroots Coach

As a coach I have realised every coach is different and hath both different temperaments and reasons for being involved in football. Some play for the win, striving for the precious 3 points a victory brings. Others do the job for the hope that their team and the individuals in the team will show improvement.

Our team has played against teams whose coaches have said very little during a match. Only the slightest amount of direction, heaping the praise when it is due. Other coaches have screamed, shouted and barked orders at their players. I have sometimes wondered how they expect 9, 10, 11 or 12 year olds to compute all the information that they are bombarded with from the touchline.

It has shocked me sometimes how coaches can expect this at such an early age. I myself have sometimes sat on the fence in the past and have been unsure which method is best. However being involved first hand I have taken to trying to guiding the players without being vocal all of the time.

This has sometimes led to criticism that I should be more hands on, but it is my belief that self-learning is pivotal in a player’s development. It improves problem solving and allows them to be more expressive. This then leads to enjoyment of the game for the players not only on an individual level but as a team. It helps them build there confidence and positive reinforcement is key.

Not only are the players always learning….coaches are too.  Football for me is a constant learning experience. However your coaching ethos can be helped by the coaches not only in your team but in your club. I have been lucky enough to work with some truly special coaches within my club. They have  welcomed me into the club and have helped me in my early days and still do. They have helped me with sessions and have been kind enough to allow me to attend theirs. We have shared best practices which allow us as a club to develop further.

Also upon taking my F.A. level 1 course I was also lucky to work with an F.A. Mentor. He was there for direction, development and to ensure that you were comfortable in giving your sessions. His expertise and wisdom of the game enabled me to engage my team more positively and develop them better.

I believe these figures are essential in the modern grassroots game of football. They help guide you through some of the challenging periods during a coach’s journey and allow you to overcome obstacles to become a better coach.

My 1st year as a coach has been at times challenging, but it is ultimately gratifying. I have loved being back involved with football as it was my favourite sport when I was a kid. I have enjoyed watching my team develop as individuals and a team. But for me as long as I can turn up to training and to a match on a Sunday and know that the lads are enjoying their football with a smile on their face……then I am a happy man and a happy coach!!!!!

Written by guest author Nick Minns

Breaking!!! FA Announce new plans for 2018

A series of new initiatives and investments to impact the whole of English football, please see FA announcement below;

We have today announced a series of new initiatives and investments which will have a significant impact, both on the FA itself, and for all of English football.
The announcements include a range of measures aimed at improving the culture of the organisation and considerable new investment into every level of the game. These include:-
Quality pitches and changing facilities remain our biggest challenge in the grassroots game. This money will allow us to accelerate our efforts to deliver more and better football facilities for the grassroots game. In partnership with Sport England and the Premier League, this increased investment will support a range of new and existing facility programmes to meet the needs across grassroots clubs, County FAs, local authorities and education sites.
One such new initiative includes a mini-pitch programme which will be piloted in 2018, and if successful it will be rolled out across primary schools and grassroots clubs up and down the country.
Such new initiatives will complement existing programmes such as the Parklife community hub scheme which has been successfully rolled out in Sheffield, with further hubs to follow in Liverpool, London and a further 15 other cities and towns in England. The £9m is in addition to the £20m a year already invested by us into football facilities, all delivered through the Football Foundation and will, alongside the investment of our partners, help to ensure that by 2024 over 80 per cent of all football will be played on quality football pitches.
There are 64,000 mini-soccer and youth football teams. The youth game is thriving, witnessing a seven per cent year-on-year increase in team numbers. We want the first experience of football for all those children to be the best it can be. In order that they can enjoy and learn their football in a safe and fun environment, and also improve the standard of football being played, we are investing to ensure every one of those teams has a Level One qualified coach. We will make funds available to clubs to get their volunteers onto the coaching pathway and improve the standards of their mini-soccer and youth offering.
The largest community clubs are the most sustainable and deliver the most development outcomes in terms of the number and diversity of the teams they run. For the first time, we will invest directly in 150 of the biggest clubs to support this vital community development work.

Clubs will be invited to put themselves forward to enter the programme, which will offer a range of support from business capacity building and direct facility investment. Each club hub will be supported to recruit/retain a UEFA B coach to not only work across its own teams but act as a coach mentor across grassroots clubs in its region. The UEFA B Licence is a coaching licence one level below the UEFA A Licence. As of November 2017, there are currently 11,095 UEFA B coaches in England.

We will increase our investment in the women’s game. Over the next six seasons, an additional £50m will be invested into women and girl’s football taking the total investment from the 2018-19 season onwards to £114m.

We believe that no-one in the world is matching this level of investment. It will go into every level of the women’s and girl’s game from school programmes and SSE Wildcats centres, the initiative to encourage girls aged 5-11 to play football, through to investment into the Women’s Super League clubs and development of regional high performance centres to feed the talent pathway to the Lionesses.

The announcement also includes a range of substantial new strategic investments in the game which will be made from the 2018-19 season.

This will total around £180m per year going directly back into football, which is up from £123m in the previous year, representing a 46 per cent increase.

We are a not-for-profit organisation that is now able to make this new investment due to increased revenue from the sale of the Emirates FA Cup and England broadcast deals, a new long-term partnership with Nike and the consequence of the corporate re-structure in 2015 which has enabled The FA to operate more efficiently.

The FA;

The new investments include:-

• More than double the Emirates FA Cup prize fund from the 2018-19 season. This will benefit all participating clubs at every stage of the competition.

• Pay off the Wembley National Stadium debt. This will be done by the end of 2024, ensuring we can remove the burden of debt repayment from then on. At present repayment rates, this means £2-3m saved every year after 2024 and invested back into the game.

• Significantly increasing our investment into grassroots facilities by £9m per year. This money will support a range of new and existing facility programmes to meet the needs across grassroots clubs, County FAs, local authorities and education sites, including a new mini-pitch programme in primary schools and grassroots clubs up and down the country.

• Increasing our investment in grassroots participation activities by nearly £6m per year.

• Investing directly into the 20,000 grassroots affiliated clubs to ensure that each of the 64,000 mini-soccer and youth teams has a minimum of a Level One coach, to provide our youngest players with the quality coaching they deserve.

• The establishment of a new Community Club Hub network. Over 150 large-scale clubs across England will receive direct investment and resource support to deliver development outcomes. Each Hub will also have a subsidised UEFA B Coach mentor to work across their club and wider community.

• A new volunteer strategy to invest directly in succession planning and training across the leagues and clubs network. This will include a reward and recognition element.

• Establishment of a recreational growth fund to support recreational football including small sided, Futsal and walking football.

• Sustain and enhance the disability growth fund to support growth in disability football.

• Increasing our investment in the women and girl’s game by an additional £50m over six years to ensure the sustainability of successful initiatives such as the SSE Wildcats programme, which will see 3,200 new Wildcats centres by 2020, and also ensuring the Women’s Super League gets the support it requires as it grows. This is all part of our commitment to double participation in women’s football and to ensure consistent success on the world stage.

Martin Glenn, FA chief executive officer, said: “The initiatives and investments announced today will make a significant impact to the way football is run in this country.

“They illustrate both how committed The FA is to becoming a more inclusive and diverse organisation, and how much it contributes to English football.

“The FA will now invest over £180m a year back into the game, more than we have ever done before, which will have a positive and meaningful impact at every level of football in England.”


“When are we having a game?” – I’d be willing to bet that this is the question that coaches up and down the country probably get asked most often.

Why is this? Don’t these kids realise how much time and effort we’ve put into researching and planning this nice, neat and tidy drill? Those six words are enough to sink the spirit of the most well-intentioned.

What is a game?


1. A form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules.

2. An activity that one engages in for amusement.

A game in a coaching context isn’t necessarily ‘the game’ – the version they experience on a weekend. Although, it may well be. A game, simply, may be a practice that has rules, some form of scoring system and/or competition.

Why use games?

Unlike repetitive drills, the decisions that the players make in games are not pre-determined by the practice or the coach and the outcomes are uncertain. A bit like a match.

Games provide excitement through their realism and they engage. They can be manipulated to challenge the players appropriately.

A game in a coaching context isn’t necessarily ‘the game’ – the version they experience on the weekend.

These ingredients of freedom offer a glimpse as to why games are so enjoyable.

‘I’m going to stop learning this because it’s too much fun,’ said no-one, ever! Games give the players the opportunity to develop their craft for the match.

A few years ago, as a frustrated high handicap golfer, I figured out the main reason (among many!) that was stopping my aspiring path to single figures – my short game.

The constant, repetitive drills I was practising ripped straight off YouTube we’re bringing short term success on the practice range but my handicap remained closer to my age than I wanted. I couldn’t repeat it when it mattered.

A friend then recommended some simple chipping games. They provided me with variety, fun, challenge and engagement. I found myself regularly in states of flow in practice where hours went by without me noticing. I was competing. Against myself. Trying to beat the game.

If us adults weren’t around, games are what the players would play. Ever remember queuing up ten deep or standing in nice neat lines during break time at school? Nor me. Remember Wembley Doubles, Heads and Volleys, Three-and-in and everything else we played on the street? Me too. There was a reason for this. We were, perhaps unintentionally, developing our craft.

So what are we to do?

It’s training night and the parents and players have arrived. The latter giddy with excitement. The former interested to see what practices we have prepared to teach to their sons and daughters.

We need to reassure the parents that developing players learn best through games. That such practices will often look chaotic and messy instead of being tidy and regimented. A bit like a match.

Keep it simple. One of the reasons why our beautiful game is the world’s most popular sport is due to its simplicity. Two teams, two goals, one ball.

The same can be said for the practices that we design for our players to learn from. If in doubt, think ‘how might I add simple rules, scoring and competition?’ Or even ask the players what they would do. They may surprise us.

Maybe where we’ve gone wrong in the past is because we’ve used ‘the game’ as a carrot – ‘If you’re good and do these drills then we’ll have a game at the end.’

Or ‘It’s your game time at the end you’re wasting.’ This carrot is one that is often dangled until the end of the session. Until we feel as though we’ve got what we want from the session.

Games can take place whenever possible – not just at the end of a session as a carrot for good behaviour

I’ve often had coaches ask me why their players’ behaviour is erratic until they have a game. The irony is that the thing we are trying to help the players get better at (‘the game’) is the thing that we often try to use to control their behaviour. The thing that we don’t feel that they’ve earned until they’ve ‘mastered the basics’.

Why is this practice so common? It’s similar to telling children that ‘if you’re good and eat all your vegetables then you’ll get a desert.’ (Is it any wonder that vegetables – and indeed repetitive drills – have such a bad name among so many kids?).

What this tradition of coaching practice also does is wait until the players are more fatigued – at the end of the session – until they start practicing the things that they are more likely to be repeating at the weekend.

‘We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.’ – Archilochus, Greek Soldier, 650 BC

So when are we having a game?

Whenever possible.

I set myself a challenge some years back now to eradicate this question from my coaching. The players I’m lucky enough to work with currently trust that our practices will be all about games.

I’ve noticed that players who are trained on a diet of games arrive at training much more relaxed as they know that their session is not about to be dominated by the coach and they will have the chance to apply and expend their stored creative energy.

About The Author

Name: Jack Walton

Title: regional coach development manager

Follow: @jackwalton1


This article looks at using a more games-based approach for players aged 5-11 in the Foundation Phase and the potential benefits of this way of working.

For many young children, playing in games of football is the driving force behind their early engagement with the sport and their motivation, enthusiasm and focus remain high when taking part in these games. To clarify, games can be small-number games in training (such as 1v1, 2v2, 3v3) as well as any suitable competitive small-sided game format as part of a league, festival or tournament.

The Foundation Phase 'experience'

Small sided games are valuable for the development of foundation phase players

The players need this exposure to help their development. The part that we play as adults and coaches is to help manage the ups and downs, the successes and disappointments and the development opportunities that these encounters will provide. We must create an environment that is safe and supportive whilst being competitive and player centred. If we can provide this then there is an increased chance of players staying with the sport and as such giving us, the coaches, a chance to develop them even further

The Approach

If you have the opportunity to take your team indoors to play Futsal in the coming months you will have the perfect opportunity to help players begin to understand the game. Try to place your players in a wide range of different situations. Help them to recognise the situation they are in and then work together to arrive at the most effective solution or outcome. This will take time as these solutions will have to be tried and tested over a long period of time and through a large number of similar repetitions.

For example, in a game of Futsal the player will be challenged to process: where they are on court, how much space they have to play in, how much support (if any) is around, where the pressure might be coming from and how many defenders might be present (this is not exhaustive but gives an idea of all the visual and perceptual processing that might be going on).

The Foundation Phase 'experience'

Futsal is the perfect activity for the winter months

When the game is going on this will happen in a very short space of time and will require a huge amount of practice to refine the processing of so much information. That is why this approach is a long term one involving lots of repetition of similar but not identical situations and through a coaching methodology that helps and supports the player to make sense of all the information coming in. The role of the coach will be to help the player understand their own capabilities and to support them as they experiment and explore how these capabilities can provide effective solutions to the many situations they will encounter in the game. This approach will also help the player and the coach identify areas that need to be developed in order to be more effective in what they do.

Pete Sturgess is FA Technical Lead for players aged 5-11.

About Pete

Name: Pete Sturgess
Role: FA Technical Lead for players aged 5-11
Follow: @Sturge_p


Creative ways to use the popular football video game to connect with young players.

This Christmas many of the players we coach will enjoy playing the newly released FIFA  video game.

Parents will battle with their children, bargaining and arguing about how long they can play for, and at what time of day.

Although some may be sceptical about too many hours in front of a screen, the careful design of video games also provides high potential for learning.

Playing video games tends to be so enjoyable that people view video games as a form of entertainment rather than education – but there are many hidden benefits.

Video games have the ability to place people into the state of ‘Flow’ – a psychological state that boosts learning and performance.

This ‘Flow Zone’ is characterised as a state in which someone is completely immersed in the activity, and thoroughly enjoying the process of the activity (intrinsically motivated).

As a concept, it was first shared by Hungarian psychologist, Mihály Csikszentmihályi, in the 1970’s, who found that the feeling of flow is dependent on three conditions:

  • The activity has a clear set of goals
  • Clear and immediate feedback provided
  • Person must have confidence in their own ability to meet goals of the activity

These conditions are common of video game design. And as grassroots football coaches, there is an opportunity here for us to harness our players’ engagement with FIFA to help them to learn more about the game of football.

Digital Coaches

To do that, the following may be helpful when attempting to link learning from FIFA  to your team’s training sessions or matches:

  • Set tactical challenges – use learning focus of the training session to devise specific challenges for players to focus on when playing FIFA.

For example, if the learning focus of training is ‘positive and enthusiastic defending’, the FIFA  challenge could be to ‘try and prevent Messi from dribbling’.

To support the player during their FIFA  challenge, request that players jot down their progress in the challenge as it happens. An advantage of football video games, compared to physical football is that players have a PAUSE button – they can use this to their advantage in order to spend time explicitly reflecting on their learning.

  • Multi-player (with team mates) – organise your team into two smaller sub teams, so they work collaboratively to outwit their opponent in a FIFA  game.

Ask each sub team to develop an ‘in possession’ and ‘out of possession’ strategy, which they can present at training, prior to their FIFA  game.

At the next training session, each sub team can then present how their strategy developed or changed during game play, and why.

  • Select a particular FIFA character – for the next training session, challenge players to extend their commitment to the character, on to the pitch.

A player might choose to be John Stones on FIFA, so at training encourage the player to play like John Stones. This will encourage them to reflect on and explore Stones’ technical, tactical, psychological, social and physical attributes.

  • Arrival activity – reenact memorable moments from previous week’s experiences of playing FIFA.

Set up a space on the pitch for players to share their experiences of playing FIFA.

This might involve some players working in small groups or pairs to demonstrate specific plays, some players working individually to practice particular skills, or some players simply talking to one another about new problems or solutions from FIFA .

Amy Price is Lecturer in Physical and Sport Education at St Mary’s University in London. Amy holds the UEFA A Licence and is an FA Coach Mentor and Level 1 and 2 Tutor.