What has the FA Coaching Course ever done for us?

trainingAct 1

Scene 1

I turned away from no.2 son’s football practice and headed towards the lean, grey-haired man who was erecting goalposts and nets for the afternoon’s senior matches. Our paths had crossed on Saturday mornings before.

He held the key to the gate into the running track. That’s where the posts are kept between matches and he had let, or at least not stopped, my touchline pal and me onto the track to do laps while our boys practised.

An older man, diligently performing a community function.

“Can I help?” I asked, wanting to thank him and gain his confidence so that future excursions to the running track could be assured.

“No. It’s alright,” he replied.

I stood beside the goal and tried to be sociable. “Which team is it playing here this afternoon?”

The grey-haired man told me. “Oh,” I said redundantly, “not United”, the club my boys play for and whose practice sessions were going on around us.

“No,” he confirmed, “not this rubbish,” and he swept his arm out to indicate the dozens of kids running around on mini pitches. “This isn’t football. None of these kids are going to be footballers. This is just nonsense that comes from the FA.”

“Right. Well, good luck this afternoon,” I wished him, cutting short his rant and heading back to watch no.2 son, apparently, not playing football.

Scene 2

No.1 son and I arrived at our local park for a kick-about. A school friend, also with his Dad, recognised no.1 son and we combined for an impromptu Dads v Lads match.

No.1 son was eight and had three years of junior club football behind him. Contriving defeats when we played each other was becoming easier, but still required concentration to ensure a close finish. His school friend wasn’t a member of a club and was less adroit. His Dad, a well-built, near six-footer, played close to full throttle. He challenged his own son for the ball, barging him over and then blasted the ball past no.1 son’s left ear, claiming a goal and leaving the keeper to trot fifty yards across the park to collect the ball.

On our way home, no.1 son and I speculated that his friend may have reason for being less keen to take up playing football.

Scene 3

Standing on the touch line at the pro-club development centre, I chatted to MarineDad, parent to one of no.2 son’s club team mates who had also been ‘spotted’. We discussed football and it was taking all my social skills to maintain a conversation where I disagreed with 90% of the opinions being expressed to me.

“They teach them these ball skills. Don’t know why they bother. I say to my lad in the garden, ‘take the ball past me’. He tries these fancy moves and all I have to do is stick my foot out to get the ball off him.”

Act 3

Scene 1

No.1 son is going on football tour. To Holland, aged just 12. It’s a team effort from the responsible adults at the club. A team lead by the Dad I first met in the park four years earlier, barging over his son and blasting the ball past my son. He has galvinised the parents and, importantly, the boys into fund-raising. He has consulted parents, reassured anxieties, even anticipated concerns: quietly explaining to me how he plans to ensure that no.1 son, as the sole vegetarian, is well-nourished and won’t subsist on a diet of chips.

The tour, like any adventure for 12 year old boys away from home, is not without incident. But he is instrumental in putting those incidents into perspective, and making the trip a sporting, social and developmental success. He cares about the boys he coaches.

The following year, he is hospitalised. He continues to text us, from his sick-bed, letting us know what’s happening that week for the team. He discharges himself to attend matches, to see how the boys are doing. The only difference is that he is, mercifully, a little quieter.

The team has groups of mates and some lads outside of those groups. He notices and challenges his players to recognise the value those boys bring to the team. He’s an extrovert, doing something difficult, looking out for the introverts.

The boys are now 15 and he knows that they have reached an age when many will be drawn away from playing the game. He is trying to run a team that will continue to be important to as many of these lads as possible.

Scene 2

No.2 son is thriving in his club’s first team. They are amongst the best in the district, playing a fast, passing-brand of football.

To begin with, they lost a lot of games. They kept changing goalkeeper, whereas all the successful teams had one boy in goal every game. The instruction they got from the side-line during matches was briefer, less angry and macho than that received by most of their opponents.

MarineDad is the co-coach and chief organiser. He noticed early on that the boys shook off the defeats faster than the Dads – including himself. He persevered with the style of play and by the end of the first season began to see whole matches, not just flashes, of smooth, cultured football. The keepers, three per game, are still volunteers.

When a game against a particular opponent, for a second time turns ugly, he takes measured sensible action, reassuring parents that he won’t allow a repetition. His one good knee buckles, so he runs training on crutches and even referees a match in a knee brace. When the coach for another of the club’s teams cannot attend training, he helps them out.


What happened to Act 2?

A lot must have happened in the lives of these two dad-coaches between Acts 1 and 3, so much that it would be misleading to ascribe the changes I have seen to a single factor. However, I do know that both attended the FA Coaching Course and I do know that both talked differently about junior football after it. They are both good men, whose potential as coaches has been released by some timely educational input.

What about the lean, grey-haired man?

He still assembles the goals for Saturday afternoon’s senior fixtures by himself. I’ve not seen anyone help him, or try chatting to him. I think I have a solution for him. There’s a course he could attend..





Filed under coach says.., individual development

12 responses to “What has the FA Coaching Course ever done for us?

  1. This is such an interesting read and, I have to say that you are never too old to learn. It sounds like the courses have done those men a great deal of good and is a benefit to all. That grey-haired man could really do well to learn from this! I agree!

    • Thanks Victoria. I do wish all the men who do the good thing of dedicating time to coaching youngsters showed the same ability to develop themselves as my boys’ coaches have.

  2. Chris L

    Great piece & interesting read – I’m sure many can relate to it.
    Great to see some people in football do actually recognise that The FA & the courses they run can & do make a difference – people need to be more open minded to personal development & not just think it’s the kids that need to develop.

    • Thank you, Chris. Volunteer coaches can have such a hard time under the glare of the pundit dads. They need some strong messages from the FA courses to keep them on the straight and narrow.

  3. Very interesting piece and a good read, I agree that you can never be too old to learn

  4. What a lovely post, my parents, now retired are a member of U3A which is a group for people over 65 to learn new things and develop new hobbies it’s great for them 🙂 Thanks for sharing with the #bestandworst

  5. sarahmo3w

    This really made me smile. My husband did the FA Coaching Course years ago and, despite a very demanding job and very little support from other parents at the club, he has continued to coach my son’s team every week. They will never be brilliant, but will finish the season in a reasonable position in league 2 and everyone will be happy with that.
    I can’t believe that old man’s attitude! Where does he think ‘real’ footballers come from if it’s not from kids playing in junior leagues? Of course most of them won’t ‘make it’ as footballers, but it doesn’t mean they’re not footballers!

  6. Will

    Good piece, but I disagree that the FA coaching courses are that beneficial. Whilst it’s good that you can coach the dads into calming a bit and seeing the game for what it is (a game), having attended the FA coaching courses myself, I can safely say that it’s a very expensive method of teaching dads to calm down a bit, with very few coaching skills actually being taught.

    • Thanks Will. That’s a really interesting observation. I wonder if the reason for so little coaching is because of the need to spend time establishing what junior football is for? Would be interested to hear more of your experience. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Shane

    I thouroughly enjoyed that piece, I see some of myself in there, actually a lot. I’ve been through act 1 to 3 and yes, FAI in this case courses thought me a lot, so has Twitter and other social platforms. I’m a chilled out coach now, enjoying with wonderment the fantastic, talented kids I’m trusted to care for

  8. Matt

    Nice read…thankyou! To Will I would say it depends how much effort you want to put into your coaching ‘career’…if you just do the level one then you’re right there isn’t a great deal of ‘coaching’ going on just setting the right standards and environment to allow the boys to flourish. I learnt a lot from the FA Youth modules and ‘old style’ Level 2 but as an entry level course the Level 1 course certainly is a good place to start.

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