Peter Glynn is the editor of The FA Licenced Coaches Club journal ‘The Boot Room’ and an expert F.A. Coach Educator. He is currently rolling out the F.A.’s new age-appropriate qualification the Youth Award across the country. He took a little time out of his hectic schedule to talk to us about the new qualifications and how the principles can be applied to your own coaching sessions. Here’s the interview:
Pavl : Can you tell me a little bit about the F.A. Youth Award qualifications: Why have they been introduced?
Peter : For the longer term development of players at all levels in this country it is crucial that we develop coaches that are skilled, knowledgeable and effective at working with children between the ages of 5-11. If coaches can put in place the ‘right’ things with the younger player we hope they will grow into the players of the future.
In these ‘formative’ years between the ages of 5-11, coaches have a window of opportunity to lay down a solid foundation of FUNdamental movements, skill acquisition and game understanding that can be built upon as the player grows and matures. Through the FA Youth Award Module One we want to help produce skilled coaches who understand how players learn best and who understand how to develop players that are technically efficient and good problem solvers – two key attributes in the modern and future game.
Furthermore we want to develop a coaches understanding of how to can create a supportive, secure and creative learning environment in which they can plant the seeds of a life long love affair with the game for the children they work with.
Pavl : How does the structure of the new qualifications differ from the traditional Level 1,2 and 3 coaching badges?
Peter : The Module 1 award, introduces formative assessment (Assessment for learning) in the way of a practical session at the end of the course. In this format, it is much less of a pass or fail scenario. Instead the coach and the tutor reflect on the session following delivery and outline action points and areas of improvement in order to develop and improve the session.
Pavl : But there’s no high-pressure pass/fail assessment?
Peter : No!
Pavl : The emphasis of Module 1 is very much on ‘Coaching The Individual’. Why is this so important?
Peter: The tag line of the Module One course is that ‘Before you can teach John football, you need to know John’. Developing an understanding of the various and complex ways children learn, highlights the ineffectiveness of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to coaching players. Through work shops on ‘How players learn’, ‘Managing Mistakes’, ‘Self Esteem’, and ‘Motivation’, we aim to help coaches understand the individuals they work with better and give them some practical examples of how to develop the individuals understanding and enjoyment of the game.
Pavl : How might a coach use this approach in a real coaching situation?
Peter : All the theories and concepts introduced in the workshop elements of the course intertwine with the practical demonstrations on the pitch. In this way the candidates get to see real examples of how the coach can begin to cater for individual needs. For example following the Motivation workshop, candidates get to experience the effect of adding ‘points systems’, ‘team talks’, ‘time limits’ and ‘individual challenges’ into their practices to observe the effect on players motivation.
Pavl : For me the striking feature of all the exercises in the Youth Award was that they are ‘games’ first and technical practice second. For coaches looking to develop their own games and session ideas, what are the key features of a ‘good’ practice for 5-11 year olds?
Peter : Personally I feel the key features of an effective practice for 5-11 year olds are;
1) Ensure the practice is realistic to a game situation; for example do the players get an opportunity to pass, receive, dribble, tackle, shoot, make saves and make decisions like they do in a game. The children love to play in games, try and create practices which closely mimic aspects of the game, allow the children to make decisions like they do in the ‘real game’ and tailor your outcome accordingly.
2) Set appropriate challenges that motivate the whole group. For the motivation of all the players within the group, set individual goals to ensure the practice is inclusive and a challenge for all. Give opportunities for the children to solve problems.
3) Let the children think, experiment, be creative and make some of the decisions. They have more ideas than we give them credit for!
4) Inform the children you are working with of their potential. Help them feel good about themselves through building self esteem and confidence. Catch them doing something well and highlight it. Praise effort and team work as much as individual skill.
Pavl : What is the FA Tesco Skills programme?
Peter : The FA Tesco Skills Programme is a new initiative which aims to raise technical standards amongst 5-11 year olds. The three-year programme co-ordinated by The FA and funded by Tesco and the National Sports Foundation, aims to give one million children in England top-quality skills coaching by summer 2010.Throughout England, a total of 90, full time Skills coaches will focus on age appropriate football coaching and physical literacy, amongst the 5-11 age group. The FA Skills Programme works with 5-11 children in FA Tesco Skills Centres, Schools and Charter Standard Clubs.
Pavl : A lot of Club Coaches might be hesitant to send their junior players to a different coach. Won’t it be counter-productive for players to have one set of goals at a club session and another set of goals at a Skills session?
Peter : In a child’s formative years, I personally feel it is important that the young player is immersed in a variety of positive learning environments in order to help their holistic development. Learning from different coaches, interacting with other children and experiencing new environments will aid this. This is true for experiencing different sports and other learning activities.
Pavl : Thanks again Peter for your time, it is greatly appreciated.
If any coaches have comments or further questions stemming from this interview please leave a comment below and I will pass them on to Peter and get a reply for you.
For more information about the F.A. Youth Award you can visit the F.A. Learning website for course dates and prices at your County F.A. For your nearest F.A. Tesco Skills sessions you can visit the website here.