Grassroots Football Live: Friday 12th June

grassroots-live-chris-kamaraGrassroots Football Live opened today at the NEC in Birmingham. It is the UK’s largest Soccer Coaching Convention and is an annual opportunity for the Junior, Professional and Commercial branches to meet and provide fresh ideas.

I am posting my movements and some of the interesting snippets I learnt today for those who are interested. A series of follow-up articles will look at many of these topics in much greater detail in the coming weeks, so check back soon or subscribe to get updates directly to your email inbox. But without further ado…

9:32 – The doors open a few minutes late and a smattering of people walk into the exhibition halls. First impression is there’s a lot of kit manufacturer’s stalls.

9:50 – Head straight to the Talk Sport Theatre for a ‘Sports Science in Football Conference’.

10:01 – Speakers are former Premiership player and founder of Think Fitness Jon Goodman, Manchester United First Team Fitness Coach Dr Tony Strudwick, UK Athletics Nutritionist James Collins and Blackburn Rovers’ Sport Psychologists Tony Faulkner and Steve Nickson.

10:35 – Tony Strudwick gave a great 25-minute presentation on the differentiation between Speed and Quickness and talked about planning sessions to train for football-related quickness. Take home points: Get away from straight-line drills and give players opportunities to develop all-round agility.

11:30 – James Collins and Tony Faulkner & Steve Nickson gave interesting talks about Performance Nutrition and Psychological Profiling. Take home points: Nutrition must be individualised, requires much better education of coaches and of parents; Coaches must be aware that individual player’s mindset is more important than physical ability – relates to mental toughness, motivations and levels of self-awareness (much much more on this in a couple of weeks).

12:20 – Just listened to former England and England U21 Manager Peter Taylor talking about the importance of mindset. Host Chris Kamara asked about Taylor’s decision to give David Beckham the England Captaincy. Taylor explained, “I decided to pick a squad that was under 30. That meant for the captaincy the more experienced players were Gareth Southgate, David Beckham or Gary Neville. David impressed me with his mentality after the sending off versus Argentina – he was pilloried and booed off of every away ground in the country – but the way he bounced back, and the way he played that season was phenomenal, and he was probably player of the year that year. That said a lot to me about his character and how he would handle [the captaincy].”

12:51 – Julian Dicks now sells advertising for League Schedules across the country. Spoke to his business partner about youth development in the UK and in Spain. Spain sounds better.

13:00 – Fulham Trainer Martyn Pert and Tony Strudwick from Man Utd just put on a really fun fitness session in the Errea Coaches Arena. Key factors in Premier League clubs seems to be constant movement and constant touches of the ball. In an hour session (even with questions between exercises) the players probably stood still for less than 5 minutes.

14:02 – Defending Masterclass has just ended from AC Milan legend Franco Baresi and the AC Soccer Schools. The coaches were Italian and struggled to be understood by a lot of the watching coaches. The technical aspects of 1v1 through to 7v5 defending were covered. It’s easy to see why Italian football has its reputation!

15:33 – Highly entertaining presentation and Q&A with Sir Trevor Brooking, Sports Psychologist Bill Beswick, FA Schools Chairman John Read, Everton Academy Coach Tosh Farrell and Peter Taylor has just finished.

Topic was the ‘Delivery of Football in Education’ but Bill Beswick talked about Manchester YMCA Wrestling club, Patrick Linseone’s ‘draft’ picks, and an autistic basketball player – very effectively expressing his take home point: Get the attitude right and the performance follows. Bill was a captivating public speaker and I’d like to look at more of his stuff.

Tosh Farrell gave a fantastic 15 minute answer to a question including a live coaching demonstration with an unlucky audience member. Key points were: Coaches that don’t take time to teach football-specific language will confuse and frustrate their players; Someone who might have gone on to be the best player in the world has almost definitely left the game because their coach shouted and balled at them when they started playing and put them off the game for life.”

Sir Trevor Brooking believed that there is nothing wrong with competitive football, but it should be informal and fluid. If players are stronger then they can play with older players in training or on the park. Most technical people in football agree that league tables should be scrapped until about U14-U16 (as happens in Academies now) and clubs should open up a lot more to allow elite players play together. However there is political opposition which prevents these changes being implemented.

17:05 – Blackpool Manager Ian Holloway just gave a detailed demonstration of ‘Pressing the Midfield Opponent’. I took part in an impromptu 2v2 demonstration with Ian at the end as he tried to show some additional details to the coaches who stayed behind at the end. The problem with such technical sessions as these is that the problem is super-specific to a certain team, formation, area of the pitch, time of the game, position of the ball and movement of opponents. This makes it difficult to take away and apply with your own team unless you work with U18s/Open Age or Elite players. Holloway is a great character though, extremely energetic and hugely funny – he gave us a brilliant goldfish impression.

17:40 – After milling around the stands it’s time to go. Had a great day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Starting with a goalkeeping lesson from The FA’s National Goalkeeping Coach Steve Smith in the morning.

If you are heading down to the NEC this weekend get in touch and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the weekend and I can meet up with anyone who wants to. Email me, or send a tweet @pavlwilliams.

**Tickets are still available for this weekend’s Grassroots Live events on Saturday and Sunday – visit Grassroots Football Live Online to get your entry passes**

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