England’s recent failings at all levels this summer has caused more concern from English football fans about the amount of quality players we are producing for our national team. Fingers have been pointed at The FA, Premier League, coaches of grassroots and others.
However we all have to take some blame for this.
The FA have started to make changes; the change of format to the grassroots game and the appointment of three good coaches to head up youth development in the country. The Premier League has the power to do what it wants and our voices are unlikely to be heard when the FA can’t influence the Premier League to make positive changes.
So what are YOU, the people working at grassroots level, doing to create change to our football in England?
Here is what I’m doing…
I’ve joined one of the biggest adult grassroots clubs in England, Old Parmiterians FC, which runs 16 adult teams, including five Veteran teams. We are looking to make a change at adult level to create a first team that plays great football and wins on a consistent basis, which will hopefully raise the profile of the club.
However I couldn’t leave the youth side of football alone knowing the state it is in. So I asked the powers at the club two weeks ago whether we could set up a youth side to the club from scratch, something I’ve wanted to do at any club for a while. I received a unanimous yes! The club had a youth set up but fell apart due to lack of volunteers, so they were happy for me to start it up again.
The reason I want to set up a youth academy at the club is because I know how I want a club to be run football-wise. I could have asked somebody else to run it whilst I coach one team but I know that it is more than me coaching one team the way I want.
It is about creating a culture at a club that enables kids to have fun, learn, become great people and gives them a progression to adult level if they desire. But also create a place for coaches to come if they want to develop their skills and progress their coaching career, which I think has been neglected by most clubs. They offer funding for coaches to take qualifications but that is as far as it goes.
If the coaches improve, the kids improve. Simple as that.
In addition to that, I want to get rid of this ‘only my team matters’ culture at grassroots level, where coaches stay with one team and pay little attention to the development of all the kids in the club. My idea is to foster a one club mentality where coaches stay with a certain age group rather than a certain team. There will be a development plan from when a kid joins at U8 until U16/U17.
In a previous blog post, I spoke about how the lack of a clear club philosophy by most grassroot clubs has hindered the development of our players due to the lack of a clear development pathway.
Here is the Club Philosophy that I have been working on for quite a few months now. It involves the type of player the club wants to produce, how this type of player will be produced, a general technical syllabus for each age group, a “Coach the Coach” section that gives a guideline on how we want the coaches to work, the code of conduct for all at the club and most importantly, the values of the club.
This philosophy includes values that act as a basic guideline to the culture I want to create at the club. It will help guide coaches, parents and players as to what to expect if they were to join. It will also determine what type of coaches I want to bring in that suit the football philosophy of the club. As the club grows and we take on coaches, this philosophy will develop and core values will be strengthened and developed.
The main aim of the club will be simple. Making sure we allow each player to become the best human being and football player they can be. Or to make it even simpler: Fulfilling their potential. Grassroot clubs shouldn’t be promising players that they will help them get a professional contract. There is no way they could know! They should be providing the environment for players to gain skills that can be used in any aspect of life and also allow them to learn and enjoy football. This aim should be supported by values, which create a culture that guides all club members on the behaviour we expect at the club.
The mechanics of how the club will work will be featured in the next blog post (part 2). This will detail how I intend to meet the aims of the club and also a special plea to London coaches! Check it out.
To wrap up this blog post, how can we change this blame culture to a proactive culture? Stop blaming The FA, the Premier League and whoever else you want to blame and ask yourself, what am I doing within my club to administer change?
Being a volunteer is not an excuse for only looking after your team if you really do want change. Address your club situation and ask what is our club philosophy? What is the aim of our club? How will we judge success?
Once you start to address this blame culture and create a proactive culture, we’ll be on our way to creating more quality players for our national team.
Let me know how it goes. I expect to hear from you fellow coaches!