Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughAre we destroying English football with inadequate coaches? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Are we destroying English football with inadequate coaches? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Are we destroying English football with inadequate coaches?

For every child that plays football there is a team that provides them the opportunity to participate in the sport that they love. In order for young players and teams to improve, they need coaching and guidance from a qualified coach. Why then do so many unqualified people believe that they can perform this role satisfactorily and are we harming our football future by allowing them to do so? 


There is a clear dividing line between football and all other sports, and the line is one that separates the role of a coach in sport. Whilst parents are happy to accept that a swimming instructor is the most appropriate person to teach their child to swim, or that a badminton coach is the best person to teach their child how to hit a shuttlecock, many seem happy that an unqualified volunteer leads their child’s weekly football session. Why has this attitude been taken towards the most popular sport in the UK and what can be done to address a situation that is chronic throughout grassroots football?

Perhaps one of the reasons is that there are so many grassroots clubs and not enough coaches to go around. A recent study by the FA revealed that England is way behind other European countries such as Germany and Spain in terms of the number of professionally qualified coaches that exist. This study also revealed that whilst our European rivals respect and reward youth team coaches and academy coaches, the majority of English coaches see working with youngsters in academies as an inferior role and would prefer to work with adult teams or older age groups like U18 or U19. Consequently there is little interest for qualified coaches to work at grassroots level, where they are neither rewarded financially for their work and time, nor respected by the parents or other volunteers that they work alongside.

Interestingly, Sir Trevor Brooking is now focusing a lot of his attention on the development of youth football and the FA seem to have finally realised that grassroots clubs across the country are the lifeblood of the game. The top academies send scouts out every weekend to watch amateur matches in the hope of spotting the next superstar; only then will they invite the player to join their academy to train with professionally qualified coaches.

A typical grassroots club will consist of about 15 to 20 teams ranging from U8 to U18 and nearly all those teams will be managed by a parent of one of the players in that team. Volunteers are vital to the game and it is worth noting that I greatly respect their dedication, hard work and commitment to allowing these children the opportunity to regularly play football. However, from my own experience, and that of fellow qualified coaches, there is quite a lot of damage being caused by have-a-go amateurs who really don’t know how to plan, deliver, or develop a coaching session that adequately meets the requirements of the players that they are training. In their defence, why should they know anything about player development or skill acquisition? The most likely reason that they are even there in the first place is probably because no-one else was willing to commit to a weekly training session and match.

What is the solution to this problem? If children across the country are experiencing this situation then it is only going to have a detrimental effect on the professional game and the English national side. The FA, in partnership with the Premier League, Football League and all its clubs, need to invest a lot of money in providing effective and easily accessible coaching courses to every grassroots club in the country. By this, it is not acceptable to say that volunteers have a Level 1 badge, as this is only an introduction to the game and not suited to long term player development. The new youth award modules are much better at preparing for the realities often faced, although even these are only an optional avenue and volunteers are not obliged to undertake such courses. Perhaps by raising the minimum requirements needed to run an amateur team we might solve some of these issues, but the likelihood is that potential volunteers might be put off by the work required.

A concerted effort to invest in employing full time coaches could be another option, with the majority of UEFA licensed coaches working in industries other than football due to a shortage of job opportunities in this field. These coaches could implement schemes at the grassroots clubs where they work  and help volunteers to understand why training players is not simply a matter of throwing them a ball and letting them get on with it. Coaching the coaches is a great way of maintaining the links between a football club and the local community and everyone would benefit from such a relationship. Alternatively, several full time employed coaches would be able to personally train the majority of teams at a club on a regular basis. They could also design a training programme to be utilised by the other volunteers and pass on their knowledge and expertise.

There are many possibilities as to how the current setup could be improved, and the examples I’ve used are by no means the only solutions. However, I am sure that we could definitely be doing a lot more to develop our youngsters and if the FA want to see England lifting a World Cup trophy in the future then they must act sooner rather than later.

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