Our grassroots expert Stuart Grimshaw's blueprint how England can catchup. In Part 1 he focuses on coaching.
With the World Cup looming in just a few months, that means we’re only a few months away from the usual outcry in the red tops, navel gazing from the FA and “Don’t look at us” shoulder shrugging from The Premier League and The Football League, as England inevitably leave Russia under some kind of cloud. And so we look for the reasons why.
There isn’t a single silver bullet to solve all the problems in grassroots football (which is good because it’ll give me plenty of things to write about!). Let’s start with coaches, and coaching, if we had better coaches we’d have better players, better players means more English players for our teams and more English players playing at the top level would mean better players to be selected for the squad.
In Iceland, every junior player has at least 1 UEFA qualified coach, that’s at least a UEFA B license coach, in the UK it’s mandated that each team has at least 1 level 1 FA coach, which is 2 levels below a UEFA B license, and works out at 1 coach per 15 or 16 kids. I can imagine some people saying how much smaller Iceland, with less players, so it’s easier to have more coaches per player. True, but the turnover of Iceland’s governing body, the KSI, was only £7m compared to the FA’s £318m for the same period.
Don’t get me wrong, the FA level 1 Coaching Award is a very, very good course to go on, but by it’s own admission it’s not there to teach you what to coach, it teaches you how to be a coach for young players. It focuses on how kids learn, on safeguarding and running a club. It’s very much an introduction to coaching and will not give you the skills to observe and guide technique, it covers nothing on tactics, formations, reading the game or anything you need to really improve players, it leaves them largely to pick the game up themselves.
The UK, at the last count, had just over 1500 coaches at UEFA A or Pro level, Italy had 2200, France had 3300, Germany 7000 and Spain a massive 15500! Is it any wonder with that many trained coaches they’ve found some good ones to coach their young players?
In the UK it would cost a coach £1200 to become a UEFA B coach (and nearly £4000 if they wanted to take the next step and get their UEFA A license) an astonishing amount for a volunteer to be expected to pay. Icelandic grassroots coaches, like coaches in the US, Iceland & Canada (and may other countries) are often paid for the time they commit to the club, rather than be volunteers
Once you have your basic coaching qualifications it can be difficult to progress any further. Having the qualifications is fine, but it’s only the start. A good coach will have a range of experience across multiple aspects of football, from junior to senior, disability football, womens' football, pub football, futsal, 5-a-side ... either professionally or as a grassroots coach.
Courses can be expensive for individuals, gaining experience at any level other than Sunday League is nigh on impossible, you can get a job with a local academy when you get your UEFA B (or level 2 if you’re lucky) award, but again that takes time & money and the jobs are of course the ones no-one else wants to do, Friday night at the centre of excellence that’s furthest away. I believe local clubs from the semi-pro level upward could benefit themselves and local coaches by sponsoring them to take the higher badges and then employing them afterwards to work with their own teams. It’s an easy solution to the problem of the cost and lack of coaches.
I’m a software consultant by trade, one of the most valuable things I do outside of actually working is “networking”, meeting and talking with other people who do the same job, other people who hire consultants like me. It’s a great way to stay up to date with what’s happening in the industry, but it’s also a great way to advertise yourself, get your name known. One of the best things about being a coach, in South Yorkshire at least, is the local Coaches Club and the CPD that they provide. It’s £10 a year and each month we get the opportunity to go and watch & learn from some of the top coaches in the professional game today. They travel the length and breadth of the country to come to Sheffield and show us sessions, ways of coaching, different formations and the basics of coaching them. It really is a fantastic resource and I urge any coach to go to as many of them as they can.
So there we go, I’ve put forward my thoughts on how to start fixing.