Are the FA missing a trick?

On Thursday, 9th December 2010 the FA held their Future Game conference at Wembley Stadium. The ultimate objective for the day was the launch of the FA’s new manual for grassroots coaching called “The Future Game, Grassroots Guide to Coaching”, but the day also provided the 600 coaches who attended a chance to listen to people such as Capello, Allardyce & Stuart Pearce talk about youth development as well as being able to watch some of the FA’s top coaches performing sessions.

Whilst I and everyone else coaching at a grassroots level applaud the FA (Ed – happy to be contradicted on this one!) for their empathy with grassroots coaches and the need to improve coaching at that level, I can’t help but think they’re missing a trick. Yes, it’s been well documented that England is far behind other European nations when it comes to raw numbers of qualified coaches at various levels and it is fair to say that the FA are ploughing lots of money in to correcting the situation. However, I wonder if they’re spending their money wisely?

I have a perception that the FA appear to have a limitless amount of money at their disposal and I fully expect the new coaching manual (which I’ve just ordered) will have all the bells & whistles and will have been put together at a high quality. I also expect that the Future Game conference wasn’t cheap and neither have any of the other FA youth development initiatives launched in recent years. But, whilst the FA provide excellent launches and they provide manuals and other readable information, aren’t they missing an opportunity to mentor and assist coaches on a more direct level?

Case in point – I passed my Level 1 qualification in August and made a clear intention to progress within coaching at a grassroots level, which presumably makes me someone who the FA are really keen to help given their focus on improving grassroots coaching. However, since passing the course I’ve heard nothing from the FA and instead will have to find my own material online, find my own mentor and plan my own route through the coaching badges. Is this right? I’m not sure.

I understand that it wouldn’t be realistic for the FA to monitor or mentor every coach working in grassroots level. So how about this as a proposal?

  • The FA ask each Charter Standard club to appoint a ‘Coach Development Rep’.
  • The Coach Development Rep would be an experienced coach.
  • The FA would have at least one county rep responsible for coach development within their county set-up.
  • The Coach Development Rep provides a point of contact, advice or assistance for the club’s coaches & helps them plan their progression through the badges (if desired).
  • The Coach Development Rep & County Development Rep liaise to discuss available courses, best practice, environments & advice etc

There are some really good examples of clubs doing this anyway but not all will be taking the initiative and I believe implementing something like this would solve two immediate issues:

  • It’d ensure coaches have a local mentor, someone who can provide regular help & support.
  • It’d ensure coaches with potential are actively developed (where desired), for the best interests of the game.

I worry that we could lose good coaches because we’re not providing them with the appropriate levels of support. Coaching isn’t easy, let alone being a coach/manager/kit man/parent and so whilst we worry about ensuring our kids are having fun and are well supported we may be losing good coaches because they’re not being supported either.

If the FA want to improve the level of coaching at a grassroots level then they must also invest in existing coaches and ensure we don’t allow good coaches to become frustrated or disinterested in the game or in coaching through a lack of support – support & help that cannot be provided through new manuals…

Disclaimer: I’m fully behind what the FA are doing and therefore am not intending to actively criticise the FA in this article.


About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

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