5 coaching blogs you should be reading

Being a writer of a blog myself it’s only natural that I’m a keen follower of what other coaches write and with that in mind I wanted to share 5 blogs which I think any coach should be reading write now.

Mike Trusson’s Grassroots Coaching Blog 

I think this is a fantastic blog, especially for those who are just starting out. Mike’s blog covers a range of different games which you learn across a variety of FA courses but what makes this blog stand out is the excellent way in which Mike explains progressions and includes a video demonstration with an audio description. A great resource.

Dan Wright’s Football Coaching ideas, Concepts & Sessions 

Dan’s blog is another great resource which is full of coaching ideas. I’ve tried plenty of Dan’s ideas & games in my own sessions and he’s not just reciting the FA’s material, he’s coming up with new ideas. An excellent blog which will get you thinking about how you can adapt different games to suit your team or age group.

Pavl Williams Better Football 

Pavl’s blog has always been full of insightful coaching material and session ideas but he’s just recently added a podcast in which he interviews Gareth Southgate and the FA’s Nick Levett on the topic of youth development in the UK. I know Pavl is looking to add to that initial podcast and I think that’s a great reason to keep tabs on this website.

Chris Gooch’s Quest to Coach Blog 

If you harbour ambitions of coaching professionally then this is a blog you’ll both love and completely empathise with. Chris is working hard towards his ambition of coaching on a professional level and this blog is a living diary of his progress towards that most ultimate of goals. However, in addition to his story the blog also contains some excellent material around sessions and ideas which he’s tried or implemented and that makes this an essential read.

Hugo Langton’s ‘Langton Coaching’ blog 

My final blog recommendation is for a site which is very new to the coaching blogosphere but I think it’s definitely one to keep an eye on. Hugo’s got tons of coaching experience at both a youth & adult level and he’s started this blog to “discuss and debate football coaching issues”. The first two posts have been really interesting and I certainly think it’s a blog which is going to contain lots of strong opinion and very valuable advice as it evolves.

Coaching influences

I was having a conversation on Twitter yesterday with football writer Mohamed Moallim and we were talking about the promise shown by Frank de Boer at Ajax and how he’d served a great apprenticeship at the club, one which had given him every opportunity of succeeding when he got the #1 job at the Amsterdam club. Whilst have this conversation it reminded how important it is for coaches to gain exposure to as many different coaches as they can during their early development.

When I was starting out this time last year the first piece of advice I was given was to work with as many different coaches as possible. I haven’t been able to do it this season but next year I’m certainly hoping to work with or observe a number of different and more experienced coaches.

Mohamed was explaining how Frank de Boer had learnt a great deal about coaching and management from Louis van Gaal, a manager who Jose Mourinho also credits for some of his development. Apparently the way in which De Boer prepares for games is exactly how LvG did, whilst Mourinho claims it was Van Gaal who taught him a great deal about coaching & training.

When you read or listen to interviews with today’s (or even yesterday’s) top managers you will often find reference to those who they either played under or worked with. Guardiola is influenced by Cruyff, Mourinho credits Bobby Robson for developing his man management skills and Louis Van Gaal for understanding how to coach. The way Carlo Ancelloti writes up his tactics pre-match is identical to that of Arrigo Sachi and on a more national level Martin O’Neill will talk to anyone about the man-management skills he learnt from Brian Clough.

No two coaches mention the same attribute, everything from man-management, to motivation, to tactics and match preparation is mentioned so it explains exactly why young/new coaches will benefit from working with those who have more experience.

Opportunities to work with other coaches don’t land on your door step and so as a coach, at any level, you have to go out and make it happen. I’ve already mentioned to the club I work with that I’d like to do some additional coaching with another age group next year so I’m hoping that will help me continue to improve & develop. I’m also going to try to see if I can sneak in at somewhere like Oxford Utd and watch their academy coaches working. Anything which will give me new ideas and understand more about coaching at a youth level.

I hope that in future blogs I’ll be able to detail what I’ve learnt from different coaches but in the mean time I’d be fascinated to hear any examples from you – who inspired you? Who did you learn the most from? How did you gain that exposure or experience?

Empty Your Cup

In recent weeks or months I’ve noticed there are pockets of cynicism directed towards the FA’s coaching program and although I guess it’s to be expected I find it a little disappointing. I’m too new to coaching to know what preceded the current program, or in fact, how long this program has been in place but I get the feeling that there’s a population of coaches who perhaps don’t feel that these courses can teach them anything or even worse, that the FA are just looking to make a few quid from these qualifications.

I find it disappointing because I’ve found both the courses I’ve been on hugely enjoyable and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I think getting in to coaching, especially youth coaching, makes you realise how little you actually know and if you want to develop then it’s important you open yourself up to this, although it can be daunting. To put it in Rumsfeld terms, getting involved in coaching has highlighted a whole host of unknown unknowns for me!

I guess when you see the cynicism and add it to the worrying (albeit anecdotal) stories you hear about the views coming out of certain professional academies it makes you realise what a big job this country has on its hands if we’re to develop a set of common values amongst coaches at all levels. One can’t help but wonder if it’ll actually take a gradual evolution to remove this obsession with winning, the preference of big physical athletes over smaller players with better technical ability and the use of drills in youth football.

In the mean time, I’ll continue to promote the value I see in the FA courses I’ve attended (which I’ve actively done already to those who seem a little cynical) and share this cool proverb which I received via email this week. I thing it suits the tone of this post quite nicely 🙂

Empty Your Cup

A master was trying to explain something to a student. Now this student was not a ‘brand new’ student, but a senior student who had learned many things. He had knowledge and experience aplenty to draw upon. But each time the master tried to explain something new to the student, the student kept trying to hold it up against his own notions of the way the world is and how it ought be, and he was unable to see the lessons in what the master was trying to teach him.

Finally, the master poured a full serving of tea into his own cup, and into the cup of the student. Then he told the student he wanted to give to him some of the tea from his own cup. He began pouring tea from his cup into the student’s cup, but the student’s cup was already full, and all the tea from the master’s cup spilled out over the cup onto the surface below.

The student said, “Master, you can’t pour anything into my cup until I empty it to make room for what you are trying to give me.”, and the master replied “Yes I know.” “And I can’t give you any new thoughts or ideas or perspectives on life’s lessons until you clear out some thoughts that are already teeming in your mind to make room for what I have to teach you.” Then the master paused for a brief moment, meeting the student’s eyes with his own knowing look and calmly but sternly said: ” If you truly seek understanding, then first, empty your cup!”

The student pondered for a moment with a look of absolute bewilderment. Then a look of enlightenment came over him, followed by a smile, and a look of receptiveness. The master started to explain again, and this time the student saw what the master was trying to say.

Finally, it’d be great to hear if you come across similar views within your clubs?

Podcast: 9 months in & advice for a new coach

I thought I’d jump on the podcast bandwagon by doing one of my own. It’s a brief commentary on my first year in football coaching and some advice for anyone who’s thinking of getting involved.

Would appreciate feedback, i.e. let me know if I should start and end my podcast career here 🙂


Coach Development: Decision Making

When I stepped in to the world of football coaching around a year ago I remember one of the pieces advice I heard was regarding the importance of decision making in a child’s development and it’s something which I keep at the forefront of my conscience when delivering training sessions to the U7s I work with.

What also makes this interest for me, and perhaps why it stays with me, is because I work for an education company. I don’t work directly in educational establishments but my line of work does give me exposure to some of the topics being discussed within the education sector and quite often you hear stuff which takes you back to your football coaching.

Today was a good example of that. I happened to stumble upon a blog which is written by a primary school in the UK. The school were blogging about a new piece of hardware and in what was presumably a message to parents they wrote the following…

we have always believe that the children have the choice. Whatever we are doing in class, we provide the children with the task and give them options to complete it. This philosophy allows children to push themselves by trying to use new tools or equipment. As an example let us look at an art session. The children are given the choice to colour in a piece of blank paper. In a class of 30, 12 of them choose felt tips, 9 choose colour pencils, 5 choose wax crayons and the final 4 decide to use paint.

What has this got to do with technology? At [the school] we believe the same applies to ICT. As a school we provide Windows, Apple and Linux technology for the children to use. Teaching the children about the range of platforms available, and giving them experience of them is key to providing the children with the skills they need in the 21st century. These are not just ICT skills but it also allows them to make choices of the consumers of tomorrow.

I find it incredibly interesting thinking about decision making within the context of football because even in a small sided game, we’re asking kids of all ages to makes tens or hundreds of decisions on a frequent basis and that’s even without the instructions we (or tens of parents) could be providing them with.

I think from what I’ve seen in my short time coaching is that some coaches are acutely away of the need to allow young footballers to make their own decisions and come up with their own solutions but others aren’t and this should perhaps be an area that requires more focus.

What also strikes me is how much we as football coaches could learn from the education industry, they’re essentially the same thing. Do other coaches read up on teaching techniques and theories or is this a relatively untapped area from within football circles?