Grassroots Football Show – any good?

I went to the Grassroots Football Show on Friday and had intended to summarise the sessions I went to via individual write-ups on this blog but then I realised something, I’m terrible at writing up coaching sessions! So instead I’ve chosen to summarise the day, what I found enjoyable and what the key coaching points were for me.

One of the most challenging aspects of a visit to such a show is deciding just what you’re going to visit. There are four arenas where you can watch outfield coaching sessions, goalkeeper coaching sessions, Q&A sessions, skills sessions and in addition to this you have numerous stalls selling everything from socks and water bottles to floodlights and goals!

Anyway, the sessions…

Iain Dowie – Effective Defending (Zonal & Man-2-man marking)

Iain Dowie demonstrated how you could coach zonal or man-2-man marking to your team and went through each one in turn whilst also providing insight in to his preference and how he’d used them at his previous clubs. He started with man-2-man marking and covered positioning, who to place on the posts, key considerations for the defenders (e.g. height & distance on headers ),  alterations for inswinging or outswinging delivery and applied this to both corners and crosses from deeper.

After covering man-2-man he then moved on to zonal marking and went through all the same points as with man-2-man marking. Dowie also used the live observations from how the boys were doing in the drill to pick out certain points which helped keep the session flowing throughout.

Summary: A great start to the day and a very informative session, even though I only coach under 7s at the moment! From my experience as a player I learnt things on Friday that hadn’t ever been taught to me and took some fairly detailed notes that I’ll certainly use at some point. Dowie was great at explaining the session, demonstrating how you could use a bit of both systems if you wished and it was great to hear his insight in to what he felt about each way of defending along with how he’d used them at previous clubs (i.e. there were references to using Andy Carroll in the zonal system at Newcastle).

Tosh Farrell – Developing Coaching Style + Technique

Wow. If you ever get a chance to watch Tosh Farrell coach please don’t pass it up. This guy oozes enthusiasm and energy and it’s hugely inspiring. He put on a session using just a few people from the crowd and in 40 minutes he was able to use a simple 4-cone diamond setup to cover passing over short distance, communication (verbal & visual), turning, movement off the ball, timing of passes, overlapping and numerous others that I didn’t write down! And, most importantly, he did this with bags and bags of energy which had you itching to get on the training ground.

From watching him I found I gained two benefits.

  1. Session layout – Tosh used a very basic setup to deliver a session which enabled him to easily progress from very basic passing to a game which included a number technical & mental challenges, without ever needing to move a cone.
  2. Coaching style – The enthusiasm, positivity, friendliness and energy the man has is awesome and it makes you look at yourself and think, “am I all of those at all times?”. I’m sure I’ll refer back to his session whenever I’m in danger of losing a bit of positivity or energy.

Coaching confidence on the ball – Tom Bates & Ryan Byrne

Tom Bates (currently working at Birmingham City) delivered a session which would improve player confidence on the ball. Tom had his players demonstrate two different games and whilst the games were interesting (and I’ll certainly use them in the future) I found some of Tom’s points really interesting.

  1.  Don’t stop a session unless it’s truly broken. If it’s still gaining the benefits of what you want to achieve then let them continue to play.
  2. Furthermore, rather than going in and fixing it – can you nudge the players to work out what’s wrong themselves and fix it?
  3. Build the session so they understand the basics and then let them play. Once they’ve had some playing time, then step in and progress so you’re always gradually building to an end point where the game is at it’s most challenging/complex.

Tom’s hugely positive and as with Tosh you could see he had a real rapport with his players which no doubt builds trust & respect back toward him. Very different to some of the coaches & managers you see in youth football where you feel it’s more intimidation than rapport, trust or respect.

Tosh Farrell – Dealing with player & parent expectations

I found the talk from Tosh a bit strange if I’m honest. I think I expected him to work through a point by point list of how to set player and parent expectations but his content and delivery were different to what I’d expected. Tosh provided some background on where he’d come from and then spoke about his experience of working with young players and their parents. The key points I took from his talk were as follows:

  • The importance of ensuring that as a coach, your link with the parents are as strong as those with the player
  • Tosh works in 3-year periods with players where his objective is to “get the player as good as he can”
  • To develop good players they need to be part of  a program, i.e. know what your strengths are as a coach and what you can/cannot teach the player
  • As a coach, it’s absolutely key to keep the player’s best interests at heart
  • We need to manage pressure on young players because the expectation to perform can impact on a player’s enjoyment of the game

My Summary

For £4 I feel I’ve mugged the people who run Grassroots Live, that’s an absolute bargain for the amount of information I digested in one day. I guess the amount of value you gain depends on your experience in coaching, so perhaps the shows are more valuable for those who’re newer than those who’ve been in the game for years – I don’t know.

What I would say is that it’s well worth the visit if you can free the time, I’d have loved to have done more than 1 day. To get an opportunity to see top coaches, meet other grassroots coaches, check out some of the street soccer stands and look around all the stalls is a great way to spend a day and at £4, £8 or even £10 it’s an absolute steal.