Coaching Under 13s

I was given the opportunity to coach our club’s Under 13s on Tuesday night so I took up the chance as I knew it’d be a useful exercise for me as a coach, primarily as it was my first session outside of the Under 9s since passing my L2 in May. The guy who I’d covered for had performed a session on support play the week before so I carried on the theme and did a slightly different session on support play.

I have to say, it was a really positive experience. Under 13s are an easier group to coach than the U9s and are a lot more “coachable” in certain respects. It’s a great age to apply the L2 syllabus and because of this it won’t be the last time I coach this team.

There are obvious differences between the age groups and I’m looking forward to doing more sessions with U13s and REALLY understanding what it’s like to coach this age group. It’ll also allow me to embed what I learnt on the L2 course, something which isn’t possible with U9s.

Since I started with the U9s (then U7s) it’s been almost continued focus on 1v1, 2v1, dribbling, ball manipulation whereas this group of U13s were largely pretty comfortable on the ball and therefore you could really work on some of the principles of play which is great for me as I learn & develop.

I’ll use this blog as always to keep you updated with how things go and any learning points I think are worth sharing.


FA Level 2 Coaching Certificate

The FA Level 2 in Football CoachingOn Sunday I passed the Level 2 Coaching Certificate and I have to say I’m mightily pleased about it too! It’s a course I’ve wanted to do from the outset because I’d already heard that it’s a step up in terms of technical knowledge and it’s also a course which I think is recognised as a minimum requirement by a lot of football establishments.

The course began in February in sub-zero conditions on a frozen pitch and ended this weekend in near 30C heat so the contrast in weather conditions pretty much matched the transformation in the coaching capabilities of the 16 delegates across the 4 month period!

I have thoroughly enjoyed the course; I’ve enjoyed it’s content, the way it was delivered, the people who attended the course with me and the new knowledge it’s given me – both on a footballing and coaching level.

It is (as many will tell you) a significant step up from Level 1, so you can see why some people drop out during the course. Overall though, it’s a course which is giving you the tools to deliver a better coaching session than you will no doubt have previously been capable of delivering. One of the key essences of the course is important – each evaluation check-list asks, “(The candidate should) demonstrate an ability to improve the performance of individuals and the group”, which is getting down to the nuts and bolts of what a football coach is there to do and that’s a consideration I’ll take with me in to every future session.

I’ve learnt about parts of football I’d never previously been taught (despite fancying myself as a player I’ve never actually had any level of decent training!); support, balance, cover, 1-2-1 defending techniques, receiving, switching play etc. And also how to develop a session so it enables players to practice their individual technique before progressing it (without major changes to area and setup) to a skill-based practice and then a SSG – all fantastic stuff.

Upon passing you’re left with a decision to make – where do you go from here? I already knew, I think. For me it’s now a time to embed what I’ve learnt over the last 4 months and develop my confidence in my ability to deliver successful sessions across all of the topics covered – I want to work really hard at that. I also want to progress further along the Youth Award Modules and in a few years I might then think about the UEFA B, but I have a lot more learning and experience to gain now which is the main aim really, build more experiences, learn, develop.

FA Level 2 and Under 8s

Last week was an interesting week from a coaching perspective as the two Under 8 sessions I had were the first I’d run following my participation on the first week of the FA’s Level 2 course. Of course, when I say “interesting” what I really mean is I felt there were some highs & lows.

The session I ran on Tuesday went pretty well I felt. I had 8 players which is a great number to work with and we did a game of tag to warm up (with footballs) before I worked with them on their dribbling (using L2 coaching points) before progressing in to an SSG with 4 goals and finishing with a game.

The smaller number of players makes it easier to gain everyone’s concentration for the 30 seconds I needed to get a point across or progress the session. I progressed the dribbling work we did in to a SSG with 4 goals (two at each end) as I felt that gave the dribblers more opportunity to succeed as there are multiple targets. This seemed to work well and also saw a couple of the players demonstrate a good awareness of space by taking up a un-marked wide position.

The session as a whole went pretty well but once you’re in to an SSG at U8 level I think it becomes quite difficult to stop the session (to praise/correct) because the kids just want to play and it’s one of the areas of the L2 syllabus which I think is quite difficult to apply to this age group. With that in mind, I only stopped the session once to positively praise something which I was really happy with.

The other part of the L2 syllabus which I think is hard to apply at U8 is that of recreation, e.g. getting a player to try or practice something before resuming the session. Having been on the Youth Award Module 1 I was very aware of the impact this may have on self-esteem so I avoided opportunities to help a player correct what they were doing wrong if I could see they were reluctant to do so in front of the group.

The second session I took last week was supposed to be the first Level 2 practice session I needed to run in between our course and our next catch up day. I planned a session around dribbling and had parts where I included the whole group (18 players) and parts where we split the group up (albeit doing the same exercise) and I don’t think this session worked particularly well.


  • Firstly, 18 (Under 8s) is far too big a group to do any kind of Q&A or guided introduction of coaching points.
  • Secondly, the area we had to work with (we’re on an astro pitch which is essentially 2 x tennis courts) wasn’t big enough to allow success in one of the exercises.

However, I did still feel there were benefits to the session. The warm up we did meant each player had LOTS of touches and they were constantly having to dribble in different directions and were frequently turning. The game I progressed to also had lots of decision making and dribbling but I think there are better ways of doing it in the future.

The week’s demonstrated to me that I need to work with a smaller group if I’m to effectively practice my Level 2 understanding and I also need to alter sessions & games so that a) the information is relevant to the age group and b) the practice is still fun and ultimately, a game.

Any coach will empathise with how you feel when you know a session hasn’t gone well but as per some of the great advice I had on Twitter last week, it’s given me an opportunity to learn & re-plan for this week with that experience behind me.

The Level 2 syllabus IS difficult to apply to an under 8s team but I’m confident that with some tweaking it can be applied to benefit the players (main priority) as well as my progression toward passing my Level 2.


FA Level 2: Day 6 Summary

Today was our final day together as a group before we head off to embed what we’ve learnt over the last 6 days and we finished early which was presumably recognition of the fact that neither our bodies or brains could take any more!

The final day has been quite interesting because in one sense you’ve just come to the end of a journey but then when your tutor talks you through what you now need to go and do you realise you’re actually just beginning.

Today has really just been about the final few coaches running through their SSGs, a bit of admin/paperwork and then the expectation setting from the tutor ahead of the next assessment day in mid-March. It’s at this point where (if you haven’t done your L2) you’ll be wondering what tasks we’ve been given to take away so to cure your curiosity here’s the gist:

  • 4 x 1hr sessions on a particular theme (e.g. Passing) where focus should be on delivering a technical practice, skill practice, SSG and one other session linked to that theme.
  • We also have around 4 tasks to compete in our folders. To give examples, one is on nutrition and another is about laws of the game.
  • Each session we do between now and the final assessment needs a witness who will provide a name & number to verify you actually performed the session.
  • After our catch-up day in March we’ll then need to complete a further 8 practices (of any topic) before our final assessment in May.

So despite sounding cheesy the hard work really does start now and we need to make sure we take what we’ve learnt in to our next sessions – something which is even tougher for those who aren’t linked to clubs already!


I’ve learnt a ton of stuff about football this week and at some point I’ll summarise what I’ve learnt in another blog but for now that’s the conclusion to 6 days of L2 summaries! I very much hope this might have inspired other coaches to invest the time and effort in to doing their level 2.

FA Level 2: Day 5 Summary

 Another testing day today as we had to put on our small-sided-games and with real emphasis on our understanding of technical points and the coaching process. As with Tuesday, everybody put on a good session and I think everyone succeeded in improving & affecting the quality of both the individual and group during the session (although I had an AP on this).

I’d been given “Deep Defending” which I’d planned last night with some support from the coaches on Twitter but I was nervous about the session as it hadn’t been demonstrated by our tutor during the course.

I was on in the afternoon and the session went as follows:

  • I’d laid out a pitch which was too small (35 x 20) so the tutor asked me early on to adjust it and it was adjusted to something like 45 x 30. I think I’d made it on the small side to allow some success for the defending team (my focus) but the size prohibited any chance to play I behind which was one of they key coaching points.
  • I’d used two cones on the side of the pitch to represent an offside line of sorts and that was the area I wanted my two CB defenders to protect but the tutor then suggested I place a number of cones across the pitch to better represent and identify the zone which we wanted the defending team to protect.
  • This adjustment meant that we were actually asking the defending team to play a high line and press higher up the pitch so I think the topic could be better worded; if not to help the defending team better understand their objective.
  • Other than the adjustments my feedback was pretty positive and I had two action points. These were:
  1. Ensuring the size of the pitch is appropriate to the session
  2. Ensuring I also affect players off the ball and thinking about how I demonstrate where they could be (e.g. Q&A, self-correct or demonstrate myself).

It was a fairly difficult session to put on but obviously the point is to experiment and to learn, both of which have been achieved this afternoon.


My football knowledge has improved incredibly in the last 5 days and it’s changed the way I watch a game of football – be that an SSG or match on the TV.


Our 6th and final day tomorrow, then starts the work to embed what we’ve learnt.

FA Level 2: Day 4 Summary

With weary legs and bodies in abundance this morning we cracked on with Day 4 of our Level 2 course! The first two days were focussed on the transition from a “technical” to a “skills” practice and we then put this in to action on Tuesday when each coach ran a 15-20 minute session. Today we altered focus slightly as we started to look at SSGs – both in isolation and we saw an example of taking a topic from technical > skill > SSG.

Our day began with a look at session evaluation and self-reflection, e.g. which components of a coaching session should be evaluated?

  • Session organisation
  • Safety
  • Coaching technique / style
  • Were the coaching points delivered?
  • Did the coach improve the performance of an individual & the group?

We also looked at the types of people who we could use for feedback on our coaching or sessions, e.g.

  • Coaches
  • Parents
  • Players

On the topic of feedback – I’m hoping to use one of the Level 2 coaches at our club to observe some of my sessions so that he can provide feedback based on an awareness of the L2 syllabus.

After this in-class work we then went outside and slowly found the energy to compete in a number of sessions. This morning we looked at:

  • Dribbling (Technical > Skill)
  • Heading (Technical > Skill)

This afternoon we looked at:

  • Finishing (Technical > Skill > SSG)
  • Defending when outnumbered (SSG)
  • Ball control (SSG)

Some of the key points we’ve seen / learnt today are:

  • Ensuring you continue to cover all CPs during the session (e.g. not just focussing on the one you last introduced)
  • Use of target men/floaters during an SSG to add an alternate dimension (or achieve an objective)
  • The importance of any supporting players getting the practice right (to prevent your practice breaking down)
  • Alterations to increase success during a session
  • Transition from Technical to Skill to SSG

I’m sure there’s more but I’m out of thinking capacity now! Still finding it thoroughly enjoyable and the people are helping – all very open & supportive of each other (as with L1 and YAM1 really).

More tomorrow as I’ll have done my next session, a SSG on “Defending Deep” – eck!

FA Level 2: Day 3 Summary

Day 3 was always going to be a tough day, both physically and mentally. Physically because we’ve gone through 18 x 15-minute sessions and mentally because you arrive a little nervous about your session and you then put on the session which means you’re thinking about your set up, you want to deliver your coaching points, allow good time for the skills practice and also apply the coaching cycle in there somewhere as well!

As we spent the whole day doing practical work there isn’t a great amount of detail to go in to. My session was around Receiving Priorities and I used a session found via the #coachesbible on Twitter. The session went fairly well (in my opinion and the action points I took away from the tutor were:

  • Observe player performance in greater detail. I.e. I’d allowed a player to turn without touching the ball when my coaching point was to take a touch. I could then have gone in and corrected it for the player whilst allowing the remainder of the session to continue.
  • Could I use more Q&A? Not an AP as such but a question which was added to my comments & feedback.

I can look to address these action points on Thursday when we do it all again whilst ensuring I continue to work on the positive areas he’d identified across my session.

I’m now off to fuel myself with as much carbohydrate as I can possibly manage as we’re back at it again tomorrow with attacking sessions & SSGs!

FA Level 2: Day 2 Summary

I’ve just completed day 2 of the FA Level 2 course and I’m shattered if the truth be told. We’ve spent another day digesting a wealth of information whilst also taking part in the physical aspects of the course and doing some in-class work. However, it’s been another fun day and this is a course which certainly quenches any thirst for football or coaching knowledge.

Day 2 went as follows:

  • We began by revisiting long term player development and used the 4-corners to look at a couple of scenarios focused on U9 and U13 players. A useful activity and you start to see a variety of responses depending on who has or hasn’t started taking their youth award modules.
  • We then had an exercise to start thinking about session plans and the content you need to put in these. As with all of the other course tasks this was completed by each table/group and was very inclusive of everyone.
  • Next we had a break and headed outside to see a session on ball control/receiving priorities. As with yesterday any coaches who weren’t taking part were given a chance to introduce a coaching point if they wanted so I took an opportunity to do so.
  • After lunch it was straight back outside to look at defending (1v1, 2v2 & 3v3), a SSG where the focus was on coaching a team defending and then a dribbling session. The tutor had asked for 3 volunteers to run the final session which I got involved with, although our success was fairly limited as we didn’t have time to digest the session plan. I was keen to get involved in this session delivery today as it reduces the chance of nerves tomorrow!
  • We completed the day by reviewing coaching styles (Youth Award Mod 1) and receiving our sessions for tomorrow. I’ve been given “receiving priorities” so I’ve planned that tonight and will see how it goes tomorrow. Hopefully I can put the 1,000 thoughts about what you can or should be doing to one side and keep things simple – focussing on delivery of the coaching points and using the coaching cycle.

So, busy, lots to take in, physically tiring and a bit of nerves/pressure but it wouldn’t be fun any other way would it? 🙂

I’ll hopefully get a summary of day 3 up tomorrow night.

FA Level 2: Day 1 Summary

 I’m doing the first six days of the FA’s Level 2 football coaching course this week and so I thought i’d write a brief summary of each day via this blog as I know the content we cover will be too vast to summarise in a single blog at the end of these 6 days.

So, what does day 1 entail?

  • As with other courses you start with the introduction from the coach and then do some activities which get you talking to the remainder of the group
  • We then did a few tasks in the classroom, such as defining the qualities and skills of a coach. You also write down your own goals for the course – mine was too learn more about the technical aspects of coaching and simply deliver a better quality of football education to the boys & girls I coach.
  • We were also asked to define the principles of play which was then expanded to the principles of football which got people in to thinking about themes which are topics within the coaching content of this course.
  • Following a break we went outside to look at somme,practical sessions. We looked at a warm-up where we were coached on having minimal interaction with the players and did what was a “Level 2 warm-up”.
  • Next we covered short passing and this was where we were introduced to the coaching cycle – Observe, See Fault, Coach & Correct, Recreate & Play. The principle is straight forward and the key for me seems to be picking the correct opportunity to step in and knowing what outcome you expected or what you could have the player improve.
  • After lunch we covered a long passing session and then a turning session. As well as the coaching cycle we also looked at progression from a “technical” to “skill” practice plus use of demonstration and self-correction when coaching the point or “fault”.

As with all FA courses you’re flooded with information and you have to ensure you keep your focus on the coaching, not the football, during the practical sessions.


Today’s been good fun and I’m already learning – if you’re thirsty for football and coaching knowledge the you’re going to enjoy level 2. Tomorrow is more learning and then on Tuesday we have our first go and running a 15 minute session on our own.


I’ll be back with another summary tomorrow night.