Youth Award Module 2 Overview – Days 3 & 4

We completed the Youth Award Module 2 this weekend and it’s been great investment in terms of the time/money for the output and reward you get. We returned on Saturday after a week which had seemed to fly by (I literally felt we’d just finished Day 2 and we were already on to Day 3!) and initially we needed to re-visit what we felt we’d gained from the first couple of day.

I wrote this in my notes:

  • Practice Spectrum (Constant practice, Variable practice, Random practice)
  • Trade offs (What I am going to get a lot of in this session and what won’t I get a lot of)
  • Clear learning focus (all the time, what am I trying to teach these players?)
  • Repetition, Realism, Relevance – does each session hit these tags?

We then got in to discussions around the top 3 of these in order of people’s priorities to get a bit of debate and the grey matter working. It was great being able to take time out to discuss views and ideas both on our own table and with others at regular occasions on this course.

After a refresher we then started to look at what players require to progress through stages of development. What does a beginner need to get to intermediate? Intermediate to advanced? Advanced to top pro etc? There was some great discussion around this and we covered topics around ability, self-motivation, opportunity, support etc.

We then moved on to talk round other topics, Early Specialisation, Birth Bias, Early/Late developers which again through out some great points for us as coaches to consider, work with and take in to our own sessions.

There were some key messages around thinking about individuals within this course. There is no “I” in team but how are you working with certain in individuals in a practice? Could you design a practice just for the benefit of one player? Are there certain areas of the 4-corners where specific players need to be challenged or helped? So – as a coach you plan a session to help the group, but how do you ensure you cater for individuals within that too?

Today (Day 4) we’ve had to deliver a session as a pair but you also have to observe and evaluate someone else s session, the observation & evaluation is also a big part of the course. So we evaluated someone else s session first which was a good learning experience (i.e. what you spot versus what the tutor sports) and then we put our session on (U9/Grassroots, Playing out from the back). It’s a bit like level 2 in that you take part in all the other sessions and then at the end of the day there’s a bit of wrap-up, your books are signed and off you go to think about how you take all of these coaching tools you’ve been given and use them to the benefit of your players!


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.


Hopes & Aspirations for 2012

It’s only when you reflect back that you realise how quickly time passes. I first started coaching in Sept ’10 and we’re already in January ’12 and that’s felt like the blink of an eye!

As we head in to 2012 I’m primarily focussed on two developments – one being my Level 2 which I start in February and one being the Youth Award Module 2 which I’m going on in April. I’m trying not to rush through qualifications as I know experience is key but this is being balanced with a thirst to learn & improve!

Outside of the qualifications & courses I’m continuing to enjoy coaching our U8s and I think it’s even more rewarding now they’re playing matches as the things you teach them in training can be seen during a game. I’ll carry on coaching the U8s whilst also looking at outside opportunities to increase the amount of time each week I’m coaching and I’d also like to expand in to coaching at an older age group as we move toward the summer.

I hope that I can pass the Level 2 course and that’ll build my confidence and potentially open up other avenues but ultimately, if I’m allowing kids to enjoy their football, develop and do this in a safe environment then I’m achieving the main objective.

Good luck to your all and your teams in 2012.

Coaching Day 17: Skills corridor with goals

Tonight’s session

  • Energy levels: Medium
  • Concentration levels: Moderate
  • Behaviour: Poor
Joke’s aside – tonight was one of those sessions where an influential minority have the ability to bring down the group – and by bring down I mean influence the group to misbehave. Generally our squad of players are pretty good but tonight, for some reason, we had one of those nights where a higher than average number of players seemed either tired & grotty, fed-up or intent on mis-behaving and as a coach this provides you with challenges.
It’s a challenge to keep the group’s attention when you’re trying to explain the next game, it’s a challenge when you have to spend time encouraging or paying attention to players who’re mis-behaving (rather than helping to improve those who are paying attention) and it’s a challenge to try and prevent the player(s) from adversely influencing the rest of the group.
I’ve found that ignoring a player who’s mis-behaving works quite well in terms of stopping the other kids from being influenced by it. If that doesn’t work then I’ll try to find the trigger which snaps them out of it but if they aren’t listening then it’s off to sit on the side of the pitch (if behaving badly).
Anyway, to tonight’s session. Having worked on 1v1 last week I wanted to focus on ball work and skill development tonight so I’d been thinking about different sessions which I could try – using YouTube and blogs to also provide inspiration. In the end I decided to amend the skills corridor game from the Youth Award Module 1 and use that.
Following our usual warm-up routine we split the players in to two groups and I had a group of 8 to work with.
Setup (apologies for quality of image!)
  • The white cones set out the perimeter of the skills corridor
  • The players started behind the goal and would dribble in to the corridor (1)
  • I asked the player to try a trick or skill in the corridor (2) and then demonstrated a turn for them to try when they reached the third cone (3)
  • Once they’d performed a turn I asked them to try another skill or trick on the way back (4)  before shooting in to the goal
  • I then progressed the session by adding two cones (light blue) and asked them to try and skill and take it round those cones before shooting
  • Finally,  I added a defender (5) to operate in the area and asked the players to beat the defender with a skill before shooting
It worked quite well and the players were trying a number of different tricks and skills whilst in the corridor. Some points I made/observed during the session:
  • I encouraged and praised the skill or trick attempted, no matter how adventurous
  • Without thinking about it, the session progressed from unopposed to semi-opposed and opposed which felt quite natural
  • As some of the players started becoming a bit bored I added challenges and awarded double-points for completing the challenge. For example, I demonstrated moving the ball past a cone by rolling their foot over the ball and said they’d get double points if they could score a goal doing it. This meant they all wanted to score double points and reinvigorated the session.
The players surprised me with their inventiveness during the session and despite the usual requests of “when are we having a game” I felt it was a worthwhile exercise as you could the players improving as they progressed during the session. That is, for some player simple turns were becoming more effective whilst others were doing turns with more speed.
I’ll continue to focus on 1v1 and ball mastery in the coming weeks but would welcome any ideas or suggestions for sessions which cover these competencies at this age-group (under 8).

Coaching Day 15: Whiteboard unleashed

Tonight’s session went pretty well and I’m pleased with that because it was the first session I’ve been at since completing Youth Award Module 1 and it also saw me using a whiteboard at training for the first time!

Due to being away I hadn’t had a chance to implement some of the things I’d learnt from the Youth Award and I was keen to trial a couple of the games which the course introduces.

Session Plan

I’d planned my session out in advance and had it printed and folded inside my sock for reference. After watching the tournament on Saturday I’d decided I wanted to work on the players technique and ultimately, allow them to become comfortable with the ball at their feet which is what tonight’s session focussed on.

The plan:

  • Warm up (Phil our manager took this whilst I set up the parts I wanted to run)
  • The Great Escape (Youth Award Module 1)
  • The Skills Corridor (Youth Award Module 1)
  • Work on turning with instep, outside of foot etc
  • SSG – 4 v4

How it went?

The Great Escape

I used the board to demonstrate the game and started with the players simply trying to run past the guards. I then progressed this by asking them to run backwards through the gates before introducing a ball. Once the ball was introduced we allowed them to focus on getting through the gate normally before progressing it to award “2 point” for going through with a skill or trick. This game went pretty well, although it wasn’t as clean as the demo in the YAM DVD by any stretch of the imagination – I was worried at one point that it looked like organised chaos but I remembered what Tom Bates said at the Grassroots Demo so I allowed it to continue rather than stop it). I think most of the players enjoyed the game and we had fun hearing how many points the players had scored  – one boy doing particularly well by scoring a thousand million points (credit where it’s due!).

Skills Corridor

I really saw the value in the whiteboard when I drew what we’d be doing for the skills corridor game because the players all sat around me as I drew it out with the whiteboard on the floor. They started to ask questions and probe about what they could do with the football which was fantastic. I started by simply asking them to take as many touches as possible before progressing the game to them needing to visit the sides three times (and trying different turns) before finally doing start-stop-start-stop with a change of direction.

As with ‘The Great Escape’ it wasn’t always neat & tidy but the players were trying step-overs and a variety of turns which Phil & I were quick to encourage & praise. As with the previous game it was also important that it provided more time where they’re dribbling with the ball, keeping it away from other players and trying new skills. At one point I had 3 players asking me to demonstrate a step-over which was great fun.


I didn’t do this as I felt the above two had provided more than enough time on their technique, we were running out of time and they were itching for a game.


Rather than finishing with one big game I setup two pitches and we played 2 x 4 v 4 SSGs with the teams swapping over at 5-7 minute intervals. I wanted to do this so that each player had more time on the ball and encouraged them to try the skills they’d practised earlier in the session. It was great that one parent who helped us said he really preferred 4v4 as it allowed “them all to be someone”, I think that’s a great statement.

What will I change next time?

  • The whiteboard was really powerful and it was most effective when the players were all sat down. When I progressed a couple of the games they were standing up which meant some of them weren’t paying attention. I think in future (during the summer at least) I’ll ask them to sit down whilst I explain any progression so I can ensure they all understand what we’re doing.
  • Make the skills corridor a bit bigger – slight adjustment but it was probably a bit too short tonight which meant it got a bit crowded as they all piled in at one point. Not a big problem but a larger area will increase their space and allow them more opportunity to try new skills.

So, overall I was pleased with the session and felt it had the right balance of ball-work and game-time. A couple of the players didn’t enjoy the Youth Award parts but I’m less inclined to worry about that (although it does play on you at the time) because the majority enjoyed them.

As we packed away at the end a passer-by commented that our session had looked quite professional and that her son would like to join in next time, it’s amazing what a few cones do!

Youth Award Module – Days 3 & 4

Day 3

The third day of the Youth Award Module 1 course followed a similar trend to the previous day, with ample opportunity to reflect on what we’ve already learnt, digest new content and learn some new games out on the field. It also provides me, and I’m sure I’m not alone, with several instances during the day where I’ve drifted off in thought to consider how what I’ve just learnt applies to the under 7s I coach.

We start with a recap of Day 2 and then head in to a section looking at self-esteem – what it is, what it means and why it’s important that coaches carefully consider it during our sessions & matches. After this we head out doors and cover three new games which focus on passing & shooting, all very enjoyable and played in glorious sunshine. Once the practical’s out of the way we take lunch and as with all four days, the conversation is made up entirely of coaching & football in general (my kind of lunch!) before we head back in to the classroom to look at managing mistakes. The Managing Mistakes section of the course asks the coach to consider what a mistake is, why it happens and how we respond to it. Finally, we look at managing difference in the social corner.

Day 4

By Day 4 we’d covered most of the theoretical content (as planned) and we were split in to groups of 3 and asked to create a 20 minute session which implemented some of the key themes we’d learnt across the previous 3 days. We were given around an hour to plan & create our session before we then headed outside and our 5 groups carried out their sessions. There’s no assessment on the Module 1 course but you do receive feedback from the group and the trainer once you’ve completed your session. I’ll summarise what our group did in a separate post.

Once all the groups had completed their sessions, and there were some fantastic sessions put on, we headed inside to do a final session on managing difference in the psychological corner and then we were complete.

For me, this course was incredibly valuable and I’d happily recommend it to anyone, no matter how long they might have been in the game.

The key learning points I took from this course were as follows:

  • The large number of factors that can affect a child’s social maturity, development and mood
  • An appreciation for the ways in which a child can vary in the context of the four-corners
  • A new found understanding and awareness of the importance of appropriately handling a child’s motivation, self-esteem and confidence
  • Awareness of new games
  • Techniques and ideas for managing the different levels of playing ability within a session

Where next? Our trainer Tessa Payne, advised that there’s not too much difference between taking Level 2 or Module 2 next so I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for either course and I’d like to take them before the end of the calendar year.

Youth Award Module Level 1 – Day 2

Today’s been a good day and the course has featured a mixture of yet more insightful content, new games and interesting discussion with other coaches on the course. It’s also had the added benefit that I went straight from the course to coaching our Under 7s which gave me a chance to put something that I’ve learnt over the past two days in to practice.

So, what does day 2 of the Youth Award Module 1 look like?

We started, as most courses do, with a recap of the previous day to see what we’d remembered and what had stood out. For me, it was the following:

  • The number of background factors which contribute to a child’s social maturity / development
  • The different learning styles (specifically, examples of how to use them)
  • Developing an understanding of managing difference

Once we’d completed this recap work we then moved on to a section about motivation, which included some group work, theory & videos. Essentially, this is ensuring that we as coaches understand that children play almost entirely for enjoyment and to play with their friends so it’s key that coaches are making sure we’re providing training sessions which are fun.

Then, both before & after lunch we looked at some new games which focussed on passing and dribbling, yet much more importantly for me it helped look at ways in which a coach can “manage difference”. And by that I mean thinking of ways to make the game easier for some and more difficult to others whilst keeping the session moving.

We finished the day with a session on managing technical difference and here we largely focussed on the STEP principle which is a tool that coaches can use to help alter the difficulty of a game.

  • S – Space (Make an area larger/smaller, change its shape)
  • T – Tasks (Provide challenges to players, or give them tasks which make the game simpler for them)
  • E – Equipment (Add balls, remove balls, use of bibs etc)
  • P – People (Increasing/Decreasing team sizes to make games easier/harder)

So in summary, another useful day although I am slightly weary having been in the sun all day (careful what you wish for!). The games were good but I’m not sure how they’ll work given the size of the group we have – something for me to consider.


When I got to training tonight I didn’t try any of the games but one thing I did apply was something I’d seen a coach do during a video clip, and that’s to throw questions in to a group of players. I had a group of 8 players and set-up a 4v4 SSG where the only rule was that each player needed to touch the ball once before their team could score. After letting them play for 5-10 minutes there had only been one goal so I got them together and asked them to go away in their teams and discuss what they could do to answer my following question, “What can you do to score more goals?”. When I went back in to talk with each team it was fascinating to find that both had come up with the same solution – to keep players wide and try to keep to a formation. In order to increase their chances of success I made the pitch wider and got them back playing again (and they went on to score a couple of goals between them).

I was surprised how receptive they were to the question and my only real challenge was getting them to stop discussing the possible answers 🙂 We got together for a quick chat at the end and I asked the players if they’d subsequently found it easier to score and they confirmed what I suspected would happen – it had been easier because they had more space which made it easier for them to get their passes in and create a shooting opportunity.

It always feels good when you’re able to apply something you’ve learnt on a course to a training session and it makes you keen to get back to training with the children as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we’ve got a game next week instead of training (which is great), but I’m then in India for 6 weeks with work so it’ll be June before I can apply more of this new found understanding!