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PunkStep

STICK IT IN THE MIXER- A Coaching Thread

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So, about a year or so ago I started to consider getting into youth football coaching, as my 6yo (now 7) son started training with one of the local teams. At the time, @tiger_rick and @Scott Malbranquedid their utmost to put me off by sharing stories about parents being massive wankers and whatnot. I took that on board and watched intently from the touchlines during the summer as my son started to play friendly matches for his new team.

The coach, which I did not realise at the time as you couldn't tell, was doing this for the first time. He had coached the development squad for several months before being asked to set up a new under-7s side featuring his son for the upcoming season. After a summer of friendlies and a mini-tournament, the team entered the local league (competitive yet non-published, as is the case for all teams below U12's in this country as per the FA) from September. After the first game, where we were defeated by a team which included a player that was twice the size of our largest player (WHERE'S HIS PLAYER CARD PAL), the coach admitted that he needed help. Training once a week was fine, but managing and coaching a team with everything else that is involved on a matchday was too much for him and he asked for volunteers. I stepped up, and became his assistant.

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"I can be your Tito baby..."

Most of the boys could barely kick a ball last summer and over the course of the season they became a decent little side- picking up 3 wins from their final 5 games. We were very much a 'player-centred' side from the outset, which is the philosophy instilled by the club (and one that I wholeheartedly agree with), rather than a results driven side which ultimately can hinder the development of a player and also the coach. It took a while to get some of the parents to buy into this, especially when we were routinely battered for the first 5 games of the season but we stuck with our philosophy. Do we want to win? Of course, as do the boys and especially the parents. But at this age the result is not the most important thing and it also took a while for some of the parents to appreciate this and look at the long-term picture.

We had a very technical approach to the game. Getting the boys as comfortable as possible with the ball at their feet, no long balls where possible, playing out from the back etc. Sorry Keith. Although we lost most of our games, it was clear that of the other 9 teams, I'd say only one side were technically more superior to us. Our losses were as a result of the other teams playing to their physical strengths- being taller, faster and more able to twat the ball from 16 yards out. By the end of the season our technical ability allowed us to cope with that disadvantage much better and control games (and win more often).

Fast forward to last month, a couple of weeks after our season ended, our coach approaches me. His son is a year younger that the rest of the team and is also very short for his age. The club have asked him if he would like to coach a new under-7s team for next season, with his son dropping down to his own age group. He told me he would only consider it if I was willing to take over his existing team and told the club he believed I would make a very good head coach. And here we are- I am now about to enter the world of chasing monthly subs, filling it rabbit holes and juggling teamsheets because one of the players overslept.

 

Well this is my life now. I took over training permanently a few weeks ago and had to start recruiting for a new player to replace the coach's son. So, what do you do in this scenario? Why, you ask your son to scout his classmates!! Is a 7 year old the best judge of footballing ability? No Dan, probably not. But he told me who the best player was in his class, who happened to be one of his best friends. Hmmmm. I had a chat with his mum during a school run and interestingly he has been training with another club for the past couple of years, but they can't get a manager for matchdays. His mum likes the club he trains with but his son is chomping at the bit for game time, and therefore is open to moving. Cue me spending last Saturday afternoon with his parents watching him play in a friendly tournament, feeling like Peter Kenyon tapping up a young French player. He played well, so I asked them if he fancied playing in a friendly for us on Sunday (my first game as head coach). Boy, you better be right about your classmate being good, there's a referral fee for you in this. During the pre-match warm-up he looked very two-footed, and I start dreaming of Santi Cazorla. I started him on the bench and brought him on halfway through the first half- BANG scored within 30 secs. Completed his hat-trick by half time and ended the game with 6 goals, with a couple of assists to boot too. My word, listen to your kids- they fucking know!! Now I just have to hope he definitely signs, there is a small chance that his club might have a manager next season.

 

So now I'm preparing for my first season in charge. I've already gone crazy with buying training equipment, entered the team into a tournament next month and started planning my training sessions for the next few weeks. I'm listening to podcasts on youth coaching, reading books on this during my commute and talking to other coaches all the time. Booking my Level 1 course soon. I'm knee-deep into this shit now and absolutely loving it, it feels like this is something I've always wanted to do.

 

So, coaching. Any of you have experience- not just in football but other sports? What advice would you give to a newly appointed coach like myself? What shit have you had to go through? What fantastic moments have you endured? Why are parents sometimes so shit at replying to the WhatsApp group? And why does everyone lie about 'this player had a trial with Ipswich' or whoever??

Let's hear ya!

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#PunkStepOut to be training by the end of December.

Great read mate, and timely too.

I have my Level 1, and was coaching a local U10/9/8 girls teams a few years back. The club funded it and I loved it. But life and things got in the way.

Girls are way better to coach than boys in my experience as they actually listen and are willing to take on board what you tell them.

This is clearly a sweeping generalisation, and a bit tongue in cheek but I really did prefer it to whenever I’ve coached boys in the past.

Have just been asked, literally this week, by two Dads at two different clubs to coach for them, and right now I feel like whoever can give me the biggest WARCHEST will win the day (failing that a crate of Neck Oil should do it). This will allow me to complete my Level 2 through the club as well, which helps when funds are low.

You’re absolutely right in the “player focus” mentality. I used to take my eldest to local training when she was 6/7 and it was incredibly frustrating to watch. They used to make them play 3x3 or 4x4 on massive pitches which is not helpful for anyone at all, and they just end up not enjoying it as she did, as they just get knackered.

Chelsea coaches as well, lolz (to be fair, they are great around here usually)

Scouting wise, it’s all a bit strange isn’t it? At aforementioned training, there was a classmate of my daughters who was head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of ability and you could see he had/has it. Dads not a big football guy, so due to my old work connections to Chelsea (CLANG), I got him involved in their youth teams and now he trains with them every other week over at Cobham. Lovely to see his progress. I’d be VERY surprised if he didn’t at least get to County Level. But at the time it all felt a bit...wrong?

I love coaching, it’s great and so rewarding. Apart from the odd arsehole, I’ve never had any parent issues, and even then as soon as the guy saw he was embarrassing his daughter he soon stopped.

I play every week 7 a side with the other Dads from school and I’ve just organised a full 11 a side match with a local vets team and I’m tearing my hair out at the prospect of “managing” the game.

Do I put the 50 year old striker on the bench? Does the worst player-but-nicest-guy get a run out? Can Bacon last 90 minutes? Do I go 3 at the back and get my wingbacks (one of whom had open heart surgery recently) bombing up and down?

BLOODY LOVE IT. I’ll try and dig out some of my books and send over some recommendations as I’ve got a fair few (same with podcasts).

Enjoy it mate.

Oh and I had trials with Fulham (along with everyone who ever lived in and around West London)

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14 minutes ago, Gus Mears said:

Pumped for the 2020/2021 season North London Derby with PunkStep and Bacon as managers. 

“Champions of the upvotes, you’ll never sing that”

”You’re getting banned (by Butch) in the morning”

etc 

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My only advice is insist on black boots only. Root out any of those little cunts that insist on wearing luminous pink boots. I find a few lashes of a wet towel in the showers after practice gets the message through to them, but try telling that to the snow flakes in social services!

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Just now, Guy Bifkin said:

My only advice is insist on black boots only. Root out any of those little cunts that insist on wearing luminous pink boots. I find a few lashes of a wet towel in the showers after practice gets the message through to them, but try telling that to the snow flakes in social services!

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I joke, but half of them have black boots anyway as they also train mid-week with an academy that insist on them wearing black boots. I wore a pair of astros last season but felt that if I was taking over then I'd need to invest in some proper boots. Naturally, a coach should only ever wear one of the following:

 

image.png.565a2133827434e20f160fb86bfae4f6.pngORimage.png.1e1e867c092d811339da652c50f3c99a.png

Problem is, they both cost a fucking fortune, so I've opted for these:

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But those Copa Mundials will one day be mine. Oh yes, they will be mine.

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11 minutes ago, PunkStep said:

image.png.f0b89bf19c2c839e785ed3e11530f6d0.png

 

I joke, but half of them have black boots anyway as they also train mid-week with an academy that insist on them wearing black boots. I wore a pair of astros last season but felt that if I was taking over then I'd need to invest in some proper boots. Naturally, a coach should only ever wear one of the following:

 

image.png.565a2133827434e20f160fb86bfae4f6.pngORimage.png.1e1e867c092d811339da652c50f3c99a.png

Problem is, they both cost a fucking fortune, so I've opted for these:

image.png.d4100d48c3b59990a9c97011949e0d70.png

 

But those Copa Mundials will one day be mine. Oh yes, they will be mine.

That’s...weird

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I know. You'd think it was some old school bloke that runs the academy, but he's a former semi-pro keeper in his late 20s- a progressive coach that really focuses on technique and ball control.

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2 hours ago, SuperBacon said:

#PunkStepOut to be training by the end of December.

#InPunkStepWeTrust

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Welcome to the crazy world of junior coaching. Get your Level 1 done with the Safety and Safeguarding certificates and try and enjoy every moment.

First off, where are you aiming to go forwards with the team? Are you aiming for long-term where you'll hopefully go up through the years with the team or just seeing how the first season goes? Best wishes with it all either way.

What standard is your club? Are they Community, Entry or Standard Chartered? How is communication with them, are they approachable and are you comfortable with the way they operate? Will they back you if you need help in any way such as emergency cover for training, cover FA training costs (Level 1 Badge) and basic team (Kits) and training equipment (Medical bag, bibs, training cones/mats, set of balls, match ball/s, spare safety equipment. Are they the ones who are collecting fees/pay referees and attending league meetings? How well is the club considered locally and do they have ties with other local clubs or at least able to contact them to arrange fixtures.

If they do that already, then you have a great base to work off, know where you stand with them and how they can and will support you. Furthermore, what does the club expect from you?

Commitment and consistency are strong points needed for any team, barring emergencies, illness and adverse weather inclement can you be there for pretty much every training session and be pitch side at every game? It applies to the team and their carers/family/parents too and they need to understand that.

How well do you know your team? Not just from a footballing perspective but on an individual and personal level too. It sounds daft but you'd be surprised at how many things go on when your team aren't in your hands. One week your best player is on top of the world and banging them in for fun, next week they're are kicking lumps out of another player or just not playing. Always let your team know your are approachable and can turn to you if something is wrong. Most of the time, I've found things to be very minor but I have coached teams where players have had family problems and football was their escape as such. Trust is key here.

Do you get on with the teams carers/family/parents/etc? If they're not on board it can be a tough ask, these are the people who will influence your players and it only takes one bad egg for it to turn into a shit-show. Try to involve them in aspects that relate to the team but don't directly interfere with the team. Again, communication and understanding are needed. Take the time to explain to them about how you run things, how you'd like things to run in certain aspects (Training sessions/how and where to meet on match days.) and if you can agree a suitable discipline standard for what you'd consider serious incidents. (Fighting with other players, swearing at other players/coaches/referees and the rest.) The parents need to understand that its meant to be fun for the kids and if possible an encouraging positive environment where they can.

With training, the emphasis from the local FA was Fun and a safe learning environment for all. You will know how you want to run things but always try to keep it fun and never shun an idea from a player. They'll be days or parts of sessions where the players won't want to do what your asking and the days of “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” are hopefully way far behind us now but I have found that if you're willing to demonstrate and explain why your doing things then it usually gets done with minimal fuss. Again, fun is a factor so try and trick them into learning things even when they think they're not. (Think noughts and crosses where they have two teams with coloured bibs/cones and they have to either sprint to a point or dribble a ball to where the box markers are to be put. It's an easy way to do fitness/acceleration techniques and improve their decision/thinking capabilities in a short game.) Also when training, always encourage and support the players, talk to them and ask them questions and try to make them ask questions as well. Be open to changing things up and try not to favour anyone despite of who they are or how talented they may be.

Most importantly is yourself. How do handle situations where it isn't going right. How to handle hot headed people whilst also looking out for your players. How is your own fitness, health and mental health. Would you know when to ask for help if needed? It is time consuming, at some times a hard and thankless task but it is worth doing.

I absolutely loved coaching and I'd do it all again if my body would let me but it is constant hard work, almost a job in itself but worth it. From it I got to some amazing experiences, me and my son got to share a stage with Shaun Goater and later down the line have training sessions with him. I bombed hard with my sons team and won a league with an older age group.

From it all, we had one girl who was with Manchester City youth programme but unfortunately has since dropped out of, a lad within the Manchester City youth set-up and an extremely promising teenager whose has rocketed through the U-- age levels and has been playing with Manchester United U23's and trained with his full international team, I really he hope he breaks through to the first team or is at least given an opportunity to show what he can do.

There's a ton of other stuff I'd love to go into detail about but I'm struggling to remember some stuff and I'm pushed for time. I have a file of coaching books/tips/pdfs and all-sorts on my computer, I will try and upload it at some point for anyone it may potentially help.

Sorry for rambling on and good luck with it all.

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@Rule One Cheers for that, much appreciated. Yep, very much looking long-term for this. Well, as long as my son still enjoys playing. If down the years he suddenly decides this isn't for him (but he's becoming even more passionate about it so I'd be surprised, but you never know) then I may need to make a decision as it's family time I'd be missing out on. As my son is in the team then I'll be aiming to go up through the years with the same group of players. I have known them all since developmental and through their first season as under-7s last year.

My club is an FA Charter Standard Community Club. Communication is very good with them- we had the AGM last night which was my first opportunity to meet most of the coaches and officers. I know the new club secretary well as he has been tasked with overseeing the junior teams over the past few years and building up the number of sides & coaches we have. They're paying for my level 1 course, balls, team kits & equipment etc. I've been told to keep the treasurer happy by getting the subs over to him ASAP (I'm responsible for this, and paying the ref), as he is more likely to throw some more equipment my way if I ask for it. The club has delegates to attend league meetings and coaches for that league are also encouraged to attend. It's a very well run club that has been established since 2000 and has grown a lot over the past 10 years. Very good reputation within our area.

Another good thing is that we have a very consistent and reliable set of kids/parents. They turn up to training and matchdays barring the odd illness/emergency/holiday as you say. We have a squad of 8 and last season we never had fewer than 7 for a matchday. Hopefully that continues! At some point towards the end of the season I will look at bringing in at least two more kids to prepare the jump to 7-a-side from U9. The parents are fine too- there is one dad who seems a bit too results-orientated so I have to rein him in now and then, but he's alright. The boys get on really well, to the point where they all invite each other to their birthday parties (and the parents have started doing the same with us all), which is nice as we're all on this journey together.

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Have a look and see if your local FA is running a CPD course for the transistion from 5 to 7 aside. One of the most interesting courses I've been on. I've done it twice because 5 aside and 9 aside didn't exist when I did it the first time.

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5 hours ago, PunkStep said:

Sorry Keith

That's OK, the excellent Garthing in the post makes up for it.

2 hours ago, SuperBacon said:

“Champions of the upvotes, you’ll never sing that”

No, no you won't.

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