Grassroots Coaching

Why is the English game and their players considered technically inferior?

Football coaching structure in English Football

Imagine a situation where students go to school and there aren’t enough schools, classrooms, facilities and a lack of qualified teachers who can motivate, inspire and teach the students. Would it come as any surprise that the whole education system would suffer and that students would fail to gain an adequate education and that the country as a whole would suffer.

This is the situation we find ourselves in at the grassroots level of coaching football.

Children can no longer play jumpers for goalposts football on the streets, or in the parks, unsupervised. Socially, the world has changed and that can’t happen any more. But, these kind of informal small sided games are where players develop their love and enthusiasm for the game and through a natural self learning process, develop and improve their football techniques and skills.

So what is the answer? We need more qualified football coaches, who in the first instance, can safely organise and facilitate small sided games for any and all young players who want to play, not only a grassroots clubs, but also at schools, in school holidays, at the parks and clubs around the country.

A programme like this would provide a platform for young players to enjoy playing football and learn through their own experiences and self learning process. As the players then develop, better qualified football coaches can then gradually provide better coaching to improve players understanding, techniques and skills

In all fairness, the FA provide very good coach education courses, starting at Level 1 and progressing, for most Grassroots coaches to level 3 – UEFA “B” qualification. They have also just started rolling out youth appropriate courses, which help coaches understand the very special needs and learning requirements  of young players.

The problem isn’t with the courses that are available; it is with the number of coaches who go through the coaching qualification process.

There are a number of reasons for this, the main one being the direct and indirect costs of the courses, which in the vast majority of cases are borne by the individual coach. For example a Level 1 course can cost between £150 – £250, a level 2 course between £350 and £450 and a Level 3 course / UEFA B course between £800 – £1,000. In addition, the coaches have to take time off work, which requires more money and commitment.

As a result, in comparison to other European countries we have far fewer qualified coaches. At the last count, in 2008, Germany, Italy, Spain and France had 100,000 coaches of UEFA B licence standard and above, while England had fewer than 3,000.

Gérard Houllier, the former Liverpool manager, now French technical director said, “There is a domino effect, you want better players, you need better trained players; that means better trainers; that means a better coach education system.”

It is probably no co – incidence that in the last 15 years or so, France have a far better record at National level than England  and that so many French players are playing in the Premier League.

There is more than enough money in the football industry and within sport government led funding to address this issue. If the football authorities and the sports ministers were serious about improving the standards of grassroots football, as they constantly purport to do and addressing the lack of sport being played by young people, then it shouldn’t be beyond them to put a grassroots tax on TV payments. For example in 2007 – 08, the Premier League received £1 billion in TV money. A 1% levy on this would generate £10 million or enough to pay for 20,000 coaches per year at a cost of £500 per course.

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