Coaching to the appropriate level is something that coaches often find difficult. Many if not most coaches have ambitions to coach professionally. These coaches are seen at seminars, attend coach development courses and even go on to gaining formal accreditation in the form of “Community” coaching badges and “Advanced” coaching licences.

One must admire those who want to become the very best coaches that they can be. I very much respect those coaches who set themselves goals and plan their chosen career path.

There are those who become coaches initially because their five-year-old child wants to play football and parents are asked by clubs to volunteer to coach a team. There are others who are avid fans of the game who after watching many games feel that they have the tactical and technical nous to oversee a team. There are ex-players who feel that their playing experience and their exposure to those who coached them has armed them with what it takes to coach.

Coaching at levels appropriate to the players one is coaching is very important. All too often coaches attend seminars conducted by “Professional Coaches” who are coaching in the world’s top leagues, and whilst the seminars may well be informative and interesting, one must question the relevance of these seminars in relation to their needs. Attending a seminar addressed by Sir Alex Ferguson, Jurgen Klopp; Antonio Conte; and others of their ilk would most certainly be informative and entertaining but is it relevant to coaching your clubs U-6’s?

Many coaches nowadays have access to session plans off the internet, audio-visual sessions and plenty of books. Sadly,many coaches are referring to these aids and delivering sessions that often have no relevance to the team that they are coaching, and worse still the sessions are not part of any overall plan, but rather isolated sessions from a book or a video.

One of the biggest problems I have observed at local club level is the lack of planning by coaches. The first of many concerns is that coaches are trying to emulate coaches who are heading professional teams. Doing this is nonsensical because one does not have the facilities, the staff, the equipment, the time or the expertise of professional club coaches.

Let’s look at the obvious differences:

  1. You are coaching a team full of players who pay for the privilege of playing the game. This means that they are entitled to play regardless of their form and their ability, and often coaches are looking at results and forget that they are merely, through their club, providing a service to those willing to pay. It is a “Social environment” not a “Professional” one.
  2. The number of players and teams in a local club often means that space for training is limited to an area not much bigger than an eighteen-yard box.
  3. The training schedule is such that session times become a little like a doctor’s surgery where one arrives for an appointment and the doctor is running late. Your training space is not yet cleared and you cannot have your session laid out in time for the arrival of your players.
  4. The season starts with squad selections and often a squad of 15 or 16 players. Initially coaches struggle with the numbers because they loathe to rotate players and just want to play their best eleven players. As the season wears on, there are school camps and school sport that result in a reduced squad due to non-attendances, then there are injuries and suspensions which further put a strain on team selections to an extent that forfeiting games becomes a reality.
  5. As the coach of a local club team one often must deal with parents wanting to know why their son or daughter is not getting as much playing time as the others because they feel that their money is as good as the other players’ money.
  6. Coaches who attend courses will prepare “Six-week training cycles” to cover 40 week seasons. Amateur/Social clubs are not Professional clubs so it makes very little sense in adopting such an approach. In a nutshell, most local clubs train just twice per week and I know of some that only train once per week! The training cycles must reflect the level that one is coaching.
  7. Local Club facilities are now well beyond capacity in terms of registered players so when allocating training times and days very little attention is paid to training, recovery and playing as would be the case at the professional level. If a team plays fixtures on a Friday night and train just twice per week the training would ideally be on a Monday and Wednesday. If a team plays fixtures on a Saturday then ideally training would be on a Tuesday and Thursday. Generally, local clubs have two maybe three fields one of which is the main fixture playing field. Local clubs have way too many teams to be able to make allowances for recovery not only of players but of the grounds.
  8. Local club coaches must be flexible and cannot take the “Professional” approach in terms of discipline. How often have I heard a coach tell players that if one does not train one cannot play? How often have I seen arguments relating to substitutions because the team manager’s son/daughter was left on when the teams “Super Star” was warming the bench. It is worse when the coach is coaching a son or daughters team. The player in this case is on a hiding to nothing.
  9. The players one is coaching may not all have the same passion and love of the game and some may just be there because their mates are there, others because their parents want them there. Few have that burning ambition and the dedication it takes to become a professional even if they had the raw talent. If a player possessed that sort of ambition one hopes that the coach is directing him/her to a club and coach better suited to their needs.
  10. If a coach has ambitions and he/she is coaching youngsters then winning titles and filling one’s cabinet with trophies should not be a standard by which he/she judge themselves. Coaches, regardless of being amateurs or full time professionals should always be striving to meet the highest of standards be they moral, ethical, technical, or tactical.

I think many reading this will understand the importance of “Coaching to the level”. Coaches ought to be “Professional” within their scope of work, but trying to be an English Premier League Coach at a local amateur/social club just will not work.