And so it begins!

Hello everyone and welcome back to my first blog post of the new season!

I hope pre-season went for you all, you had some quality time with friends and family and you’re now raring to go for season 2014-2015. kickoffThere’s been a lot of changes this season in the professional game both in terms of playing and coaching personnel and it’s been all change in my own little coaching world as well. As I mentioned back in my June post I anticipated there would be some changes and indeed there have been and for the most part I’m extremely optimistic about the changes that have occurred. I’ve moved up from my role within the Foundation Phase at City and I’m now working in the Youth Development Phase with the U12′s age group. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working in the Foundation Phase, the 4 years have flown by and I’ve learned so much from the players and fellow coaches alike. In order to progress and gain a place on the A license course however I need to be working with older players (the FA’s words by the way not mine). In truth I’ve always felt that I’ve worked better with older players but in order to progress in all things you need to move out of your comfort zone and the past 4 years have really done that. I’m actually sad to have left the phase but I’m looking forward to the new challenge, working with new players and colleagues and learning as much as I can to hopefully this time have my application accepted on to the course accepted. It was put to me to go for the Advanced Youth Award and I would very much like to also gain a place on this course. The issue for me however is that if I want to secure a full time role in football the A license is mandatory for most roles, the Advanced Youth Award on the other hand is a nice to have. With limited time and money available I could only do one course and naturally you will always pick the one that gives you the best opportunity of securing a role. That’s the way of the world I’m afraid, who knows, I might get 6 lucky numbers come up and end up doing both ;)

The change in Phase and role is not the only thing different for the coming season. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have been appointed by the FA as a Coach Mentor for Gloucestershire. A role working for the FA has been something I have tried on a numerous occasions to secure and I’m thrilled to be able to represent the organisation and give something back to the Grassroots clubs and coaching colleagues who helped me on my way all those years ago.Football Association As coaches we often moan about the FA and the lack of action and opportunities but I genuinely believe that they are trying to do something about this perception. The mentoring programme is one such initiative to try to help support coaches and improve the standard of coaching within the UK for the benefit of the most important people – the players. The workshops I have attended with my new colleagues have filled me with optimism for the success of the programme and I’m looking forward to working within the region and meeting many more new faces.

My plans for this season therefore depend very much on my experiences in my new roles but generally I always strive to further my coaching education by gaining as much experience as possible; being the proverbial sponge, and trying my very hardest to be the best I can be. My goal for this coming season is ultimately to try to secure a place on the A licence Part 1 course for next year but regardless of that outcome I’m going to learn as much as I can, laugh and make it fun for myself and players / colleagues and love being able to work in the beautiful game.

What are your goals and plans for the coming season? Whatever they are I wish you well!


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Time to recharge

Hi all,

for many of us now it’s the summer break. Seasons have finished and now it’s time to be resting, recuperating and spending time with families and friends. Is this really the case however? Traditionally summer times are the time when coaches catch up on CPD, attend courses and then of course this year is the world cup so do coaches ever take the time to step back and re-evaluate on a bigger level than just a session by session basis? The summer for me is an important land mark. It helps me reflect on my progress half way through the calendar year and plan some of the aforementioned activities. More important that that though is that it serves as a reminder to dedicate time to those important to me that aren’t necessarily interested in a spherical, inflated pigs bladder.

Sometimes I’m conscious I get sucked into a coaches bubble and devote my time and effort to everything coaching wise and not enough to the support network around me that actually enable me to do the thing that I love. With that in mind I’m off on vacation on a water sports and activities based holiday with my family to relax, indulge and spend some quality time with them. I’ve got some recommended reading of course and I’ll watch games when I can but this is their time now.
I’m hoping to have some exciting news when I return but until then have a good summer and just remember to give something back to those that help you get to where you want to be.

Speak to you all soon!


PS Come on England!

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Next Objective ….. done!

Hi all,

6 weeks since the first major objective of 2014 and I’m really pleased to say I’ve managed to meet the next one. In January’s post 2014 Goals I talked about a number of secondary objectives and last week I finally received confirmation that I’d obtained my Level 4 certificate in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector or PTLLS for short. So what is it and what’s the benefit?
Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector
Well this is the initial mandatory award for anyone wanting to enter teaching in The Lifelong Learning Sector, or those who are currently teaching and do not possess any formal teaching qualifications. This applies to anyone working on LSC funded programmes, including community based learning and development programmes, employment and work-based learning as well as those teaching and training in the Further Education sector. The benefit is that upon successfully completing the course you have a universally accepted training qualification. Something that proves you are competent in preparing and teaching higher education learners (16+). More and more coaches are looking at ways of supplementing their coaching qualifications to give them an advantage when it comes to further employment. Indeed I have heard several mentions of formal teaching qualifications becoming a requirement in the future for some coaching roles so it seemed like a logical choice to try to strengthen my coaching skills and CV. The other advantage is those seeking coach educator roles will have a qualification that provides evidence of teaching and mentoring to strengthen any future job application.
There are two options for the course, you can attend a 4 day course with a training provider to take you through the syllabus and includes your practical “micro teach” session or like me you can take a distance learning option where you do all the work off your own back and attend a 1 day micro teach day / peer observation day. Be advised however both options still require a lot of coursework. You are expected to create a portfolio answering questions on each area in a mini essay format (minimum 200 words) and if you elect to go for the higher level award (4 instead of 3) you are expected to reference Harvard style and evaluate as well as analyse topics. You really do have to dedicate the time and effort to completing this award, which makes it all the more worthwhile in my opinion. The whole thing took me about 3 months though I did have some difficulty arranging my micro teach with the training provider I used. I’m not totally convinced by them to be honest which is why I’m not going to give them the publicity by printing their name nevertheless I was very pleased to get through it and I hope it will prove as beneficial as I hope!

If you’re interested in this or want to know more about PTLLS from a personal perspective then by all means give me a shout. I’ve attached my micro teach session to this post so you can see what I did it on – Futsal surprise surprise ;)

An Introduction to Futsal

So what next, well I’m going to concentrate on finishing this season and see where my next contract takes me! There’s but a few weeks left to get to grips with everything and for all Academies it’s a busy time with contract renewals and signings. My CPD has been completed so I’m going to have a peruse of what’s available. Any recommendations?

Until next time


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February Update – At long long last……..

Hi guys,

February has almost gone and it’s been a month since my last blog update. There’s been a good reason for the delay this time ( believe it or not :) ) as I’ve been hoping to have some good news to announce and I’m pleased to say that this is indeed the case. Finally after two years of waiting I’ve been able to achieve my main target and pass my Youth Award Module 3 Assessment. It’s been a long and extremely frustrating road with the weather and availability of assessors prolonging the agony. Now at long last I feel I can resume my learning journey and progress once more. Massive thanks must go to the football club for making the assessment finally happen. My overwhelming feeling is relief; like a weight has finally been lifted, and on reflection that shouldn’t be the case for what is a valuable series of coaching courses. The farcical assessment process has devalued the course in my eyes though I am led to believe that this has improved. I sincerely hope this is the case as the courses overall are valuable to coaches from all areas and who coach all age groups and I would still recommend them. I hope those of you who go through assessment have a far less strenuous time of it than myself and my colleagues.

So, back to the assessment itself, what did I coach? How did I prepare? These are the questions many of you have asked me via comments and emails. I also understand that some of you have had issues downloading the zip file of my log book. Fear not dear readers I shall endeavour to correct these within the rest of this update. Firstly let’s focus on my session. The assessment on the practical element was broken down into two aspects, a whole and a part in line with the session structure recommended by the Youth Award. The session topic was finishing, more specifically creating opportunities to finish. I coach within the Foundation Phase, mostly the Under 9′s age group at City so our players play 7 a side with the club formation being 1-2-3-1. My whole part practice was set up like this:

7v7 Setup
7v7 Setup

The pitch was approximately 70 x 50 and divided into 1/3s for reference. Players were to play for 25 minutes with no restrictions (basically a 7v7 game). Now one of the key aspects to the youth award and the coaching interventions it encourages is the use of challenges. Prior to my session I sat down and produced what I call a challenge chart. This was a fantastic idea recommended to me by an FA Club Co-ordinator and I’ve no idea why they don’t teach you this on the courses but they bloody well should. The idea is simple and is very much flowchart based. Start with your session topic and think of the challenges you might use in order to get your topic across, break this down then further into team, unit and individual challenges. When you’ve down this you should end up with something like the following:

Challenge Chart
Challenge Chart

As you can see there are a number of challenges I have listed, some directly related to my topic, others indirectly. For example challenging the goalkeeper to try to play to the furthest player forward when it is safe to do so should hopefully move the ball into the attacking third more often and provide the forward player opportunities to receive the ball in a dangerous area for the opposition. In addition some of the challenges for player positions appear to be the same (such as defenders and goalkeepers) and indeed they are for good reason. As a coach you are encouraged to use challenges but trying to give each individual player a challenge in one session would take an awful long time and would be extremely difficult to evaluate with each individual. By providing team and unit challenges you can encourage peer reviews between players on the same and opposition teams, you can give them a challenge, let them play and after a few minutes pull them in to review. This encourages the use of trial and error and guided discovery interventions / methods rather than the traditional Command and Q & A. This is not to say you should ignore individual challenges. Far from it but rather than trying to give everyone an individual challenge select or “bull-seye” 3 or 4 players that your session topic is relevant to. I selected the 2 strikers and 2 Centre Midfielders as my targets as having watched them in previous sessions I felt I could introduce challenges specific to them to help them within the finishing topic. I gave them their individual challenges mid game but rather than stopping the whole practice with the dreaded “stop” “stand still”, I let the game continue and I either called them over to the side line or walked into the practice to give them their challenges. The use of these challenges is key, by introducing the topic and initial challenges into the whole part practice you can the continue to work on them within your part practice session but you must ensure you give the players the opportunities to review their challenges. How did it go? What did you try? Did it work? What would you do differently? Show me… etc

The whole part session is not just about challenges of course but they form a major part of it but it is not enough to just give the players challenges. As I’ve mentioned they must be provided with opportunities to review not only with you as the coach but with each other and even by themselves (Give yourself a score out of 10, why did you get that score? How could you score higher?). As a coach one thing I was keen to work on was my use of praise also. Making praise relevant and specific was something that stuck with me after the courses so I tried to make sure when I praised a player it was specific; Well done for opening your body to receive the ball, I love how you tried a one touch finish, that’s fantastic movement to support the striker. I didn’t just praise the successful outcome but also good intentions to try to encourage the players to keep trying and not be afraid to make a mistake!

After breaking for drinks and another review we moved into the part practice setup.

Finishing Waves
Finishing Waves

Here the setup is as shown, a 60 x 40 area divided into 4 squares, with goals at opposite ends and diagonals. 1 defender is in each box and pairs of strikers attack the first defender in a 2v1 situation, if they chose they can they try to beat the next defender in a 2v1. The objective is of course to beat the goalkeeper to score. Defenders stay in their boxes to begin with. If defenders win the ball they can play into the green target goals to score but must remain within their own boxes. Once a goal is scored or the ball is dead the attackers get their ball and move round to the start of the next wave (shown by the white arrow). I chose a wave practice for this as I was conscious that managing 2 groups could be a challenge and I was keen to avoid bouncing between groups without stepping back and seeing the whole picture (something I’ve been guilty of in the past). Wave practices at this age group in my opinion are also the best. They keep all the players active, rotations are quick and the opportunities to give information as a coach are there without having to stop the practice entirely. My coaching position for example was at one end of the practice and I was able to talk with attacking pairs as they moved round to the next wave. The other fantastic thing about wave practices, particularly those where there are more than 1 route / target is that it is very easy to manage difference. For example when asked about my session I was able to suggest that I could remove one defender and have a single 2v1 in one channel with defenders rotating alternately. In addition the strugglers could work in this single channel and rather than joining the start point of the 2 x 2v1 they could go back to the beginning of the 1 x 2v1 until such time as they became copers / achievers. With the achievers I could increase the difficulty by allowing the first defender to recover into the 2nd square thus making a 2v2. There’s a great deal of flexibility.

So with the session setup, the initial challenges given, the players began to play. Having practised this session with the players, they knew the setup and were soon moving round trying to score goals. As I mentioned earlier I was really focusing on creating opportunities to score and it wasn’t until after a few minutes players began to ask if they could shoot from the square furthest away. If you scroll back up you will see I had placed no restriction on this, the topic was creating finishing opportunities it wasn’t caveated by being within 10 yards etc. I asked them if they felt the session topic would apply further away, they felt it would and so elected to allow it. Of course as coaches we appreciate that goals can be scored from anywhere but giving the players a little control and ownership of the session is again something that’s encouraged in the youth modules and gives them opportunities to be creative. As the players went through in waves I asked them questions, challenged them and provide advice when needed. technical information, encouragement, effective praise as mentioned above paying particular attention to those players I had bulls-eyed from the whole part practice. One of the strikers was challenged in the whole part practice to try to receive the ball so he could shoot quickly as he gets into great positions but then is quickly closed down due to body position and touches. He worked hard at this and was receiving the ball more often than not on the half turn and letting the ball come across his body. Within the part practice however he was then taking 2 or 3 touches before trying to finish and was invariably being closed down. His next challenge therefore (after praise for showing great body position) was to try to score with 1 touch from 10 yards or less. As he tried this he was encouraged throughout and praised for the intention. Gradually he became more confident and began to show signs of success by getting shots away. The whole part practice was 25 minutes long. Using a quick drinks break and rotation opportunities to review in their pairs we were able to get a fair amount of challenges, technical content (which comes off the back of the challenges) and evaluation work done before the session and the assessment was over.

After the session I had an interview and evaluation with the assessor. I was asked about the session, how it had linked with previous ones, why I felt I needed to do this one and what the next session might be. Here I talked about the bulls-eyed players, what had been identified in previous games, where we wanted to get to and suggested the next session might be focused more on finishing techniques such as from crosses and so on. I was then questioned about managing difference within the session (as I’ve described above) and given general feedback on my performance. My logbook was reviewed and I was asked a few questions on the back of the Youth Award Curriculum.

Key areas being:

  • Managing difference
  • Managing mistakes
  • Technique vs skill
  • Mixing with others
  • Physical attributes of young players
  • Continue reading

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    Progress and Reflection

    I was sat in my office this week wondering where the year had gone. 2013 has been a fantastic and yet somewhat frustrating year on my coaching journey. There have been some incredible highs:

    • Joining Bristol City
    • Going through EPPP successfully with the team
    • Being awarded GFA Coach of the Year for 2013

    and of course some sad moments to

    • Saying goodbye to the CTLFC girls
    • Waving goodbye as colleagues move on to pastures new
    • Fighting the FA for YAM3 assessment in a professional environment

    Regardless of the outcome though I feel that every experience and every moment has contributed positively in some way to my development as a coach and I feel like I’m finally, actually, moving once more along the pathway to a full time career in coaching.

    Long term followers of this blog will remember that it’s about this time every year that besides reflecting on the last 12 months I try to set myself targets for the next. Undoubtedly the priority still (and my main source of frustration of 2013) is to try to get assessed for the Youth Award. Rather than let this curtail my progress; which if I’m truthful I let happen part way through this year, I have decided to put the FA’s inadequacies to one side and continue down the path that I want to try to follow as a coach. That means A license. I’m fortunate enough to still have some budget left over from my bursary awarded back in 2007 that I’ve been saving for this and I’ve sent off my application for Part 1. Whether I will be successful or not I don’t know but it felt good just submitting the application and this more than anything else stoked the embers of desire once more.

    I’ve also set myself a few other secondary targets I feel will supplement my learning and should I be unsuccessful in my application I can focus wholly on instead. My lack of a plan B in 2013 was something I’m keen to rectify next year. These include

    PTLLS – Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector

    If you speak to @RealJoeSutton and @CoachDanWright more and more experienced coaches are looking at this formal teaching qualification. I’m fortunate that it applies to my role as an IT Trainer as well as a coach. It’s also something to consider if you’re contemplating pursuing a Tutor Role in sport. For me, as a coach wanting to work with older age groups I think it will help compliment the skills and experience I already have and will hopefully gain by pursuing other specific sport related qualifications.

    FA Futsal Level 1

    Finally the qualification is out there, unfortunately it’s only at St Georges Park at present. I have expressed an interest via FA Learning for the South based Regional Course, no date as yet. I absolutely love this game and I’ve been trying to get involved with the FAs regional development centres and also the mighty @glosfutsal. Watch this space, this is something I really want to get my teeth into.

    FA Goalkeeping Level 2

    Er…why you ask? Well for whatever reason, I love the position of the Goalkeeper. I’ve never played there but I want to understand this unique position more. After all, the role of the modern goalkeeper is no longer just a defensive one. Not the easiest course to find out there truth be told but there’s one with the Devon FA I’ve got my eye on.

    Finally, the most single important way to learn and improve myself as a coach.

    Coach as many sessions across as many different age groups as possible

    There really is no substitute for experience. If you look at my blog and look at the way I pursue badges and qualifications it’s very easy for me to be labelled a badge chaser. I admit it I am. So what? I’m proud of the qualifications I’ve obtained so far and will continue to try to get as high as I possible can on the qualification ladder. Do I believe they are the be all and end all? No. I don’t. Coaching courses and badges provide a platform for you as a coach. They give you the tools and “some” information to help set you on your way. Your learning journey however is how you use that knowledge, how you supplement it with experiences gained by further reading, game based study, debate with colleagues and above all coaching in the field.

    I hope you have had a rewarding 2013 and have learnt as much as I have from it. It’d be fantastic to hear what your plans are for your development? What’s gone well and what hasn’t? I’m always keen to hear what others have planned for their own journey. I might even steal a few ideas ;)

    Most of all have a fantastic time with your families and friends over Xmas, the break will be well deserved I’m sure and you’ll be re-invigorated come January when you’re back out in the cold #stillinshorts (well if you’re as mad as @Hodgaa anyway).

    Speak to you soon!


    PS Many thanks to all those who regularly post comments and questions, apologies if I’m sometimes a little late in replying but I will get there eventually!

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    Finally, as promised!

    Hi all,

    yes it’s true I really have made a second blog update within the space of a week… can get off the floor and back on your chairs now. :)

    I’ve had several queries from fellow Module 3 attendees asking about my sessions and what plan I’ve followed etc.
    Unfortunately I am still waiting assessment due to “logistical and political” issues shall we say, however. I have spent some time this week stripping the club specific and player specific information from the sessions I put together in my folder and they are now available for you to download and have a look at here:

    YAM 3 Process Board Pack – Playing Through The Thirds

    Please feel free to make use of them as you see fit and let me know any thoughts or comments. The idea behind this really was over the 10 week period try to get the Under 8 age group used to the concept of playing through the thirds / zones and giving them opportunities to try to use the tools that could help them to do this effectively.

    Now, not all of the sessions worked out as I’d planned them in my head I’ll be honest but then that self evaluation (and the buckets of paperwork to fill in about it) is fundamental to the module 3 and Youth Award as a whole. There was however, overall, a good progression from the kids and that was noted in additional paperwork that sadly I can’t include due to child protection etc.

    Anyhow, like I said let me know what you think, I’m always eager for feedback.

    Many Thanks


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    August and September – 6 months in

    Hi all,

    Firstly I’d like to apologise to anyone who had tried to access the site and who had been unable to over the last month. I’ve been fighting valiantly against hackers, malware and god knows what else and finally, finally I think I’ve won the battle. It always amazes me as an IT professional what sort of benefit these idiots get from targeting non profit making sites. They should put their creative talents to actually writing something that would benefit society or some crap game on the app store they could sell legitimately. Anyhow, rant over on that front and back to the football.

    Hooray!The season is well and truly underway for us now and whilst sat writing my session plan on Wednesday night I realised it was my 6 months anniversary of working with Bristol City. So have I found it? Well it’s been a fantastic experience I have to be honest and I think the time that I joined really helped. Going through EPPP, getting the Cat 2 status and everyone pulling together across all phases was great for getting to know one another and for team building. It’s a hell of an effort and working together at such close proximity with everyone has destroyed any cliques that may have existed previously. I’m also fortunate that the chaps that I work with within the foundation phase are experienced coaches and genuine nice guys, it’s a great place to work and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It’s come with a price though, increased amount of travelling, committing to 3 sessions plus matches plus meetings has meant I’ve no time for any of my other hobbies but in truth I expected nothing less. Nothing comes easy particularly in the world of football. I’m helped considerably in all of this by my family who are extremely understanding and patient and this solid platform together with the positive work environment has really helped me kick on as a coach.

    Though I’ve not progressed in terms of badges (don’t get me started on module 3 assessment being unavailable to coaches in pro clubs….) I feel I’ve really kicked on in terms of coaching experience and that is far more valuable than any piece of paper the FA or anyone else for that matter, can offer. I would not say I’ve gained any great technical in sight that can’t be learned from reading or watching games but rather tweaks, tips and more productive ways of achieving outcomes seems to be where I feel I’ve improved the most. My game management skills have improved and seeing the behaviour of the parents and the effect they have on their sons really opened my eyes to how productive or detrimental they can be to a developing youngster. The high pressured environment of Academy football, where kids are competing for contracts seems to bring out the worst in some people. Coaching techniques are slowly becoming more refined and I feel myself explaining things simpler, quicker, generally spending less time talking and more time watching the players play. I’m pretty happy with that and long may it continue.

    The season for us has started really positively, we’ve had a couple of fixtures so far and the games have been competitive but played in the right way and with the right spirit both amongst the players and fellow Academy staff. Above all the kids are smiling and at the end of the day, no matter what level of football, is that not what it’s all about?

    Sometimes Academy football gets a bad write up and justifiably so but my admittedly limited experiences so far have been positive and though EPPP has been lambasted in some quarters I personally have seen a positive effect. True it may not go far enough in some areas but it is a start and the first foot in the right direction is by far the most important.


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    July Update – Blog Re-design

    Hi all,

    Pre-season has started for many of us and I have to say as good as it was to have a break I’m pleased to be getting back in to the swing of things. It’s always an exciting time, a new squad to coach full of new ideas and personalities to get to grips with. It’s all good.

    What’s not been such a great start to pre-season though is that some (what can only be described as) oik hacked a sister website of Quest2Coach and as a result the server was pulled down for maintenance. Extremely frustrating though rest assured no data was lost and the site is now back up and running under an even trendier url ( see what I’ve done there ? ;) ) Sometimes being an IT geek does come in handy.

    It does mean however that I’ve not managed to get all of the updates posted that I want to but I’m cracking on to make sure that we’ve got some new content and sessions for you to look at. Thanks to all so far for your comments and requests, I’m trying my best but running 2 jobs and family life doesn’t always leave me with a load of time to respond. Apologies for that.

    Hope you pre-season starts well, look for new content and features on the all new site soon!

    Take care



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    June – CPD, BCD and an unexpected award

    Greetings one and all,

    I hope you’re all topping up your coaching tans nicely? Just remember not to do what I’ve done…..panda eyes is not a good look though on the plus side the kids laugh at me even more than usual :)

    Summer time for me traditionally; as it is with many coaches, is a time to not only reflect on the previous season but also to attend courses, events and other ways of gaining much-needed CPD.  Course wise I’m still struggling to arrange my YAM 3 assessment. It’s been re-assuring to find so many others of you in the same boat. The FA has to do something about this otherwise their Advanced Youth Award course is going to have zero attendees for the foreseeable. As an aside I’ve been fed some utter tripe that the FA doesn’t want to assess academy coaches. Apparently its something to do with funding. Politics again….bloody marvelous.

    As a result of the aforementioned saga I have decided to instead focus on my learning development outside the course structure this summer and have resolved to attend as many events as possible. I started with an FA run CPD event at Hartpury in Gloucester. Unfortunately the weather severely disrupted the day and little was achieved save for the usual networking and banter between familiar faces.  Still, that’s 6 hours CPD done for this year and FACC license renewed. I know that’s not the point of these days but I’m not the only one who questions the value of them. Some would go further and classify them as a necessary evil. I’m not arguing. They seriously need to be re-assessed as to the content and the quality that should be delivered.

    The second event I attended was nothing to do with the FA whatsoever. It was the inaugural BCD coaching conference held on 8th June at Leamington Spa FC. The event was a grass-roots coaching initiative put together by two good friends of mine Hugo Langton and Chris Hodgson. They saw the lack of a truly grass-roots driven initiative and with the cancellation of the declining Grass Roots Coaching Conference this year took it upon themselves to do something about it and fair play to them. The day was well organised and considering it was predominantly driven by social media, it was well attended for the most part. As well as seeing some familiar faces it was also pleasing to see support from people like Nick Levett (FA National Development Manager for Youth Football) in an unofficial capacity. With this being the very first attempt the guys have taken loads of comments on board and if you were there yourself and have anything to say please ping them a message over email or on twitter they’d love to hear from you. Personally I think they should be incredibly proud of their efforts as should all of the presenters on the day, many of whom stepped out of their comfort zones to present to a live audience for the very first time. I hope this is the first of many BCD’s. I might have to shave my head for the next one though, just to fit in :)

    With a few more weeks left until we’re back for pre-season I’ll probably look to view some tournaments and help out where I can. If you’ve got an event on in the South West give me a nudge. I know that the weekend of the 22nd / 23rd is the QWFC Tournament at Waterwells. Pop down and support the teams there, it’s guaranteed to be a good couple of days.

    Lastly I had the most amazing news a week or so ago when it was announced that I was fortunate enough to win the Gloucestershire FA’s Coach of the Year award. To see I was shocked would be putting it mildly. None of us are in coaching for medals and awards but it’s always nice to be recognised and to see my name in lights

    is quite something (read amusing…to my wife at least). I can’t thank the guys enough it’s been a real pleasure to work with them.

    Finally before signing off until next time,  I just want to send a massive congratulations to one of the nicest guys I know in football. Someone who I view as a mentor and whose methods and beliefs I think are a great example to all coaches out there. Well done to Graham Abercrombie (@crombie74) for passing his UEFA A license at St Georges park today. Thoroughly deserved.

    Have a great off-season!

    Until next time



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    April / May Update – The new role, EPPP and the off season.

    Hi guys,

    Firstly I’d just like to say thanks for all of the messages of congratulations and support I received from you all on my new role. I’m conscious that the past 6 months despite promises of delivering more content I haven’t but I appreciate the patience you’ve all shown.

    What I wanted to talk about in this update really was about the past 6 weeks since I joined City. I’ve had a few questions about how the role differs but also what actually happens when a club is being audited for EPPP so I thought as always I’d share my experiences with anyone who wants to read them.

    Firstly the role. So what is an academy assistant coach? Well basically I’m a coach but rather than being the lead coach for an age group I’m his deputy. This doesn’t mean I don’t coach, far from it, I coach just as much as the lead coach but he has far more paper work to deal with. :) If you think about it having 2 coaches per age group is a good thing as it means there’s a far better player / coach ratio than if there were only one coach looking after 14 + boys.  In addition on match days we run 2 teams, therefore we need 2 coaches, 1 to manage each team.Bristol City Academy

    How does being an academy coach differ from being a development centre coach? Obviously one of the main differences here is the ability of the boys. Unless they’re trialists the boys we coach are signed (U9′s and above) to contracts. This also means there’s less coming and going of players and allows long-term focus on development of the player over the course of the season. Having only been with the academy 6 weeks or so it’s been noticeable the progress the boys have made in that time. Another big difference is contact time and that’s probably one of the reasons you see the boys develop quicker.  My U9 squad is on 3 nights a week for a total of 5 1/2 hours training and have 80 minutes (4 quarters of 20) each Sunday.  Supporting all of this and part of their long-term development there are fitness programs, technical programs, nutrition, video analysis with the players, player coach meetings and much more.  As you’d expect the environment is much more professional and although the lead coach does have more paperwork to do I still have a far amount of assessments and evaluations to do as every session and match  needs to be recorded in detail together with player performance notes. It’s more intense but throughly enjoyable. From my own perspective there’s a much bigger commitment required, 3 nights a week, most of the day sunday, plus time in between to document sessions, upload them to the academy database, perform evaluations, write feedback etc It’s a reality check in a way and a good indicator of the extra work to come should you want to pursue a career in academy coaching.

    Are there any benefits? I can’t remember who asked me this but it made me laugh. You mean aside from career progression etc :P Well yes of course there are! For one thing I have a contract myself (hoorah), I get all my kit provided (and everyone, I don’t care who you are, loves shiny new kit) and of course I’m surrounded by experienced coaches and aspiring professional players  who I can learn from. Happy days.

    So that’s a brief comparison between the two roles, effectively it works out to an extra night a week, more paperwork and more regular fixtures.  Working in a development centre is definitely a good step towards working in an academy. I think any grass-roots coach going straight in would be shocked otherwise. So on to EPPP

    I won’t go in to massive detail about what EPPP is, if you want to read all about that then go here:

    The upshot of it all is that clubs apply for a Category status and are then assessed to see whether they meet the relevant criteria.  At City we applied for Category 2 status and were audited against that.

    So what’s the process and how does it feel? Anyone who has ever been audited in their day-to-day job will have some indication of how it is and teachers out there will sympathise if I described the whole experience as Ofsted-esque. That’s what it felt like to me personally.

    auditWhat exactly happened? Auditors were in for a total of 4 days, they viewed a random selection of sessions and matches. Interviewed key permanent staff both within the academy and outside; the first team manager, the chairman and members of the board were all interview, and selected random part-time staff for interview. In addition they had access to all records, documentation and literature across all areas. They weren’t just focusing on the coaching side, they looked at the education programme, the facilities, the sports science areas and health departments.

    What were they looking for? Above all the auditors are looking for best practice within a club, particularly within the academy but not only that they’re looking at the club as a whole and how each area operates and integrates with others. Does the club have a playing philosophy? Does this differ from the academy philosophy and if so how or why? Are the clubs values present in everything that’s done? What are those values?  These are just some of the questions and areas that were looked at as part of the audit.

    What’s the next step? Well now we wait, apparently City will find out in June the results of the audit so it takes some time for the decision to come back. Overall everyone worked extremely hard and although little feedback is given at the time, we were told we’d prepared well so hopefully that’s a good sign!

    The season is now coming to a close and we’re all going to take a well deserved break. Having ticked the box for my CPD yesterday at a rain and windswept event at Hartpury I’m not sure what I’ll be up to yet. The only firm date I’ve got in the diary is the 8th June for the BCD conference. Feel free to share any other suggestions for events :)

    Until next time,



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