“The objective in any team sport is to transform the group from a mere collection of talented individuals into a highly cohesive unit so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”
With the training and experiences I have learned from my background of working in the Care industry, where I supported vulnerable individuals and their families, I believe I have formed a decent understanding and awareness of recognizing certain group dynamics; various postures and body language; and how vital is it to have very good communication skills with a variety of people from all walks of life.
With this in mind, something that has always intrigued me is the change in a person’s character when they attend a game of football, whether being a spectator, a coach, a manager or a player.
‘Something happens’ when in proximity of that white touchline marking the boundary if a football pitch.
It appears as though many gentle, genuine and friendly people turn into their negative alter egos when it comes to football matches. It’s something that really does baffle me and I cant seem to rationalise why it happens?
Over the years I have seen hundreds if not thousands of football matches on our wee island, and the football opportunities we provide people to play the game are immense, and these opportunities are growing year on year.
So much in fact that our ‘Voluntary Work Force’ within each football club is stretched very thin indeed. However, that’s another discussion point entirely, and I take my hat off to each of those individuals for all the hard work, time, effort and support they give to prove football for our community.
In regards to our junior games played every Sunday morning and afternoon, as much as I enjoy watching the kids enjoy their football, a question that always comes to mind every weekend is that of –
Are we really providing an environment that is conducive to player development?
Understandably, the tone of the environment can change in an instant. Not just in senior football but around the world at junior football matches too. A wonderful goal; a poor tackle; a goal disallowed; a remarkable save; a decision the referee makes; the conduct and behavior of adults; the list goes on and on.
For me, I believe the simplest way of breeding a healthy environment is not just down the referees on match days, but a huge influence to producing a positive learning environment is down to the coaches or managers of the squads involved in the game.
And at this point, I would like to focus on the Coaches Touchline Etiquette.
Without doubt, the perception of the spectators who get wrapped up in watching the game will usually only see the coach as the focal point before the game; during half time; at the end of the game; and of course when they make substitutions.
With first hand knowledge, I would guesstimate that over 85% of the adults around the pitch would not recognize or hear any technical information provided to the players throughout the course of the game, both that of the players on the pitch, and those who are substitutes waiting for their chance to enter play.
Recently I have had the privilege of having several discussions with numerous coaches around local football clubs and some in the UK via social media about this issue.
These coaches and their experience and knowledge are all different, and it was interesting to hear their points of view.
Some self reflected and thought about their own conduct on sideline during games; other expressed their concern at some real poor conduct by others that they had witnessed; and likewise, some also acknowledged some of the good behavior of certain coaches they had seen too.
Now I can only state factually what I have seen with my own eyes, so will not go into what others have said.
So going back to my original question - Are we really providing an environment that is conducive to player development?
Personally from what I have seen over the years I’m not sure that we currently are.
Don’t get me wrong, each and every week there are some very good things going on around the island. For me, I like to see progress, and with recognising some of the good work that does take place, I also believe there is so much more we can be doing.
Human nature I guess dictates that we always pick up on unruly or poor behavior that is shown. The level of recognizing poor behavior though is different from person to person.
What can be deemed acceptable conduct for one person maybe totally unacceptable for another.
As a Coaching Family though, in my opinion, without doubt we should all be singing off the same song sheet.
Our interpretation of the song maybe different as we all have our own unique personality that we should use to maximize our players development, however, the lyrics of the song should be the same.
And by “lyrics” I am talking about the same rules for all, the same boundaries for all; our coaching morals and ethics the same; sportsmanship and fair play promoted and these are just a few things I think should be really adhered too by all Coaches.
With such vast differences between what one coach deems acceptable and what another does not, maybe the key to this is down to education. Coach education.
Why does the coach want to coach a football team? What are their intrinsic reasons?
Does the coach have up to date a Safeguarding Children Certification?
How does the coach keep up to date with coaching methods and knowledge? How does the coach cascade information and new knowledge they have gained to those around them? (On and off the field)
These questions run through my mind when I witness poor conduct or etiquette on the touchlines.
Things I have witnessed include defensive, aggressive shouting command style coaches that take away any decision making from their players; coaches focusing only on their perceived star players and not showing so much interest on the whole squad; coaches pacing up and down the sidelines and continuously talking to players; coaches deliberately making incorrect offside calls to protect their own teams from conceding a goal; coaches intentionally putting off the other teams players with intimidation and harmful comments about their ability; coaches making some very poor and un called for comments about the opposition teams coach and their team during team talks; amongst many other things.
Sadly, the answers to these questions seem to paint a similar picture.
What I have recognized though, is that there is a distinct correlation in terms of questionable coach behavior on the touchlines to coaches whom have been unable or unwilling to attend any recent coaching courses.
By attending and gaining further coach education, I believe this is a big step to not only to support the coach to develop their own coaching knowledge and skills, but to form a “ripple affect” that would also educate the players and the parents further still.
Therefore in my mind, this would have a huge impact on creating a more player centered and positive environment in which our kids would thrive and develop furthermore.
On the bright side, I have also witness coaches showing true sportsmanship win, lose or draw; being honest in there decisions as match officials; being truthful to trying to improve their players and helping them try to be the best they can be; and having some wonderful communication with the parents and spectators that helps the kids enjoy their game of football!
Sometimes being a coach means you have to be brave enough to challenge poor conduct from adults (in an appropriate way) for the good of the kids involved.
Without doubt, your morals and ethics will be tested, but in my experience, once you stand your ground and stick to your guns on how you would like to produce a learning environment, people respect you more for it, and the kids will get more out of THEIR GAME that we are facilitating for them.
Sometimes, what we don’t know… we just don’t know…. and perhaps this is where others can step in to offer some advice and guidance to help us progress further in our coaching journey.
So to finish, maybe some of the below questions will help you reflect on your own touchline Etiquette and give you pause for thought going forward to think about the environment you create during match days.
• Do you stand with your arms folded?
• Do you wave your arms in disgust when decisions go against your team?
• Do you shout at your players and tell them what to do? (Decision Making)
“Take him on” “Pass it” “Don’t do that” “Take it quickly” “Give it to him”
• Do you yell at your players and tell them where they should be?
“You should be here” “You should be there”
• Do you leave your Technical Area?
• Do you interact with your substitutes about what they see in happening within the game?
(Discussing challenges with them for when they will come on and play)
• Do you criticize the Match Officials in view of the players?
• Do you run down the opposition players or coaches to you team during your team talks?
• Do you praise good play by either team?
• Do you shake hands at the end of the game and positively interact with all players, coaches and officials involved?
• Do you give each of your players equal playing time or each player at least 50% game time?
• Do you provide snippets of technical information to individuals appropriately during play?
• Have you prepared you team in training for what you would like to see during matches? (Reducing anxiety and stress on players)
• Do you let the kids have fun and express themselves without having the fear of making a mistake?
The following quote I read and reposted on Twitter and Facebook recently and it sparked a little conversation from various coaches.
"Please never forget...
Grassroots football is not about the amount of trophies you win. It is about the difference you make to young people."
I’m sure you all have your own thoughts on this, and at the time I was posed a question about it from a new up and coming coach that I thought I would share with you all.
Can you make a difference and win trophies?
My opinion is no doubt about it!
As long as the trophy winning is secondary to the overall impact we have on young peoples lives, the affect we have on them going out and enjoying their football is far more important than collecting any silverware.
Fun and development must take the lead,and as a coaching family we must really do the best we can to focus on the bigger picture. Developing not just a player, but also a young person to believe in themselves, and striving to become the best that they can be!
Easier said than done?
Possibly, sometimes we can get caught up in the moment, and external pressures will make us second guess our own beliefs, morales and ethics.
However as a coach, you are in a privileged position, and it rests upon your shoulders to set the standards in everything you do. Not just standards for the way you want your team to play, god knows we all want to play like Barcelona! But even more importantly how you manage you own preparations; manage the enviornment; manage behavior; manage expectations; manage set backs and manage success of everyone around you, your players, your coaches and the parents of the children.
Believe me, I’ve had my challenges in terms of changing the mentality of parents, and in fact, other coaches within the clubs I been at. However, if you can plant the seeds in the minds of the adults, this is half the battle to winning the kids over to a “developmental philosophy” and producing a better environment for them to learn the game in a relaxed atmosphere.
In my experience issues arise when coaches or parents see it the other way around, and a “win at all costs” come before any kind of development. Or in some people’s perceptions and opinions, players are only improving if their team is winning.
Being a substitute, or being subbed is still frowned upon and looked at in a negative light by those who don’t truly understand the development of players and the use of “Rolling” Substitutes!
A player is coming off… so they must be having a bad game! … No, no, no! There are plenty of other reasons that a substitution can take place! Trust me!
Those who undervalue the effort, commitment and learning process of children are usually the ones whom sit in judgment of whether their child’s team has won or lost as measuring stick to being a success or failure.
Is it Blinkered Vision or Lack of Understanding?
Well, you should know your parents, so you have to decide on that. LOL
The easiest one to manage I think are those with a Lack of Understanding. We as coaches should be perhaps communicating more with them, and helping them recognize what we are hoping to do, and how we are trying to improve each and every player in the squad by challenging their own individual abilities.
However those with Blinkered Vision, are difficult to have a break through with, not impossible, but very difficult. These people are usually the ones who are set in their ways (of many years) and put results above performance, and often from the first time their child kids a ball!
This has to be addressed. And it is. But it will take time to turn a nation around.
Can we install a winning mentality from a young age?
A winning mentality is natural. In any game kids (& adults) play, they want to win.... A winning mentality is already there before they get coached in any sport.
Our job as coaches is to assist and support their learning process regardless of whether they win or lose, and that is one of the biggest challenges that should be addressed by us.
Prepare your squad appropriately, and try help them to understand that they need to "compete" against the oppostion, never give up, work hard and then they may leave the field of play feeling good about themselves and the effort they have put in. They may have even enjoyed the experience! LOL
Reflection, feedback & understanding is Invaluable! And I highly recommend that all coaches do this with their squads.
I have watched junior cup finals and league deciders over the years where some of the substitutes are not even used. All in the name of winning a trophy.
Question for you: How can players get better on the sideline?
Unfortunately this is viewed upon as the norm! ... it’s a long path to change and educate... one we need to keep working on continuously.
Personally, I want to ensure that my players look back in ten years time and remember how much fun they had at my coaches sessions, reflect on how much they have learnt, and actually recognise when they are mature enough just how much we cared about them as young people, not just as a footballer! I hope that they have learnt some life skills along the way and not just how to perform on the pitch.
Trophies? Yes, been there done that... Making a Difference and remembering the laughs we had along the way... PRICELESS!
Let me leave you with one final quote I was sent…
“Trophies collect dust, the game collects memories, what would we prefer our young players to build”
Something to ponder…
With Pre-Season training starting around the island and friendly games being lined up, I thought it would be interesting to touch base on both these subjects in the coming weeks.
First of all – Match days.
Just how do you as a Coach prepare on match days?
This season is the first time in my 15 years as a coach that I have not been attached to a club. (Through my own choice I would like to add! LOL – Family life dictates now after having a baby with my beautiful wife last year)
I thought it would interesting to see how some of you coaches out there pre-pare your selves on match days.
• Do you have a regular routine you go through?
• Do you have a specific way in which you share information to the players and parents?
• What do you deem a success after the final whistle has blown?
Below is my own personal way of preparing for game. Sometimes it will vary, but I do try to keep the routine…. Well, a routine!
The warm ups my squads do before each match always have a ball related activity inclusive of hand ball, and small group work building up the intensity as we go.
We use the dynamic stretches as the “breather” in between the activities, (players choose the muscle to stretch for that interval) and time dependent, we try to cover all the major groups.
For each game the routine is very similar, however we do try to change the activities after time before they become stagnant and the players start “going through the motions”
Before this however, my usual routine is to arrive 90 minutes before kick off, grab a cup of tea, take the equipment to the changing room, lay out the kit, inspect the pitch for any hazards, and then begin work on a team sheet.
Invariably, the team I would like to put out against the opposition of the day will change several times before kick off. Years ago when first starting out on my own coaching journey, and I should add, playing for the win, this would cause me some strife!
However, with a change in my own philosophy, further coaching education, and gaining a good amount of experience with these situations, I now prepare in my own mind a possible three different starting line ups that can easily be tinkered with.
These lines ups are based on match time from the previous game, who started that game, who has not yet started as a subsitute throughout the season so far, how adaptable are the players in playing different positions, and like i mentioned, what players are available for the game.
Without doubt, almost before every game, something will come up that you cannot prepare for. As information starts to come in days previous and right up until the warm up before the game, players will advise that they have picked up an injury; are sick; are going away unexpectedly or have become unavailable for another other reason. It’s the nature of the beast!
Player adaptability and preparing your squad for this eventuality during your training schedule really is key to maintaining a calm environment just before kick off. How many times have we seen the player that is perceived to be the best by their peers miss a game, and then certain members of the squad going into meltdown!
Players (U11 plus) are expected to arrive one hour before kick off, and I’ll call them into the changing room 45 minutes prior to the game.
For those 15 minutes in between, the first players to arrive come to the coaches, shake hands and have a general chat about school, holidays, other sports or whatever, and then I give them one ball to go out and have a kick about with, socialize with each other and time to catch up with their peer group.
As the remaining members of the squad arrive, they too come over shake hands with the coaches, leave their belongings in the changing rooms and then go and join the rest of the group. These 15 minutes of social time I highly recommend! It really is invaluable!
Time dependent, sometimes I will start to pull players out to discuss and reiterate their own individual roles and responsibilities within the team for the up and coming game. I sometimes do this individually, in pairs I.e full backs or in units i.e back four.
One of my coaches is also part of these discussions, and I would like to speak to every player during the actual warm up. However a lot of the time it is just not possible, so if required, I will start discussion before we go into the changing room.
During this time, players have the opportunity to ask questions, usually starting with “What if…?” and gain the clarity and understanding of what is being asked of them without going out into the field feeling uncertain.
Players come in 45 minutes before kick off. They know at this point, it is time to start focusing on the game. They change into our playing kit, check on any knocks, niggles or injuries.
We then have a discussion of expectations not only of our own squad performance, but expectations of the weather and how the game may develop due to the the rain, wind, heat etc; expectations of opposition players, opposition coaches and parents, and expectations of the environment in general.
Sometimes, whilst players are getting changed and preparing themselves for the game, we ask them to write on a sheet of paper their own specific challenge they want try and complete during the first half. i.e deliver three quality crosses that create goal scoring opportunities, or whatever it is specific to them as an individual.
We then discuss a Team Challenge for that half.
With 30 minutes before kick off, we go out to start our warm up – Keepers involved with the rest of the squad initially, especially during the handball activities and dynamic stretching.
The warm up is for around 20-25 minutes. Keepers will separate from the group after 10-15 minutes and complete a pre established goalkeeper specific warm up.
Depending on the availability of my coaches, one of them may take the warm up as I continue to pull out other players I am yet to speak with regarding their roles and responsibilities for the game.
To finish the warm up, we have a 5-10 minute “Possession Football” game to lift the intensity to almost match speed.
After this, we return to the changing room, check any last minute injuries, discuss the tactics for this match (as practiced in training), and reaffirm that players do understand their own individual tasks and the challenges they have set themselves.
Once the above has been completed and the ref is ready, we go out and try to enjoy the game.
Oh! And how could I forget! Depending on the age group, (teenagers mostly) I also have some tunes playing in the background before we have a team talk! – Tunes requested by the players of course!
This is a rough generalization of how I approach a game on match day.
So in the famous words of the Cadbury’s Cream Egg Adverts – How do you do it?
Please feel free to leave your Match Day Preparations on Feedback in the Comments box.
After spending a few years at St.Pauls FC working through the junior set up there, football training after Micky Porter was a bit strange.
The top age of Under 16’s, Charlie Daze, the famous comedian and scout for Leeds United came in to manage us as Micky moved down a level to completely take over the U14 set up.
Training for the U16 team was at St.Saviours Hospital. Throughout the winter it was a bit of a challenge as the only lighting we had was the car headlights of the coaches (and some parents) beaming across the field in order to provide us with light to have a training session. Not ideal, or a great learning environment as you can imagine.
Luckily however, this season we had a decent enough squad with some talented players. We challenged on all fronts to pick up some silverware, but none came about.
Personally I had decent season in terms of playing almost every game, creating and scoring several of goals. I was playing in a team once again with a lot of my mates, and I was content enough to start off with.
However, as the season progressed, I felt that I did not learn much at all.
The phrase I heard more than any other throughout the season from the coaching staff was “get it up to the big man up front” – the football possession game that had been instilled into me the years previous by Micky Porter seemed to be taking a backwards step as teammates hit long ball towards me or over the top to run on to.
Not my game at all, and a lot of energy expended pointlessly in what appeared to be a bit of “kick and rush” football.
The best part for me about this U16 season was that our Team Manager Charlie gained us entry to play in the Famous Northern Ireland worldwide tournament the Milk Cup in County Tyrone.
The squad, and in particularly myself, were extremely excited about this, as County Tyrone is where half of my family live. And a big well-known family in Omagh it is.
Travelling to the tournament with St.Pauls FC drew all sorts of interest from home and in Northern Ireland.
Through my family roots in Omagh, a newspaper wanted to know a little bit more about the “local boy” from Jersey coming to play in in his mums home county.
A nice article was written up, (I have a copy somewhere and will provide it when I find it!) my family was happy; I was happy; and couldn’t wait to play in the tournament with the support of my family whom I hadn’t seen in about six years.
If I remember correctly, we had four teams in our Group including ourselves. Local Northern Irish Fermanagh, Scottish professional outfit Motherwell and one other which eludes me. Also another local side if I recall.
Having seen the teams in our group and having started and played in almost every game throughout the season, my expectations of playing against the local teams and Motherwell were high. I couldn’t wait!
Also, as we only had two strikers in our team, a lad called James B and myself who forged a decent partnership scoring 30 plus goals between us that season. I had big dreams of scoring a goal or two and enjoying a fantastic tournament against new teams and different players!
Our first game against Fermanagh, and for reasons totally unknown to me, and still to this day, I was dropped and a centre back took my place playing up front.
This hit me hard. Although I kept my emotions in check, I was absolutely fuming. I got on for the last 15 minutes where game was pretty much over already as we were 5-2 down, the team’s energy tanks were almost empty, and I hardly got a touch of the ball and we went on to lose 6-2.
The game against Motherwell, I was allowed to start. However, we hardly got the ball out of our half, let alone having a chance to score, and I was pulled off at half time. We lost that game 14-0.
The other game I can’t even remember to be honest. I’m not even sure I played in it, but I don know that we lost each game in our group.
What I do remember though, is that feeling of being kicked to the side without any explanation. I gave 100% to the team and coaches all season long, I never missed a training session, was at every game, even when injured and given the fact we used long ball tactics, I had a fairly decent session. I felt betrayed and embarrassed that my family spent money to come over from Jersey to support me; I was upset that my family in Northern Ireland travelled to watch me play and hardly saw me on the pitch.
My parents always thought that I was dropped due to the article in the newspaper. They believed that I stole some of the limelight from our Famous Manager who was also returning to his homeland (Northern Ireland), and maybe he thought he would teach me a lesson. I would like to think this is not the case, as a coaching team punishing a 16-year-old boy due to circumstances outside of his own control would be very low indeed. To this day though, I still don’t understand the reason for not getting much match time after playing most of the season, and probably never will.
Once the tournament was over, my parents took me to visit the rest of the family the following week whilst the St.Paul’s FC squad returned home to Jersey.
The disappointed subdued, but has always stuck with me.
Although I don’t remember the specific details of this season, or the results etc, the feelings I do.
The feeling of being exciting about playing and having the chance to score; the anticipation of playing the game; the feeling of when the ball hits the back of the net… then the feelings of anger and betrayal; being made to feel worthless and pushed to one side; feeling a bit lost and wondering why has this happened to me?
Football is an emotional game, and affects us all differently. The understanding of coaching junior players (in any sport) almost twenty years ago back in 1995 is night and day compared to the education on offer and the understanding we have now.
And I’m not just talking about improving players technical ability, I talking about the bigger picture – the way in which up to date and knowledgeable coaches try to develop an holistic outlook to young players development by putting the actual young person first, and the football player second.
As coaches we draw on our experiences as a player, who we learned from, and in certain areas, we think about how would we do things differently?
As I continue to write articles for this Blog, I hope that you will recognize key moments in my life as a player and a coach. These moments may have similarities to what is happening in your life. Possibly you could draw on my experiences and think about how you would manage the situation differently, what you might change? What outcome is best for you? What did the experience teach you? And have you learnt from it?
The beauty of being in the position I am now is that I have evaluate different situations, discuss various subjects with like minded people and come up with the relevant solution.
As I write this blog, I guess I am putting into words the path I have been down. I am now thinking more deeply, and evaluating the experiences I have had in my own life, and how these experiences can positively affect that of the players under my guidance.
I hope that, and I will do my best to ensure I never make a young person playing the game feel the way I did back in Northern Ireland in 1995.
With these ongoing experiences I write about, I hope they may give other coaches, parents, teachers etc, a moment to pause for thought and think about how they may manage certain situations if they found themselves in a similar predicament.
As I finish the post, let me just say that Charlie and I have no issues whatsoever. We see each other now and again in and around the town and at various functions. We get on great and enjoy each other’s company. He is a fantastic bloke and has a wonderful family. Some of his boys I actually taught Kenpo karate many years ago.
In fact as I sit here and type this blog, I’m now questioning myself as to why I have never quizzed Charlie over what actually happened in County Tyrone. What happened for me to be dropped so unceremoniously?
In fact, next time the opportunity presents itself; maybe that’s just what I’ll do.
P.S Speaking of influencing Junior Players... whose got the best caption for the message I'm trying to get across in the photo above? LOL
May, June, July, August… every season without fail, boundaries will be crossed and certain rules that are in place will be broken.
Unintentionally at times due to various factors, for example becoming a new coach, just not knowing or possibly being advised incorrectly. And sadly, broken very intentionally at other times, sometimes out of spite, jealousy, taking things too personally and losing sight of what is actually important – the kids enjoying their football.
With the summer months upon us, lets discuss the “Transfer Window” that was introduced a few seasons back here in Jersey.
As far as I’m aware, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the transfer window starts on the 1st June and ends on the 30th June each season. All players, Junior and Senior effectively become “Free Agents” and during this month they are free to train and play for any other club of their choosing without the permission of their current club.
During this time, Coaches and Managers are also free to approach any players and enquire if they would like to join their club and the team they are coaching the following season.
Players, if they choose too, can “Register” with another club in June without telling their current club, Which in my opinion is a little disrespectful to their clubs, coaches and teammates, but it is allowed to happen, and it does.
Each week, to assist clubs with there planning for the following season, during the transfer window, the governing body, the Jersey Football Combination sends weekly emails to club Secretaries with the latest updates of the movers and shakers throughout the month.
From the 1st July, the Free agent / transfer window is effectively closed and no player can move until the 1st of September.
The reason I was told for this is that players have previously tried to de-register themselves from their current clubs and then register again with a new club if they have not completed their move in time throughout June. This rule also helps clubs plan for the season ahead knowing roughly what players they have and what teams they can run.
The issue from this rule though is if a player wants to move from their current club and has missed their opportunity to do so in June, they are stuck for two months unable to play.
Official transfers can then be made from September through to the end of December where written permission is required from the players current club in order for the transfer to materialize. From January to May, no transfers are permitted.
One further addition to this situation of registering players is that, any player whom has not played at all for the previous two seasons, or any new players to the game can be registered throughout most of the season without any issues.
Knowing the above information, unfortunately in recent seasons gone by, I have personally experienced the impact of coaches from other clubs kicking up a fuss due to their own lack of understanding about how the process works. And in some cases, these coaches appear to have gone out of their way to slander my name and reputation to parents, others coaches and even report me to the Jersey Football Combination.
Let me provide a couple of examples.
One situation was a player and their parent approached me around Christmas time asking about how they might join my club and team. They enquired further about how I coach my players, the practices, and in general, everything that I do to develop the squad of players. At the time I rebuffed this approach advising that I couldn’t talk about any move to join me until June, and if they were still interested then, to contact me. Soon as June rolled around, they did indeed do this, and I was delighted to bring them into my club, and the player into my squad.
Another situation that occurred was one where I approached five players in June and enquired if they were currently happy at their current club, or if they had any thoughts on possibly moving elsewhere. (For the record its not something I’ve really needed to do before, but due to age and numbers in my squad, I required a few more players to be ready for the season ahead).
Of course, some of these players turned the offer down and some didn’t.
This happens a lot in the game, it's within the rules, and I’m certain that I am not the only one to do this.
However, as mentioned, the lack of knowledge in this area by coaches that have been in the game for many years was very surprising. Due to various comments these coaches made to parents around the island about me “Tapping up” there best players and the fact that they submitted a report / concern to the JFC, I had to answer questions about my conduct.
This had another impact on me as I had recently been appointed as a Coach for the Jersey Football Association Centre of Excellence. A role that I was excited to get, and one that i had worked very hard for in the previous decade to get!
However, now, two seasons in a row, I had to justify and clear my name with the CoE Director as these unnamed club coaches tried to use my position in the island set up against me stating “that a coach in your position should be tapping up players the way you are”… but don’t worry, I spoke to one of these coaches and corrected his version of events to the actual truth of what actually took place. And to be fair to him, he did apologise. The other one however, well… lets leave it at that.
Justifying my behavior has never been an issue for me, as I have a very strict moral compass, strong ethics and know most of the rules. If I don’t, I do my best to find out, and anybody who knows me in the game, and in life will recognize this completely.
So every allegation made about me was proven totally incorrect, and to top it off, it turned out that the coaches who reported me for “Tapping Up” their players in the month of June had actually been trying to lure some of my players away to their own clubs in April and May! Unbelievable!
For me, it appears that the first thought that goes through many coaches minds, especially the ones I personally class as “Old School Coaches” appears to be that any player wishing to leave there team, well, must have been tapped up.
The reality is, there could be a whole host of reasons that a player would like to move to another club. These reasons may be:
To play with the mates at another club;
To try different training or practice and another club (especially those player who have been at their current club for a long time);
To have a new challenge;
To play in the position they want too in a different team;
To play under a manager they know away form the game;
They may not get on as well with the current team as they used too;
They want to play longer in matches than they get at their current club.
Situations and circumstances in football and out of it are always changing. Players are a fickle bunch. The list goes on and on.
The long and short of it is... Let the kids enjoy playng the game... where ever they choose to do it.
We as coaches have to take a step back from taking a players request to move to another club so personally and try to find out exactly what the reasons are, and why the player wants to move.
If you have a good trustworthy relationship with them, I expect they will tell you honestly. If you don’t, then that may be part of the problem.
As I say, players wanting to move could be as simple as they want to play with the friends at another club – No problem whatsoever – that’s for all your effort and hard work and I wish you well.
However, if players are moving to get a better practice and match day experience, then we need to do some soul searching.
We need to look at how we conduct ourselves; our organisation; our practices; our approach as a coach and numerous other areas rather than assume the player has had their head turned and been “Tapped Up” in the first instance. Learn as a coach from the situation, and gain experience from it for the future.
Being around the block for a while, and the experiences I have, I believe that coaches who stick to the rules, abide by the codes of conducts and put their egos aside for the sake of the players are in the minority, and I wholeheartedly hope this changes.
Of course, there is always a flipside. I have seen coaches trying to lure players to join they team before matches, during matches and after matches. In fact, I have also seen and spoke to coaches who are qualified referees, admit that during some games they are refereeing, they have tried to talk players into joining the team they coach! You can cast your own judgment on that!
However, the culture of our soceity, or as deep as the actual human make up is, we focus too much on the negative scenarios that pop up and they stick in our minds.
Maybe its time to focus on the positive things, trust that people will do the right thing in difficult peer pressure situations and celebrate all the good work that is being done by some excellent coaches and wonderful volunteers around the football grounds every day.
In a long winded way, what I am trying to get across is that before you make assumptions, accusations or make allegations not just regarding player transfers, but in life!
Try to make sure you have a sound understanding of the situation and what the rules are. And if you are unsure, as I have been on several occasions, find out what they are from the appropriate people who do know.
Please, please, please, think about the consequences and the effect it may have on a coach when false accusations are made and passed around as Chinese whispers within the football community.
Any untruthful comments may cause people in volunteer positions a lot of stress and anxiety, which may have a knock effect for their families, and of course… you may have the wrong end of the stick…
As a young player joining the Club football environment fairly late on, especially compared to todays opportunities, I was lucky to have one man in particular to stand up for me and give me a chance.
Back in my first season when I had to try out to get into the St.Pauls FC U14 squad, a group of players were already established. The head coach at the time, as I found out later, did not want to sign me due to my technical skill not being at the level they would have liked.
However, luckily for me, a member of the coaching team convinced the head coachto sign me. This supporter of me he recognized that I had vision, a good passing ability and a good understanding of the game, even if my technical and positional ability was still a bit raw.
For me, I recognise this as the defining point in my football journey.
If I was not signed on, I expect I would have turned my back on the game and continued down the Martial Arts pathway. A lot of what I have accomplished in my football pathway as a player, and as a coach, is down the faith that one man showed in me as a 13 year kid.
That man was Alan ‘Micky’ Porter.
That season as it turns out was Micky’s first as a coach in Jersey after coming to the island from Manchester.
Micky’s passion and enthusiasm for the game is amazing. He is dedication to producing young players who can play with confidence, composure and commitment is second to no one.
Playing wise, my first ever season I hardly got a look in. Always a substitute, always given the last few minutes of half of a game depending on how well the team was doing, (by that I mean how much of a winning margin they had opened up) and although I was happy to be signed on, the game time I received was a reflection of the lack of faith the head coach showed in me.
I received limited opportunities to play; limited game time; and very little encouragement from him.
Micky was more of an assistant coach at this point, and he always spoke with me about the games we played, games on tv, and discussed and educated me in tactics.
Micky explained to me how he wants his team to play, and the training methods he uses were based on possession play and one and two touch football – “give & go, give & go!”
So when I turned 14 and Micky asked me to train an extra night with the U18 squad that he managed I couldn’t say no!
I loved it! But it was damn hard work! Playing in a small gym at Maufant Youth Club with players 3&4 years older than me was difficult. With that said, my speed of thought, control and one and two touch football came on immensely. No doubt as I didn’t want an 18 year old smashing me with a tackle!
The following season when I was due to move into the U16 division, I was only one of a hand full of players to move up an age group. Therefore, I was leaving the majority of the squad who were a year younger than me behind in the U14 Division.
It was announced then that Micky Porter would be the new U16 Manager.
Micky approached me straight away and asked me to sign for him. Something I did without a second thought. Micky’s personality and love of the game is infectious. You cannot help but learn from the man.
That season, we had a brand new squad, with players who had very little experience, and it showed in some of our performances and results. We took some drubbings, some in double figures.
Personally however, I played almost every minute of every game. I trained once with the U16, once with the U18, and then when I turned 15 in the November, I was invited to train with the seniors twice a week too.
Within months I then began to play for three teams, Sunday mornings the U16 and U18 (alternate weeks) and Saturday afternoon for the Senior Reserve Team, and began to learn what it felt like to win. It was a great time in my life.
Micky had the foresight to convert me from a right winger, to a forward player who drops deep and links play up with midfield. My touch and link play thrived creating plenty of goal scoring chances for my teammates and also during the next four years, finished top scored for my team in three of those. When I was 17, I moved up into the U18 division and played under a new manager, questions were being asked if I would get into the Island side and represent Jersey.
These questions would have never been raised if I didn’t progress as rapidly as I did through receiving constant quality coaching and having good habits instilled into me by Micky during my first three years as a player.
Representing the Island was something I always had a glimmer of hope for, but unfortunately, it was a dream that would not be realized.
At this point, although playing under a new manager in the U18 Division, Micky asked if I would be interested in joining him to coach the U14 team that he would be taking that season. Friday night practice sessions at Grainville from 5-6pm… what a great way to finish the week!
Once again, with any doubt, I took Micky up on his offer and began my coaching pathway under a man who is now, one of the biggest influences in Junior Football in Jersey.
Micky took me under his wing, and learning his methods of coaching; the way he worked with players on and off the pitch; his tactics; and the way his morals and ethics always shone through was a wonderful footballing education for me.
It was at this point I was mature enough to witness first hand his approach to protecting his players in the face of adversity, and giving the underdog a chance. It was only now, some three years later I realized how he gave young people a chance in the game when others refused too.
It was, and still is, inspiring.
After spending the next seven years working, studying and learning from the great man, I took on my own team as a Manager.
Micky is a gentle, humble and generous man, without whom my own coaching journey of the past 15 years wouldn’t have got started. Words cannot express how much thanks I have for him and how much I appreciate his faith in me.
Micky and I have become dear friends, he supported me through the difficult time when my father passed away; we’ve attended each other’s Weddings to our better halves (also known as Footballing Widows) and other family events and functions.
We meet up for dinner or a cup of tea whenever we can, and we always bump into each other around the island watching junior matches or in fact, having our teams play against each other!
So without any shadow of a doubt, my first positive influence was from the legend that is Micky Porter!
Back when I was younger, the landscape of local junior football was somewhat different. Aside from the Primary Schools and Youth Clubs having matches, the structure was bare at best, and need to drastically change and evolve.
The governing bodies of the game were, and still are, the Jersey Football Combination and the Jersey Football Association.
To join a local football club, you had to wait until you were in School Year 8. Club football began with the Under 14’s age band that consisted of players in School Years 8&9 mixed together.
My first participation at club level was when I joined St. Paul’s Football Club in Year 9. A huge challenge in itself for me, whose first passion was martial arts, something that I had been doing for almost 7 years prior to joining a football club. However, I showed a bit of promise, and was selected and signed on by the coaches.
My first coaches were Pierre Le Saux, father of England international Graeme, Alan “Micky” Porter, John Cunningham and the late Geoff Carter.
Above my age band were the Under 16’s in School Years 10&11, and of course the Under 18’s who were 17 or 18 years old. At this point, players who were aged 15 years old, could play up in the older division or even Senior football.
Each age band had two divisions, and two cups to play for. 3 points for the win in league matches, and as I remember it, the best players started the games, the so called weaker players started on the bench, and would only get a chance to play if the team established a healthy lead.
The long established structure of these age bands would soon become to change with plans in the pipeline, for me, the most important move by the governing bodies was to introduce a full time Youth Development Officer, namely Brian Oliver.
Brian’s influence on Jersey football cannot be underestimated. His drive and determination to constantly push the game forward is inspiring, and we should all be thankful for his continuous contribution to our game.
The structure was changing, and the introduction of the Under 12’s age band for School Years 6&7, and then the Under 10’s Section that would be known as “The Mini’s” began to increase participation in the sport. Clubs Mini’s sections beginning from School Year 2 up to School Year 5 began to thrive.
So within a few short years, the expansion of the game had begun. Clubs were now running many more junior teams from School Years 2 all the way up to Under 18s.
In recent seasons, major changes to the format of junior footbsll have come in. We have seen the introduction of single age bands for U11, U12, U13, U14 & U15 players, and the introduction of the “Development” Games programme.
The Development Games Programme consists of no league or cup games for U11, U12 and U13, but instead, friendly fixtures that solely focus on player development and understanding.
U14’s also have no league format, but a cup competition at the end of the friendly fixtures programme that will bridge the gap for when they enter the U15 age band.
Once in the U15’s section the re-introduction of the competitive league and cups mentioned previously returns.
Supporting this were the format changes of 7 a-side football for the Mini’s, 9 a-side for the U11, U12 and U13, with 11 aside starting in the U14 division. Players now have to be a year older, the age of 16 years old before they can play up in the U18 division or Senior football.
The Female Game
Senior ladies football has had its up and downs over the last several years. It has stuttered and stumbled, expanded and shrunk in terms of number of teams and players involved, but overall, the quality of the game from its inception up to now has been progressive.
The junior game for girls is also growing rapidly. Female players can now play ‘mixed’ football with the boys in the Development Games Programme up until the U14 age and band.
The dedication of the volunteers within the female game is unquestionable, and I have no doubt that they will reach there short and long term targets.
As you can see, from the day I was introduced to club football in 1993 at St.Paul’s FC, the opportunities for youngsters to play the game have increased phenomenally.
Young people can now be introduced to the game, and receive weekly coaching and games practice from the tender age of six years old in School Year 2, compared to School Year 8 when I began my footballing journey.
It’s pleasing to see the participation in the sports from both boys and girls has increased enormously over the years and long may it continue to do so.
What are your opinions on the changes we have seen in recent years?
Do you agree with them or would you have done something different?