Over the course of this series, I will be blogging the trials, tribulations, thoughts and reflections of my UEFA B Course with Durham County FA. The intention is to give you an idea of the course, how I’m finding it and how I feel I am developing as a coach.
In 2017 a new style of UEFA B was launched by the Football Association and so this will also serve as a bit of a review as to how I feel it fits.
Blog 1 – Block 1
Heading into the first day of Block 1 I was excited, knowing that the level of detail was going to raise from the courses I had experienced before. I was of course a little nervous too, not knowing who else was going to be attending with me or how I was going to cope with the perceived change in style from the Youth Modules which I had completed in between this first day and 2012 when I completed my Level 2.
The course is being hosted by Durham County FA at their own offices, right next to Durham’s International Cricket ground and regional athletics track. The fairly new 3G pitch sit’s amongst some brilliant grass pitches, by the river and from my past experience, is a great place for learning all about coaching.
My Coaching Journey
Pre-course we needed to complete an online module named ‘My Coaching Journey’, which asked each coach to timeline how they had come to attending the UEFA B. Here’s a brief outline of my version:
As you can see, my coaching journey is likely a little bit different, having experienced a range of grassroots sides, had an insight to working in an academy and also coaching my peers. An aspect of my education that I believe is quite important is the exposure to different sports, including Futsal which is listed, but also covering basketball, hockey and even swimming through the Junior and Community Sports Leaders Programmes that I attended through school and sixth form.
Alongside this, we were asked to timeline any major events in our personal lives such as leaving school or college, a first job, getting married and anything else that may have had an effect on who you are as a person. I won’t share mine for obvious reasons, but immediately, you get the sense that this course is considering a much wider approach to understanding candidates and acknowledging that we might be at a similar point in our coach education, but overall we are very different people. This already relates the levels at which you should understand your players.
We were also asked to consider our main influences as a coach, why we coach and what our aims are for the coming season.
Upon arrival, I noticed that there weren’t as many coaches from professional clubs as I expected… in fact, I don’t think there were any! Often this is one of the interesting aspects of a course when you get together and workout who has the most experience or more than likely, who are the coaches that you might expect to hear most of this week.
Our lead tutor Andy Lowe, explained that the reconfiguration of the UEFA B was aimed at ‘bring it back to grassroots’ and so felt it fitting that all 24 of our candidates were working in grassroots football and potentially seeing challenges that may not be visible in a professional or even educational environment. Ultimately, it was evident very early on that this group contained a vast and varied level of experience, in a way that everybody brought something different to the table whether they have just completed the ‘new’ Level 2 or are in fact returning to re-do the UEFA B having experienced the old course. From my experience on Block 1, it is clear that we will all be able to support each other in one way or another, something that I find really engaging and exciting about Coach Education Courses.
The course was led by the below tutors who’s diverse range of experiences, ensured the course had something for everyone and coaches were able to tap into expertise which aligned with their coaching journey and stage of development. I don’t imagine it’s very often you will find a tutor team where experience of all ages of grassroots coaching is matched with academy, youth senior, male and female coaching experience along with experience of education too.
Andy Lowe – is a FA County Coach Developer with an extensive knowledge of player and child development, along with adult education. His expertise range from working in the 5-11 age groups all the way up to adults, having worked as a Secondary school PE teacher, an academy coach with Middlesbrough FC and in Coach Education for the FA for over 15 years. Andy is a qualified secondary school teacher, UEFA Licenced coach, has an MSc in applied coaching and is also the author of work within the coach education field.
Richard Shuffleton – is a new addition to the FA Tutor team. As an FA skills team leader, Rich has an extensive range of knowledge working in the 5-11 age range, currently undertaking his UEFA A and also has experience coaching in adult football, currently Coaching at Durham University.
Graeme Clark – is a UEFA Licenced coach and retired prison officer with a vast experience of Coach education, delivering for over 20 years on FA courses. Graeme also specialises in safeguarding and 1st aid delivery and has worked with Hartlepool United’s school of excellence and Middlesbrough FC’s Academy.
Kelsey Byrne – is a UEFA A licence coach, Middlesbrough ladies 1st team Coach and another new addition to the FA tutor workforce team.
Workshop Day by Day
Our course was the first of its kind (aside from an earlier pilot) in Durham County FA and so the content of the 3 days was pulled together by our tutors in order to give us the best insight as to what was to come. I’ll keep this brief, in order to give you an overview of where we’ve started and not give too many spoilers away for any future candidates! (Maybe I there’s a future blog, I’ll do this in more detail).
Monday started with Andy introducing the wider content for the week, our projected learning outcomes and gave a brief introduction to the project which we would be taking away with us, starting with the coaching journey which I touched on a little earlier.
We were then given an insight into the England DNA and Principles of play before taking part in 2 practical sessions that our tutors delivered as good practice examples of a UEFA B session. Both of these sessions focussed on transitional play, which we then reviewed as a part of our ‘Plan, Do, Review’ session in the afternoon.
Immediately over that first day, it became clear to me that there was a real shift in detail towards working with an individual first i.e. working with a specific position before moving around the ball and working with the player’s ‘unit’ and wider team. There was also a lot of reference to working with numbers, relevant to the position that the player is in, for example a central striker might be referred to as a ‘9’ and a left winger an ‘11’ which personally helps me to draw a picture of how a session looks in my head, adding an element of detail to your planning and pinpointing individuals who may see the most benefit from the work that you are doing.
There was a clear dependence on identifying the principles of play which you are effecting during your session and an important note that it’s unlikely, if not impossible that you will be working on them all at once.
Already, after day 1, I was leaving with a lot to think about.
After reviewing day 1, day 2 saw us focus on ‘The Future Player,’ with a clear focus on long-term player development and how using four corner model can support your players to develop, including creating ‘player profiles’ of each member of the time to document areas where they strive and/or may need more support. Using that information, we moved onto ‘How We Support’ as coaches and how we can design practices to bring the best out of our players and the topic at hand.
We then took part in a bit of player analysis as we watch two of Sunderland Foundation Scholars’ teams battle it out on the Riverside’s 3G pitch in a really competitive and high-quality friendly. Usually, at this point, candidates would be observing a video of a game, watching a single player whereas we were able to do it with a live game, enhancing the experience in my eyes.
After reviewing our observations, the afternoon session moved into ‘How We Play’ and identifying key characteristics that each coach looks to develop within their own team. This included detailed formations and player-roles in order to understand how your team sets up and what is expected of each player.
Finally, we took part in some more tutor delivery which we were to review as a home study task, before being left with these three questions to reflect on moving forward:
- “Can you coach it if you don’t understand it?”
- “What will your players think of you in 20 years’ time?”
- “As a coach can you help players develop technically, tactically and get better at the game if you don’t have the required technical, tactical detail yourself?”
My reflection on the day as a whole was the clear focus on now specifying your coaching to you and your team, there isn’t a ‘right way’ to be going about it as there may have been in old Level 1 and even 2 courses, rather your coaching has to fit the needs of your players, your club and your strengths as an individual.
For our final day of the block, we visited the topic of goalkeeping and were treated to delivery by FA National Goalkeeping Coach, Martin Thomas who delivered 2 excellent sessions on ‘playing out from the back’ and ‘defending crosses from wide areas’. Again, this was a fantastic opportunity for the course attendees to witness the work of a vastly experienced coach and learn from all that he had to offer, whilst covering a topic that potentially many of us hadn’t seen delivered with a full set of players, as often I think goalkeepers can be side-lined to working in silo.
Following on from Martin’s delivery, our afternoon was spent outlining what we were required to achieve ahead of Block 2 of the course, including our in-situ visits and being introduced to our project, which I will go into in more detail below. There was also some more delivery from our tutors to ensure that we had as many good examples and ideas of sessions to take away with us from the first three days.
The final act of a great 3 days was the introduction to ‘The Project.’ Recent attendees to the new FA Level 2 may know what is coming here, but for those that don’t; each candidate must complete an 18 game ‘project’ which outlines the sessions that they are taking your team through and how they link to your match plans for the upcoming fixture(s). Along with the detailed plans, we are also asked to outline as to who you are as a coach and what your club represents. Topic titles include:
- Who We Are
- Why We Exist
- How We Play
- The Future Payer
- How We Coach
- How We Support
Do most of these sound familiar?
I really like the idea of doing this as it allows each coach to really demonstrate what they’re taking away from the course in a personalised and creative way. This may take a fair bit of work but it is something that will be usable within my club, with my team and in my future as a coach, to reference the depth that I need to be going into with future teams.
In-situ Visit Number 1
My first in-situ session with Andy Lowe took place on December 1st on a freezing cold Friday night at Harton Sports Complex. As ever, the lads arrived nice and early and moved straight into the usual rondos that are set up for their arrival.
I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t been able to see any of the other candidates coaching over this period so wasn’t that surer about the standards that had been set.
My topic for the evening was based around using a ‘9’ or centre-forward as a focal point to start attacking moves, having worked on playing in wide areas in previous sessions. Over the hour we covered ‘target’ as both a warm-up and an introduction to the type of play we were looking, for within the session and then we moved into the phase of play which was my main focus.
I feel my session went okay, but there were certainly things to improve throughout. In my conversations with Andy both during and after the session, the initial feedback was that I created a great environment for the players and engaged well with them, though I need to develop my session design and levels of knowledge to support my players better, which I completely understand. In our conversations, I was able to answer a lot of Andy’s questions, but it became evident that I wasn’t quite displaying that knowledge to the team.
All in all, I wouldn’t say it was too bad for a first visit and I will receive a comprehensive breakdown of the session in the coming days which I am looking forward to seeing and learning from.
Reflection and Progress
After the first block of the course, I am already looking forward to building my knowledge further in Block 2. As above, I am aware that I need to develop my own understanding of the ‘Principles of Play’, work at my session ddesign andalso, get used to talking in more detail, having spent a few years working with age groups where it may not have been necessary. However, I have taken confidence from comments that the tutors shared on the way I interact with players and fellow coaches and the general supportive manner in which they and my peers have shown so early in this UEFA B journey.
Since we completed Block 1, I have taken 10 training sessions with the Under 17s to varying levels of success and made a big dent in my aforementioned project. I have spent time with a coach mentor to develop my own knowledge and even attended a session that Richard Shuffleton took with his team so that I could see the levels that a UEFA A Candidate is expected to reach, which was really impressive (thanks, Rich!).
Aside from me, the other candidates on the course clearly showed their enthusiasm, largely through Twitter as Durham FA’s feed lit up with positive reviews of the first few days and excitement to get going.
Overall, it has been great to start this journey towards the UEFA B, something I’ve wanted to work towards since I first set out on this coaching journey. Thanks to the tutors, fellow candidates and my players. Thanks for reading and look out for the Block 2 Blog!