The Dearth of Coaching is the Murderer of Football

The response that met England’s World Cup 2014 humiliation from the once vociferous Three Lions fans spoke volumes. Ironically, their silence should have been the thorough answer that the F.A needed to radically overhaul what is a decrepit and dated manifesto.
Normally following their beloved national football team from pillar to post, the crowd of less than 56000 at Wembley for the Euro qualifier against whipping boys San Marino was a statement from the normally loyal legions. Mediocrity has been suffered long enough.
Many have attempted to answer why England cannot match up to expectations, even with supposed ‘World-Class’ superstars peppering their squad.
Some have surmised ( including myself in a previous blog! ) regarding a lack of a winter break that recent World Cup winners Spain and Germany enjoy.
Others speculated on the muddied waters of the Premiership, citing a flooding of foreign players that smothers the chances of young English players.
The F.A have a mess on their hands. They need to see what is at the fulcrum of the problem. That would be the huge lack of coaches at all levels.

It has been well documented regarding the amount of qualified coaches in England compared to recent successful countries such as Germany and Spain. Spain have the luxury of over twenty thousand more fully qualified Uefa Grade coaches, whilst Germany have over thirty thousand more. What a disparity.
The reason for such a massive gap in numbers is simple. Money. To travel through the ranks to the pinnacle of coaching, thousands must be spent.
Upon discussing this very issue with a fellow Arsenal fan, @GoonerDyllan, imagine my astonishment when he reveals that he is currently doing his badges! What an opportunity.
I quizzed him on the subject and his responses, from a coaches point of view and as a fan, are a great insight.

Q – What compelled you to aspire to coaching?

A – I never felt particularly compelled to get into coaching, you cock. It all happened rather by accident in fact. When I was asked to join a youth team as a coach however I realised it was a great opportunity. I, like most of the people that will be reading this(except the kinky perverts) find myself obsessed by football. The chance to be a part of educating children and young adults about the game was intriguing for me and it offered me the chance to improve as a teacher, communicator and footballer.

Q – What level are you currently at?

A – I’ve been doing this for little under a year and I’m qualified for Level 1.3 in the regular pathway, and by the time this interview goes out I’ll have the Goalkeeping Intermediate Certification.

Q – What has that involved, getting to that stage?

A – Well, first of all it requires cash. I’m in a fortunate position where the club I’m with pays to put me through my coaching badges(up to a certain level) but I’ve spoken to many coaches at the events who fund their own learning. I’m a uni student so if the club didn’t provide funding I’d have been royally fucked.
To achieve the certification you attend training courses, typically held over 2 days with the intensity and depth of learning dependent on which level it is at. You learn the proper procedures for warming up to maximise output early in the game and prevent injury, which a shocking number of youth teams still do incorrectly. You are given instruction on quick drills that retain the attention of the participants throughout that can be steadily increased in complexity. A great example of this would be a simple passing exercise encouraging quick, accurate one touch football which can easily be incorporated into a shooting drill or game related practice. You learn about practices focusing on different areas like control, possession, shooting and the associated drills to learn and then maximise the participant’s strengths. The level of insight available from the tutors was extremely helpful, as they pointed out benefits for some of the drills that I hadn’t even considered. You are also taught about the proper way to communicate with the participants, how to deliver your instructions in a clear, precise manner and also the correct moments to encourage players or to advise them on their mistakes.
I also required a PVG, which allows me to work with children, and had to attend a first aid course. This was roughly around £100.

Q – Could you shed some light as to how many stages remain and a rough figure regarding how much it will cost?

A – That’s dependent on how far I’d want to pursue this as a career. To achieve the C license I would have to sit another two stages, a physical preparation stage and the license itself which would would cost a further £350. The C license is not UEFA accredited but it is required before you sit the UEFA B license. If I wished to sit the UEFA B license, which is the qualification level many coaches for professional teams hold, that costs £1,770. Yeah, I fucking know, right?
The goalkeeping certifications are more straightforward, mainly because there are less of them. There is only one additional stage, the goalkeeping basic license at a cost of around £80, before the UEFA B license for the goalkeeping pathway( £1,770). I’m not yet sure if it has been implemented in Scotland but there has been talk that to get the license for goalkeepers you’d require the B license for regular pathway. This is already the case in England based on the pre-requisites to get into this course(
If that turns out be true and is implemented here in Scotland that would put the cost of someone starting from scratch and wanting a UEFA Goalkeeping B license at £4,232. You could rent 7 dwarves and enough coke to OD in a jubilant and vivid hallucinatory version of Snow White for that and still be left with enough for a decent coffin. That’s just in course fees too, without adding extras such as disclosures, first aid and basics such as travel/equipment.

Q – What are your impressions regarding the training framework? Is it dated, does it need to concentrate on other factors etc?

A – Surprisingly, no. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the training was approached and specifically the technical level that the tutors were aiming to bring participants up to. As an Arsenal fan I have to hear about the England national team far too much and as such the message that our children are technically inadequate is very much ingrained into my brain. In my experience that appears to be just English children, which had already been scientifically proven to be weaker physically and mentally. The framework put in place focused on improving the capability of our players with the ball, and that is something which the players then replicate when playing games. This approach has led to the players becoming more confident and has improved our play against other teams too, which is a telling indication I feel that the training was crucial.

Q – Any ideas as to how the F.A could make it easier to obtain more coaches?
A – For me, there needs to be a much more focused approach on getting young adults into coaching. These individuals bring a fresh faced enthusiasm as well as understanding of the evolution of football. There seems to be a lack of younger people like myself, in the 21-30 age category, interested in coaching. If an interest is ignited at an earlier age they are likely to stick within it, unlike some older gents who decide to coach for a few months then pack it in when winter comes. It would also advance the calibre of players and the style of football being taught I feel. The stereotype of an older coach screaming at kids to tackle hard and kick it long entered into the national psyche because it’s accurate in many cases. Thankfully though, it’s not the case as the other, older coaches in my team implement a progressive, passing based game but a lot of young players out there are being limited by managers set in ways looking for results and that’s not what youth football should be about.

Q – What are your long term plans regarding coaching? Are your plans restricted due to the excessive cost?

A – At this stage I’m unsure as I’m still a full time uni student about to go into Honours next year but I hugely enjoy the work I do with the team at training and on matchdays, and it’s great when you can see the progress individuals are making especially when the parents and player thank you for helping them improve. It’s possible I may seek out a career in coaching, there’s been opportunities for me to go over to America during summer and coach at the soccer camps they set up.
One of the downsides as you mentioned, is the frankly disgusting costs. I’m very grateful to my club for providing what they have so far but they can only provide so much funding. If you compare the cost of the B license in Scotland, £1,770 to the cost in Germany, £314 at the current exchange rate, then it seems almost impossible to justify. Since it’s UEFA accredited the source matter is very similar and the coaches and facilities are provided by the two governing bodies. The A license here is £2,388 compared to £387 in Germany. I’d suggest this, rather than any cultural differences or attitudes to learning, is the reason behind the huge discrepancy in coaching numbers between Scotland, England and continental countries such as Spain and Germany.

A heartfelt thank you to a good friend and scholar in the expletive arena, @GoonerDyllan and I hope he makes it.
More coaches will breed better players and England will reap the benefit. If a player has the talent and the work ethic, then no matter if the club they reside at has umpteen Italian international players. They will get ample opportunity to showcase what skills they have, whether it is on loan or through substitute appearances. Players become better through regular exposure from players they can learn from and from coaches who teach them the right ideals. England and indeed Scotland, Wales and both Irish countries, need to take a leaf from Spain and Germany’s book.