Tommy Wheeldon Jr-UEFA A National Coaching Course Blog
Day 1 - Tuesday May 22nd
I did myself a huge favour by checking into our course venue Wokefield Park, a night early so I could mentally prepare for the start of our 13 day course. Little did I expect the learning to start immediately after dinner. Joined by a few of the other candidates in the hotel lobby, we began discussing in depth about the game drawing from the actual experiences of the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Australian league and the Canadian game. We clocked up over 5 hours of football talk all together before calling it a night before starting our 1st day.
Today we began the day with a briefing of "The expectations of an A Licence coach", followed by some healthy debates regarding our pre-course tasks. One of the subjects was to discuss the quote by Dutch Legend Johan Cryff: "England produces many great trainers, but not great teachers of the game". There were some great interactive comments arguing in support or against his viewpoint. Following the classroom work, we broke for lunch then returned to work on the pitch. Our course tutors 1st theme to coach was "Attacking Set Plays". We reviewed everything from Corner Kicks, to Free Kicks, to throw ins.
The day finished with a final de-briefing of the day, reviewing the importance of set plays....(Which I surprisingly learnt that Man Utd don't work on corners)?! Topics were given to each candidate to perform a 20 minutes session on at various points through the week. I have "Defending in the Attacking 3rd". They stipulate it has to involve no more than 18 players, but can be conducted in a phase of play, small sided game and a squad practice.
It was a long day to start the course, but one that showed me enough to know that I will return a better co
Day 3- Thursday May 24th
Today's theory was "Counter Attacking".?? We spent the 1st hour and a half in the classroom reviewing the theory behind Counter Attacking with one of our FA Educator's Andy Barlow.
Basically we reviewed what we do when in possession (attacking), out of possession (defending) and the key 4 seconds between both (transition).?? We focused on 4 key areas of the potential Counter Attack:
Jose Mourinho is a great case study as a coach as he bases a lot of his work on the 1st 4 seconds of the transition.??
We spent the next part of the morning going through a couple of practical sessions from our FA Educators Kenny Swain and John Peacock, involving different practices in a 9v9 and an 11v11 coached situation.?? Basically, the UEFA A Licence is geared towards more coaching older/elite players in an 11v11 setting and focused more so on the tactical aspect of the game than the technical.??
Following our lunch break we were back on the pitch for 8 more 20 minute candidate sessions.?? What's been nice about these is A) We each get to coach our peers and B) This is a mock assessment with written feedback from our assessors to help towards our final assessments in 2014.?? Our next candidate session will be videoed and microphoned so we can review at further detail when we leave here back to our respective clubs.????
After we break for dinner, we always finish each day off with a review of the theme of day for an hour or so.?? They are looooong days, but very thorough ones ??
Saturday May 26th - Day 5 UEFA A Licence
Today we headed straight out on to the training pitch for the remaining 7 candidate sessions.?? My session is # 30 of 32 and to be honest I was desperate to get up there and get it going, as it felt like you were forever waiting to get in and coach and get your feedback from your FA Educator.?? The lads were beginning to joke that as ours was the last block of sessions, we were essentially coaching "the grave yard shift" as the legs and minds were becoming increasing weary.?? However, I wasn't in bad company for my shift:
10.30am: Mark Seagraves (ex Bolton & Man City player / Wigan, Blackpool & Derby Assistant Manager)
11.30am: David James (former Liverpool/ Man City / England GK)
12pm: Phil Neville (former Man Utd & England, current Everton Captain)
I chose to coach my topic (defending in the attacking 3rd) within an SSG (small side game) as 3 other lads had the same coaching topic as me and had all previously done a phase of play (using 2/3's of a field) as their format, I wanted to be different and keep my players as fresh as possible.?? I also chose to pick the team I wasn't coaching and stack them with top players so I could be brave enough to coach against them.?? Fortunately my bravery (or stupidity perhaps) paid off as the session ran smoothly and I felt I was effectively able to coach my topic getting my key points across.?? I received some positive feedback from my FA Educator Kenny Swain, who also gave me a couple of constructive comments to think of for next time.?? I was delighted to get my session in, I felt very confident during it and am glad to hear that I a am heading down the right path in terms of my development as a coach.
The biggest difference as you get further along with you coaching education is not what you know, but how you teach it to your players. We are assessed on a few crucial criteria:
1 - Organization and session set up.
2 - Starting points (relative to your theme)
3 - Session management (organize the opposition to allow session to flow, adding conditions if necessary).
4 - Coach Intervention (show/ask/tell).
5 - Information given (clear & concise, 30 secs in & out)
6 - Coaching position (relative to area you are coaching)
7 - Appearance.
8 - Session control/flow I.e. are you commanding the session and does your coaching pints have a logical or sporadic flow?
Overall, the devil is in the details
Monday May 28th - Principles of Defending
Today we went back into the classroom to begin the day and focused on the theory of Defending Principles. We once again were broken into groups to discuss various aspects of the games such as "pressing early or defending late", forcing the play inside or outside, defending against a 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-4-2 etc... During our group work, the main idea is to spark a discussion, some times even a debate on how to deal with specific situations, however there is no right or wrong way so long as you can justify your methodology and explain "How, When, Where and Why"?
We moved our theme from the classroom to the pitches for the rest of the day where our FA tutors ran us through 3 or 4, 25 minute sessions based on various defending situations. Some were conducted in a phase of play (3/4 pitch using up to 18 players), others in a full 11v11 practice. When we come to our final assessments, we could have any topic attacking or defending and have to conduct 2 final assessment sessions of 25 minutes in duration, whilst being recorded for further analysis. One of our tutors Jamie Robinson, a former team mate of mine and Leon's at Torquay Utd did a great little group exercise on the field by dividing us up into 4 groups (or units as is the buzz word) and gave us a problem solving exercise. Within 10 minutes we had to draw up a Phase of Play session dealing with "defending the middle 3rd" of the pitch whilst using a back 4. We had to focus on 4 key problem areas we would foresee and be able to coach and draw them out of our sessions. I have attached a picture of our final outcome on the tactics board.
We have already conducted one "mock" 20 minute assessment with our peers as our FA tutors gave us written feedback, today we received our second topic that is of 25 minute duration and to be videoed for us to self evaluate and get further evaluation from our assigned tutor. My next session is "Coach attacking in a direct manner from the GK's possession". I can do this within either a SSG (small sided gam) or a POP (phase of play) using up to 18 players.
Interesting challenge... Oh and I'm also 1st up to deliver too.
Day 10 - Thursday May 31st
Attached pic is our Group A, from left to right Hayden Foxe (ex-Ajax & West Ham player), Ben Futcher (current Bury player/coach), Darren Currie (ex West Ham, Ipswich & Plymouth player), Danny Alcock (current Stoke City Academy GK Coach), John Curtis (former Man Utd & Blackburn player), Willie Boland (former Coventry City & Cardiff City player), Steve Payne (current Stevenage Borough FC Academy Coach), Gustavo Di Lella (former Hartlepool player, now coaches within their academy)... And yours truly.
Possibly the longest and toughest mentally and physically challenging day. Today we were spit from our big group of 32 into 3 smaller groups of 10 or 11. My Group A was one of the first to deliver our second session in front of the cameras. I was first out of the blocks with a 9am start and got down to the fields nice and early to set up my session. Even though my topic was a goalkeeping one, and one which really took myself out of my comfort zone, I felt quietly confident. However, that's not to say that it didn't challenge me more than any other session I've ever delivered before, as it definitely did that. Plus the added factor of the session being filmed made you conscious of trying to nail on all your coaching points and natural session progressions within a realistic manner.
The 25 minutes seemed to flow by once I had introduced myself and set up my session accordingly, I felt comfortable with my interventions and Even my GK demonstrations!!! Well it was of a distribution category so at least I was able to use my feet. My assessor Kenny Swain allowed me to go review the DVD on my own, hand it back to him, for a further review and then sit down and discuss his evaluation of the session. Overall I was pleased with the feedback, Kenny provided me with some really good compliments, along with some fair constructive comments to focus on when I go away. After this course ends Sunday, I will have to work on my Log Book, along with completing 20 sessions that I must record before returning for my Part 2 next May.
After 10 days and joining in on almost 60 x 20 minute sessions, along with daily classroom sessions and theory seminars, suffice to say I am becoming mentally and physically tired. This is not a negative feeling, more a satisfied one of accomplishing so much in depth and advanced coach development in such a short space of time.
After 13 days of living and breathing "football", the A Licence Part 1 course draws to an end. In total we participated in 64 candidate sessions (20-25 minute) duration, conducted 2 of our own sessions within that, 4 theory modules of Player Performance Development, Player/ Team Analysis, Psychology and Fitness. On top of that the FA Tutors (5 of them in all) each did 4 sessions each on various aspects of the game from Counter Attacking to Set Plays and every other facet of the game in between, to ensure no stone was left unturned.
We ended the course with group presentations to our peers based on a subject we were given. Ours was to plan a training week as the Chelsea staff preparing for an away game in the Champions League. A very beneficial and interactive exercise.
I have attached a picture of me with fellow A License Candidates Phil Neville (of Everton) and Steve Chettle (Nottingham Forest Former player and current U18 Head Coach).
What an amazing 2 weeks... I am both physically and mentally exhausted, but will return a better coach than when I arrived.