Tag Archives: football coaching

Fifa is shaping the next generation of football talent

Parents won’t thank me for this. We hear a lot about how video games are bad for kids’ development and a whole load of other stuff I never listened to like “you’ll fry your brain playing that.”

But what if coaches used these same games to improve and inspire young players?

Football is a simple enough game. From youth level, we see kids instinctively getting to grips with systems. You get the round thing and put it between the sticks. In coaching, we tend to overly focus and idealise teams from the past and their success in certain systems and haven’t tried thinking of new ideas that can match the speed and intensity of the modern game.

But the way they kids play of Fifa is incredible. Already familiar with all the positions on the pitch as well as being able to choose selected players to fulfill certain roles in the team, tracking back, man marking, etc.

Not to mention the plethora of formations at their disposal. They vary from classical systems like 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 to all sorts of more flexible line-ups.

New school

The truth is the world isn’t the same as it was 20+ years ago; the streets have changed. There’s USB ports on benches now. The parks aren’t littered with kids playing football anymore. I’m old enough to know about the freedom that comes with having a football and hours to kill, but also young enough to be a part of and see the effects of the gaming influence on the kids of today

We’re no longer in the era of Wayne Rooney-like street strikers or Nike Academy, but while children are now restricted in ways previous generations were not in terms of outdoor play, they will find things and be able to explore in many different ways online.

So why not use that as a means to improve instead of an activity that is seen as something that is holding them back from progression?

I could show you my room. You look across my shelf and you may be impressed at the fancy CD cases and books. The collection alone is a wonderful sight, but it’s nothing to get excited about. You’ll see the usual suspects. GTA. Call of Duty. Pacman. And then Fifa09 to Fifa20. Some of them in double because we’d scratch the disc quite badly. Quite a few duplicates, actually.

Growing up, Fifa was a part of life. At school, people looked at things on a pure Fifa ability basis, and you’d have a certain level of respect depending on how good you were at the game.

It wasn’t a place for the timid, no-one was safe from being drawn out for being rubbish and young 13-19 boys need to brag about something. But without fail I’d force (beg) my mum to get me the latest Fifa, until I got a little older with my own money and only had to beg for the remaining £15.

How can it help?

Fifa introduces young players to the technical, tactical and analytical side of the game in a way the previous generations could only dream of. Ultimate team allows you to buy and trade your own players. Put together a team based on a random selection of players from packs, like an online match attax, This builds on players having high football IQ as you have to pick players based on chemistry with others and take their special attributes into account.

It doesn’t just stop at football. The influence of video games is strong in other sports and helped young Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen. He had been racing on simulated F1 tracks to master overtaking techniques, most famously at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2015, when he used a move he had perfected in a sim racing programme to overtake Felipe Nasr around the outside of a high-speed corner.

Coaches should be more up to date and modern in their methods as they are truly going to inherit a generation unlike any other. Using language that they will understand, If that means allowing the next generation to play a bit more Fifa with the purpose of learning the advantages of pressing or positioning, why not.

If you take those ideas on to the training pitch and use them productively, why not? Kids are already playing this game; it is renewed annually, and will be around when they’re adults, make use of their knowledge to help them develop quicker.

‘Young British football coaches are not getting career support’

Football coaching in the UK is in the midst of a participation problem – compared to other large footballing nations, numbers are on the decline.

So if coaching and management is how you wish to make your career in football, what support are young British coaches getting in a bid to achieve their goals?

Aaron Blackwood, nephew of Eastenders actor Richard Blackwood, fell out of love with playing the game but sought a route back into football from the touchline.

If you starting playing competitively at an extremely young age, the trials and tribulation of Sunday league kids football can often become exhausting.

Be it expletive-shouting parents on the sidelines or over-zealous coaches roasting kids barely out of nappies for not winning a header; the joy of football can sometimes be lost.

Return and disillusion

Blackwood, 23, found that his passion to coach became his eventual gateway back into the game.

“My interest in coaching developed more and more as I went through a frustrating period of falling out of love with the playing side of the game,” he said.

The Ex-Worcester City youth player started coaching in the sixth form at school

After he stepped away from playing, he decided whilst at sixth form he wanted to realise his new found ambition to coach. He also found that stepping onto the touchline gave him a new vigour for the sport.

“I started to watch the game through a different set of eyes, asking a lot more questions and started to pick the brains of other coaches – I suppose you can say that’s where my interest really sparked from.”

But where to begin if you are a young coach with no coaching badges and lack of ability to pay?

“My experience started in sixth form helping coach the year-9s (U-14s) and organising the sixth form (U-19s) team. At 19 years old, I set up and managed Studley FC U-18s in the Midlands Floodlit Youth League ahead of the 2013/14 season which was a real eye-opener, mainly because of the off-the-field running of the club.”

Building a CV

As with most careers or passions, you often have to try and gain plenty of experience as quickly as possible, which is what the newly-blooded coach set out to achieve.

Blackwood is carving a career in non-league football

“I spent three seasons at Studley FC U-18s, winning the Midlands Floodlit Youth League Western Division (14/15) with a fantastic group, before being asked to take over Highgate United’s U-18s ahead of the 2016/17 season, a good club with a lot of ambition – I was involved at Highgate for a year before leaving to set up Feckenham FC U-18s.”

Playing football in a league which often turns out plenty of academy system players in the West Midlands, helped play a role in setting himself up for a momentary switch to men’s football.

“My experience in mens and senior football came on an interim basis, when West Midlands (Regional) League side Bartley Green Illey FC removed their Manager in January 2015.

“I knew the chairman and he asked me to oversee the team until the end of the season who were rock bottom, we had a good 14 games together and managed to put a string of positive results to eventually finish 12th.”

“My intention was to stay involved with Bartley Green Illey FC for the 2015/16 season, but I was asked in the summer if I’d be interested in taking charge at Midland League Division Two side Feckenham FC, and with the club playing at a better level and closer to home I jumped at the opportunity – which is where I am ’til this day.”

The support system

The problems facing football in this country are varied and plentiful, but and a lack of coaches doesn’t appear to be particularly high on the FA’s agenda.

But plenty would argue that more needs to be done to cultivate a better culture of turning out young coaches. Blackwood believes that badges and levels could be funded just like university.

He argues: “If you were to go to university to study for a degree to pursue a career, you’d spend £9,000 per year, but there’s help in paying that tuition back. In football, earning your badges should be no different.

The young coach believes advice from his peers has stood him in good stead

“The costs are nothing short of ridiculous, but in this country, in my opinion, there is also a cultural issue which isn’t just in football and sport, it’s across everything within society.

“I received no real help directly from the FA, but that’s not to say others haven’t [helped].

“Without the guidance of previous managers and people’s footballing opinions that I hold in high regard, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today and that has nothing to do with the FA.

“They have updated the coaching badges and improved certain facilities and given grants for 3G pitches, which is what we train on, but is that enough?”

A lack of minority managers

Brighton & Hove Albion’s Chris Hughton last month became the first black team boss to win the Premier League manager of the month award.

But, despite black British players featuring prominently in professional football, non-white senior coaches and managers remain a rarity.

‘There seems to be institutionally embedded barriers in this country for ethnic coaches’

Blackwood said: “I’d like to see more people of colour being encouraged to pursue a career on the sideline – those that have ambition, drive, a willingness to learn and be successful will eventually get opportunities.

“But I feel more needs to be done. The figures are alarming, considering the pool of talent out there. I believe at all levels, but at the elite level especially, there seems to be institutionally embedded barriers in this country for ethnic coaches.”

So is positive discrimination needed to make things fairer? “I’m a strong strong believer in people being given opportunities on merit, so for me it’s important regardless of religion, gender or ethnicity people are given managerial and coaching posts because they’re deemed the best person for the vacancy.”

Whether Blackwood will be given chances to further develop a career in coaching remains to be seen, but he is optimistic.

“If it’s something I really want, then why not?”

“I’ll continue in non-league football, which is improving in quality year on year. Each level is becoming more and more professional in regards to matchdays, training, how players now look after themselves, and if I do well and opportunities present themselves, then we’ll see.”