Q&A with Alfred Galustian – Co Founder of Coerver Coaching

ALFRED GALUSTIAN – CO FOUNDER OF COERVER COACHING

Alfred is Co Founder of Coerver Coaching and widely regarded as one of the World’s Top Skills Coaches. Over the past 30 years, has worked as a Technical Coaches Instructor at:

 The French, English, Japanese, Australian Football Federations and top clubs including Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Newcastle United,Manchester City, Real Madrid  and Arsenal.

 

Alfred was the Skills Specialist advisor to the Premier League during the 2010/11 Season

You can follow Alfred on twitter: @coerveralf

Questions…

Why is Coerver coaching so important for youth academies/clubs?

Coerver has for over 30 years, been a pioneer in Skills Teaching. Professional clubs are always looking for ‘special players” players who can make a difference in the game; Coerver has a curriculum and a method that can teach this “special player quality.

Its been tried and tested with many of top clubs around the world  Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Man City & United, Arsenal and many more.

2/ Why are small sided games so important for youth development?

Ultimately skills have got to be used effectively in games. When we started 30 years ago, I must admit most of our focus was on mastering skills through repetition. Coerver has evolved thru the years, and now our curriculum and method, places a lot of emphasis on conversion of skills in games. We have a step by step way of teaching, and basically all these steps end with players being able to use the cores skills ( first touch/passing/1 v 1) effectively under game pressure. Our new Session planner,which is very helpful for coaches of all levels, includes a Small sided games segment. In fact it’s 35% of our total session plan. The benefits of small sided games are well know. The are some conditions that Coerver uses in small sided games that makes some of our work different, but that is in the conditioned part of such games. We mostly believe that small sided games should be mainly free from coaching, and that the player is the sole decision maker in such contests.
 
3/ What are the benefits for players of when using coerver coaching exercises?
We have a curriculum and method of teaching that we feel can improve players of any level.The beauty of the curriculum is that there is a way to adapt each drill and game to fit the level/age of the player.
Our main focus is to improve individual player skills, we believe this is the foundation that all other parts of the game can be built on.
Our drills and games are also designed to improve speed and decision making.
 
4/ How important is a curriculum for youth coaching?
Whatever the curriculum, I feel that’s the starting point for any youth coach. I always suggest that coaches should teach a curriculum that represents their approach & philosophy of coaching. If You really believe something you can teach it passionately.
Our Curriculum “The Coerver Pyramid of Player development”evolved over 30 years. Firstly inspired by the great Wiel Coerver,then devised by Charlie Cooke and myself.
Each year Charlie and I do coaches courses ,where we generally cover our curriculum and method of teaching. I certainly think Coerver is different from other approaches/curriculums its better I leave others to judge, but having worked in over 23 countries, I have seen first hand that Coerver has changed how coaches have taught the game globally.

5/ what is your philosophy as a coach?

I believe Skill is the foundation that you can build all the other important parts of the game.
I believe that hard work and practice are essential for both teacher and pupil
I believe that the player should be the sole deciding maker once the game starts
I believe that any curriculum should improve the person a swell as the football player
 

6/ What is the future for Coerver Coaching?

Coerver is now in 26 countries with vides and book in 13 languages. We want to continue growing and have an influence on the way the game is taught and played.

We have been in USA for more than 30 years,Charlie Cooke, the cofounder of Coerver, has done a fantastic job establishing Coerver all over the USA.
In Japan, we have established over 100 schools,all staffed by  coaches that we have trained in the Coerver System. Over the past 20 years over 300 boys have gone to the professional clubs from these schools
In Europe the Coerver influence,especially in the pro clubs and federations, is significant, so overall Charlie and I see Coerver growing in popularity and really changing the way the game is taught.

Here is Alf working with Manchester city academy coaches in a Coerver workshop:

Coaches for Coerver games and drills – go now to www.soccersessionplanner.com 

Q&A with Mike Skubala – Assistant Coach of the England Men’s Futsal Team

Who is Micheal Skubala?
Michael Skubala is the youngest ever appointed national coach at the FA. At the age of 27 was appointed Assistant Head Coach to Pete Sturgess, for the England National Futsal Team. He is also Head coach for the England Futsal Development squad (U21’s Equivalent) and Heads up the Great Britain Universities Futsal team.  Michael is also Assistant Head coach for Great Britain Universities football team, where they achieved a silver medal in the world university games last year in china. Which made them the most successful football team in a FIFA accredited tournament since the 1966 world cup. Michael also is head of futsal development at Loughborough University and Head coach for the International Futsal Academy (IFA) at Loughborough.

 Questions…
 1/What are the main benefits of Futsal for youth soccer/football players?

For me the main 3 benefits of futsal to youth football players are simple really. First of all I think the first one must be decision making. Futsal puts every decision you make under the micro scope and magnifies good, bad or indifferent decisions of the field of play. For example in football you can play and move as an attacker and if you make a poor decision or a better one could have been made it can result in a turnover of possession but not always a scoring opportunity. Whereas in futsal as a pivot if you dont make the best decision it could result in a scoring opportunity for the other team. Futsal allows players to make better decisions and the game highlights this where I don’t think football can do the same. The next main benefit for me has to be playing under pressure. In futsal teams need to work hard as a four and a individual to play under pressure, and this means getting relaxed even in tight situations, which for me is what’s missing sometimes in the 11 a side game. It is not easy to train dominant response of panic in tight situations where they have not always worked or been exposed to it. However if youngsters growing up are exposed to these tight situations under competition then for me they are more likely to develop a dominant response like the Brazilians or Spanish where they understand that if they are pressed there must be space somewhere else. It’s just a case of keeping calm and making the best decision in a given situation. Which is what futsal is all about. The other one for me would be individual and group tactics. Futsal on face value can seem like a group of players just kicking a ball around but when you pick the game about its actually very tactical and can change within in blink of an eye, dependent on triggers, clues and cues. But the speed of which this generally happens is much quicker than eleven a side. Although there are some positive and negative transfer to the two games and it is important coaches understand these, then I feel these are the most beneficial parts to the game. But of course there are the technical aspects of the game that most are aware of but not all cross over into football.

 

 

 2/ What is better for youth to play Futebol de Saloa or Futsal?
For me personally I would say futsal. Its a FIFA recognised version for a reason. Thats not to say there is not a place for technical development strategies such as Futebol de Saloa or Coerver coaching, but my personal view is we need to teach the kids the game and if it’s futsal we are teaching then we need to be playing futsal and if it’s football we are teaching then futsal is the closest thing to the eleven a side game that would get the most realistic game returns for players. After all we are trying to improve our players to become the best guessers they can be on a futsal or football pitch, if we don’t expose them to these situations that are fluid and vastly moving within element of real competition how can we ever expect them to get better.

 

 

 3/ How important is it for youth players to play Futsal/ small sided games?
I think it has to be done if players are to become all round accomplished players and develop in to athletes that can make quick, skilful decisions in the blink of an eye. It’s no surprise to be that Spain are top of the world football rankings and Brazil have been dominant for so long. Players may not formally play futsal in these countries but recreationally they are growing up with the game playing in schools and learning within it. Then when they get to a certain age they choose their exit route. It’s amazing how Spain have not lost a game of futsal in open play for 6 years and also so dominant in football right now. You could also see Manchester United’s and Barcelona’s development of youth as they both work hard throughout the age groups in 4v4s which in essence is futsal on grass. It’s great that the new football programme here in England is making children play small sided games till older age groups as if nothing else players will be getting around 33% more touches on the ball like in futsal, which we know is a big part of learning. That’s without talking about all the other benefits we have been chatting about.

 

 

 4/ Do you think the popularity of Futsal is growing in England?
For sure. Futsal is growing slowly but shortly and for me will keep moving. As long as adults and coaches take the time to fully understand the game and not look at it and view it as just 5 a side which is what a lot of coaches at all levels do sometimes then it has to get bigger. The learning practitioners already see great value in it and the Premier League and other football clubs are starting to write it into their programmes which is only a good thing as youngster’s coming through will be exposed to the game and inevitably learn from the game. The bigger challenge for me is changing a culture and the adult mindset which differs within every county, I always ask coaches do you know what futsal is or do you think you know? But like I say this for me is Futsal’s biggest challenge because at the end of the day ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.

 

 

 5/ Is Futsal the main reason why Brazil and now Spain have been dominant in world football?
I’m not sure I buy into the argument that futsal is main reason for Brazil and Spain’s success but I’m sure it has an impact. Is it measurable, no! And at the moment in football we want to measure everything. I do however think it is one of the strong elements that has played a massive part in individuals development. What is more, we can not ignore the facts such as Spain being number one in the world in both sports, the 6 out of the top ten futsal nations are also in the top ten as football nations in the world. There is for sure a competition correlation. If you also look at the best gifted players in the world that play football so autonomously, they seem to have had futsal in their life one way or another. Again we can not dismiss this as coaching practitioners.

To find out more about the International Futsal Academy ran by Michael, click on Logo below:


Q&A with Dan Abrahams – Soccer/Football Psychologist

DAN ABRAHAMS – SOCCER/FOOTBALL PSYCHOLOGIST

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychology consultant and coach scientist. He regularly consults with footballers across Europe, most notably in the Premier League. He has had some successful case studies over the past decade including helping Carlton Cole go from forgotten West Ham reserve team player to England international in just 18 months. He has delivered to a range of governing bodies including the Premier League, the FA, the PFA, the LMA and has presented at the Grassroots Conference and at the World Science in Soccer Conference.He is passionate about de-mystifying sport and performance psychology and has recently written his first book on the psychology of football called ‘Soccer Tough.’

His website is at http://www.danabrahams.com

You can also follow Dan on Twitter: @DanAbrahams77

To buy the book please click on the front cover of Soccer Tough (Below): 

Questions from youthtoprosoccer.com….

1/ What can a Sports Psychologist do to help soccer players ?

Where do I start? A sport psychologist provides a range of services, helping soccer players with challenges on and off the pitch. Off the pitch a sport psychologist can help a player develop emotional intelligence/toughness and social intelligence. By emotional intelligence I mean being able to cope with tough times, being more self-aware and being able to develop self-belief. Socially, being able to fit into a group, handle conflict and manage relationships with coaches, parents etc. On the pitch a sport psychologist can help with performance challenges such as lacking confidence, managing distractions, improving focus, and managing intensity levels. To my mind a big part of the job is helping players bridge the gap between training and playing – so helping develop structured (and confident) thinking on a day to day basis leading up to a game, helping deliver deliberate practice/training and helping devise a pre match routine. Perhaps an underestimated role the sport psych has is in working with coaches – helping coaches (and managers) develop a culture of excellence, helping build a team, and helping coaches deliver training sessions that improve cognitive skills such as awareness, focus and pattern recognition. I always say the sport psych fits somewhere in between the coaching staff and the players.


2/ How can a coach deal with team motivational problems?

That depends on how you are defining motivation. If you have a ‘lacklustre’ team you may need to set individual and team process goals. If everyone’s noses aren’t pointing in the same direction then have a team meeting and get them to set attitudinal rules and also targets for the end of the season.

Motivation is determined by importance and confidence, so as a coach your job is to raise these two attributes.

3/ Most players have experienced nervousness before a big game, how can coaches help this?

Help players develop a pre match routine that helps them pinpoint their focus and build their confidence. I always advise players to treat their physical warm up as a mental warm up and give them a few triggers and behaviours to get them into the correct mindset. It’s about sitting the players down as a group and getting each of them to write a plan that starts an hour and a half prior to kick off.

4/ How important is mental imagery?

It’s very important for a player to MANAGE his mental imagery. Every player images to some degree…but not all players know how to manage their images. In my new book Soccer Tough I teach players small ways to be able to do this. For example, asking yourself a question eg “What does my best game look and feel like?” This question opens up a catalogue of positive images related to your game. This influences how you feel about your game and subsequently influences how you perform on match day.

But lets put this into context. I’ve heard some consultants (most often trained in ‘NLP’) preach the benefits of imagery. It does indeed help and there is some solid science behind the mental technique. But it isn’t a replacement for physical practice and its benefits shouldn’t be taken out of proportion.

5/ A lack of self-confidence will have adverse effects on performance how can coaches help this?

Help a player to manage his/her self talk day to day. Soccer Tough devotes 3 chapters to this. I think how a soccer player speaks to him or herself on a daily basis is an important mediator of success. A coach must ask him or herself “What are my players rehearsing in their mind everyday?” The perfect place to manage this is on the training ground. Help players leave the training ground with their strengths in mind…with what went well in training in mind.

6/ How important is Goal Setting?

It’s very individual specific. I’m not convinced by outcome goals. I think people have to hold onto something meaningful…’meaning’ is more important than ‘goal’. Wanting to be a professional soccer player ultimately comes down to wanting to be happy, accomplishing something tough etc. Outcome goals are out there for everyone anyway…I’m not sure you need to write them down.

I think process goals are important. I help players set them for training and matches. But I don’t call them goals…I call them your ‘training script’ and your ‘match script’ because I think they drive your self talk on the pitch (hence the term script.) Again Soccer Tough has a couple of chapters dedicated to setting your match script.

7/ Should players practice concentration as a skill?

Yes…on the pitch! I’m not really into meditation as a route to improve in-game focus because I don’t think that type of practice is specific to the soccer environment. Meditation or mindfulness are great things to do…but as exercises to develop resistance to stress more so than improve specific soccer concentration (I am of course happy to be proved wrong…but I don’t think researchers will ever be able to do this.)

Focus in soccer is complex. Quirks of the brain make it difficult. The brain is attracted to the most important thing in its environment – the ball. So players will always be distracted by the ball. The brain also loves to focus on problems. So players will always be distracted by a bad refereeing decision or a mistake they’ve made. Soccer players need to consciously play ‘in the moment’ and focus on the things they can control – but it takes conscious effort everyday, and you still won’t master it. Soccer Tough addresses plenty of in-training, in-game ways to improve focus.

8/ What factors should coaches take into account when building a team?

Everyone counts. As tough as it is time wise you need to get around everyone and chat t them individually…tell them what you want from them individually and as a team mate. Make every player feel special – especially the ones with least ability. A coach should imagine every player has a tattoo on his or her heart saying “Make me feel great.”

The other aspect would be communication. In your training session coach, develop and demand great communication. You can’t insist on this enough. Have players work on this every single training session.

Q&A WITH JILL ELLIS US WOMEN’S TEAM ASSISTANT & WOMENS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

Jill has extensive experience in the U.S. Women’s National Team programs, having served as an assistant coach under Pia Sundhage helping the U.S. Women’s National Team to a Gold Medal at the 2008 and recently the 2012 Olympics in London. Jill has served two stints as head coach of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team, guiding the squad to the CONCACAF title in 2010 and to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany.

Jill Ellis took the lead on interacting directly with key coaches within the youth club environment while also guiding and directing the U.S. U-17s, U-15s and U-14s US National Teams

She also has been Head Coach for UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) Women’s Program but took a full time role with the USSF in 2011 as Women’s Development Director. Jill holds a USSF A license.

Questions…

1/What is your Role at US Soccer?

I oversee the U14, U15, and U17 Women’s Youth National teams’ programs, the Scouting Network, and our Training Center program.  Simplified, I am working with my counter part April Heinrichs to provide direction and assistance to the women’s youth national team players, coaches, and their environments.

 2/ How has your experience working with Pia Sundhage been? 

Pia is fantastic to work with.  Most of our time on the road is off the field, so working with someone who loves to laugh and is eternally optimistic is a real joy.  She is incredibly inclusive with her staff and that really does create an environment that is very collegial.  I have enjoyed talking soccer and life with Pia and I will miss her.

3/ As a youth coach at national team level what kind of characteristics in a player are you looking for?

The demands of the international game really dictate what players need to be able to do to perform for a National Team.  A high degree of technical proficiency is optimum, even at the U14 age group in camp, the more comfortable a player is on the ball the easier it is to execute in a faster environment.  I think a player’s mental makeup is another important attribute.  They are playing  against the other top players in their age, so bringing a confident and competitive attitude to training is an important piece.  Tactics will be taught in training camps, but those players who watch soccer regularly definitely  show a quicker learning curve to absorb information.

4/ Do you think the standard of players being produced in US is getting better?

I do, but we must continue to push higher.  We will only be able to play at the top level if our club coaches believe they are an integral part of the process and also continue to evolve.  There are some very skillful players out there and more and more our top young players are watching the game so we are seeing some very sophisticated players in our programs. The truly special players need a club coach who has a specific plan for that player’s development.  Typically our most technical players are our smaller players, well now the challenge is to have our most athletic players be as technical so we can be a nation that has it all.

 5/ Do you think the standard of youth coaching is getting better?

In this new role I have been fortunate to meet and interact with many coaches in the club system and yes there are some quality coaches out there.  In hiring for the U17 and U15 Head Coaches in this last cycle it was how Albertin and Damon’s teams played that I was initially drawn to.  Yes, they have been successful, but they emphasized technical development and their teams like to build and possess. I would definitely challenge the club coach to revisit their training environment – as coaches we all get comfortable with the drills we know, but the practices we ran with a team 5 years ago might be beneath the current players we have.  Instead of simply possession in a grid for our high school age players, now let’s add direction and positions. Can we do more functional work with the players?  Instead of one drill to fit everyone maybe tonight we focus on our wide players and we put them in learning situations they will see in the game.  I know its a long answer, but the same weaknesses the club coaches identify in their game exist at the YNT – so let’s start to address them…crossing, finishing, driven balls etc.
6/ Do you think the new USSF Curriculum will take US Soccer to the next level?

 The new curriculum definitely has information that is both valuable and practical, but, ultimately it will come down to the coaches of our younger players who are out on the practice fields and sidelines being able to take the recommendations and utilize them.  Claudio Reyna spent a lot of time traveling Europe to look at what the rest of the world is doing so the information is current and relevant to both boys and girls.

7/ How was the Olympic Experience in London. 

London was great, Wembley even better.  It was fun to finish in London and stay in the Village with all the other nations and truly get immersed in the Olympic spirit.  I grew up in England and watched games at Wembley on tv,  so to get to experience that was amazing.

Here is a video with Jill Ellis and other technical coaching staff at US Soccer talking about the new USSF Curriculum:

Q&A with DANNY DICHIO

EX PRO FOOTBALLER / SOCCER PLAYER DANNY DICHIO ANSWERS QUESTIONS FOR WWW.YOUTHTOPROSOCCER.COM

Danny Dichio is an ex professional footballer/soccer player who has played in the English Premier League, Italian Seria A, and the MLS. He has recently took a job on the Fox Soccer Channel as a news Analyst. His main role now is a coach for the Toronto FC Academy, who he played for the MLS. Here is a link to Danny’s Website: http://www.Dichio24.com

Questions…

1/ what is your role at Toronto FC?

I am Head Coach of the U19 TFC Academy team

2/ what is your philosophy as a coach?

My philosophy is to play an attacking style of football with lots of interchanging from the players. I like to play out of 4-3-3 system, so we have to teach players how to improve technically first, before we can even start talking tactically. In this system, if you do not have players that are comfortable on the ball, then you are going to be defending a lot or getting scored on a lot, as your team is so stretched to try & create space to play.

3/ Do you think the level of players in the US and Canada is improving?

Dramatically so! In the US, you can see at a senior level how many players are playing abroad(Europe especially), that this has increased the standard. This due to the money the US soccer federation invested with Nike into their Youth programs a few years back.
Here in Toronto, we have a different scenario bubbling up. We have a very eclectic array of nationalities living here now & they are from all prominent football countries. England, Italy, Portugal, brazil, Jamaica, Africa, Caribbean, these are just a few of the places where these kids are from or their parents have originated, so that meaning that football is in their culture already, which is a massive plus!

4/ What is the main difference between Canadian/US soccer than English football? Players and Coaches?

I think the main difference is the Media & how much it is in everyone’s face in England constantly. Its our #1 sport in the UK compared to here in North America where we have 4 or 5 other sports to compete with. The coaching is getting a lot better here too. The major problem here in Canada is the Facilities, fields(lack of), + money being put back into the development of coaches & players.

5/ The USSF has implemented a new curriculum. Has Canadian soccer done a similar thing.

No. Canada is miles behind the USSSF in those kind of programs. They have people here who want to implement them, but the people who make the decisions are not the right people who want to move football on in this country.

6/ Do you think Academy soccer in Canada/US is at a similar level to European academies?

Its probably getting there, but I would not say its level yet. The Academies at the Pro clubs in England is very serious(even here at TFC) & you have to consistently perform to want to be a part of it. Other Academies I see in North America where the kids are paying are a little bit different as I feel the Parents still have too much of a say in what the kid is doing.

7/ Do you ever get back to watch QPR now they are back in the Premier League.

I am going back at Christmas to spend some time at Chelsea, Arsenal & QPR to watch training session etc. So  I am sure I will catch a game at Loftus Road then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q & A with Dawn Scott US Women’s National Team Physical and Nutrition Trainer

Q & A WITH DAWN SCOTT, US WOMENS NATIONAL TEAM FITNESS TRAINER

I had the privilege to ask Dawn Scott a few questions on her role with the US women’s National Team. Dawn is originally from England and has worked for the FA. She moved Stateside to start work with the US Women’s National (WNT) in 2010. Before this the WNT didn’t have a fitness trainer and Dawn was recruited to take the teams fitness levels to the next level. The women’s team got to the final of the 2011 world cup and recently just won the Olympic gold in London. Dawn has been a key lecturer on a variety of FA courses including The FA Fitness Trainers Award, UEFA A Licence, International Licence, Youth Coaches, Pro Licence, Diploma courses, as well as having run courses on behalf of CONCACAF in Trinidad and Tobago.

1/ What is your Role at US Soccer?

My key role is with the Senior Women’s National Team.  I have worked with the team since January 2010.  My key role is the physical preparation and development of those players in camp, as well as when they are training on their own and/or with teams.  This involves fitness testing, to determine the needs of individual players, monitoring the players during training and games through the use of GPS units and heart rate monitors, as well as the development of individual strength and conditioning programs.  I also deliver educational workshops with the players with regards recovery strategies, and nutritional/hydration needs.

 2/ How important is it monitor a players fitness levels?

This is vital and should be a start point for developing any kind of conditioning program for a player.  This can involve simple tests using a stop watch through to tests using speed timing gates or more complex equipment.  The key thing is to make sure the conditions and equipment used for the test each time are the same to enable comparisons.  Soccer involves many facets of fitness encompassing:  strength, speed, power, speed enduration, agility, flexibility and aerobic endurance.  Testing should reflect the physical demands of soccer and age and position-specific programs should then be planned to optimally develop players.

3/What are the best foods/drinks a player take to optimize performance?

The key nutrient for training and game performance is carbohydrate to fuel the entire session/game.  the key nutrient to aid muscle recovery is protein, so a player’s diet should have a good proportion of those nutrients.  Other nutrients such as vitamin C, B12, D and iron are also vital for elite female athlets.

4/ What is the best post – match snack/meal a player can take?

This should contain a combination of carbohydrate and protein.  So either some kind of smoothie/sports drink immediately post game or Peanut Butter Jelly (Jam) sandwich.  Then as soon as a player can consume some kind of meat (lean chicken/turkey, fish or red meat) along with some white pasta/spaghetti/bread.  Replacing fluid, and sodium, lost through sweat during the game is important also.  As a guide players should weigh themselves (minimal clothing) pre and post game, and then should aim to replace 1.5 times the amount of weight lost through water/sports drink.

5/ Does a players diet differ if they are a youth or pro player?

Yes and no.  the key nutrients are still vital, young players should also focus on consuming a good amount of calcium since they are still growing.  Energy intake will differ, since the training volume/intensity for pro players will tend to be higher, therefore they will have a greater energy requirement.  Also there will be a need for pro players to taper/control their nutritional intakes during certain phases of the season, depending on their main aim of training.

Here is a video of Dawn hard at work with the US Womens national preparing for the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

 If any coaches would like some more info on Nutrition (prematch and post match foods/drinks) please do not hesitate to contact me on twitter @JHarvCoach 

Q & A with John Peacock – Head of Coaching & U17 Head coach English FA

Hi Jamie, Good to hear from you. I  have answered the questions below and good luck in the future.

Best wishes, John

1.What is your role at The FA?

My role is Head of Coaching and also England U17 Head Coach. I therefore have a major input into Coach Education from grassroots to Elite within England, as well as actively spending time on the pitch as a coach developer with one of our elite National youth teams. The lessons and research learnt from my time with players, supports the coach education system. Being able help to shape the game of the future, not only in terms of a playing philosophy, but also coach educational needs, is challenging but also very rewarding.

 2. As a youth coach at national team level what kind of characteristics in a player are you looking for?

Fundamentally the game is changing – , it is faster with technical and skilful development now having to be done at speed, not only physically but mentally. The players we select for our International youth teams, need to be technically proficient in ball retention and be able to work in tight areas. Obviously a high percentage of good decisions need to be made within the game, with and without the ball, as we actively encourage our players to play through the thirds of the pitch, so trust and security of possession is key. At The FA we work on a Four Corner model, technical, physical, psychological  and social and it is important we pay due attention to these four areas when selecting players. The recent FA publication “The Future Game” highlights quite clearly our philosophy and vision in this area and the fundamental qualities required in order to be an elite player.

3. Do you think the standard of players being produced in England is getting better?

I think we are moving in the right direction. Since the Charter for Quality document in 1997, youth development has improved enormously in this country. The new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) which was introduced  this year, will also raise the bar in respect of better coaches, more contact time with the young players and more accountability. We still need to improve, as while we have some very good young players, we do need more strength in depth. It is difficult for young players to force their way in to becoming a regular Premier League player in England , as we have a world market to deal with. English players therefore need to be able reach and sustain this standard, which is a real challenge to all of us working in youth development in this country.

4. Do you think the new St Georges park will take English football to the next Level?

The arrival of St George’s Park in July of this year has been much welcomed by all of us not just at The FA, but the game in general. We have some excellent club facilities in England, but we never had a “technical home” for the National Association until now. It will be a focal point for coach education, international teams and research. It will be world leading, so what we now have to do is strive to improve our players and coaches of the future in this outstanding facility.

5. Do you think the standard of coaching across the country at youth level is improving?

I believe there has been some major improvements over the last few years. In this past there was just one coaching pathway, which was very much aligned to the senior end of the game. Since 2009 we have developed a youth strand within the system, which focuses quite specifically in the development of the 5-16 year old players and coaches in this area. These new FA Youth Awards, of which there are three modules,  represent age appropriate qualifications, focusing on the environment, needs and requirements in order to be a better coach working within the age bands of 5-11 and 12-16. We are in the process of developing a new FA Youth A Licence, which should raise the quality even further. This should be available from the summer of 2013.

For Infomation on St Georges Park and the Coaching Courses in England visit:

The FA National Course Planner 2012

Here is an interview with John in 2010 with his a U17 England at a training camp.