Q&A with Kelly Smith – Arsenal Ladies, England & Team GB Footballer.

Q&A with KELLY SMITH – Arsenal Ladies, England, and Team GB Footballer

Kelly, is currently in her third spell with FA WSL club Arsenal Ladies. As a teenager she played in the US college system, Kelly broke records with Seton Hall University then played professionally with Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) franchise Philadelphia Charge. After returning to Arsenal for a spell which included a 2007 UEFA Women’s Cup win, Kelly went back to the US with another professional contract, with Boston Breakers in the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS).

She has accumulated over 100 caps for the England women’s national football team since making her debut in 1995. She is England’s record goal scorer with 45 goals. She played for Team Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.

Kelly has recently brought out a book called: Footballer, My story.

Footballer: My Story is the inspirational tale of a woman with a drive to succeed despite all the obstacles thrown in her way. It is the unique inside story of a star in a sport enjoyed by millions yet often not granted the recognition it deserves. And as she nears the end of a glittering playing career, it is the story of how Kelly Smith became what she always wanted to be. A professional footballer, in a professional league.

Here is a link to buy Kelly’s book on Amazon.

Kelly Smith’s Book: Footballer, My Story

Hi Jamie,
Here’s the answers to your questions…

1/ Growing up who was your role model as a player? And why?

Ryan Giggs we played in the same position, he was left footed and so was I. I loved the way he ran with the ball and took defenders on. He was fast and skilful and I loved watching him play. I tried to model my game on him growing up.

2/ As a top player what advise do you have for younger players?

You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t work hard you will not succeed.
Listen to your coaches and watch football at the highest level see what players do that play in your position. It is a great tool for your own development.

3/ What is the difference between the US women’s game to the English game?

The speed of play is quicker in the USA. I believe due to the teams training together on a more regular basis.

4/ Do you think the WSL has been a success?

Yes so far, the league is still young and developing. The games are alot more competitive which makes it more enjoyable to play in. Each year we want to raise the profile and see growth within the league.

5/ What can team GB learn from the Olympics?

It was an amazing experience playing in the biggest sporting event in the world but it was a shame we couldn’t get to a medal match as we fell short to canada. We need to learn to win when the pressure is on even if it is ugly.

 6/ How far away are England from winning the world cup?

Well first off we have to qualify for the next one in Canada. We always set our stall out every campaign to qualify. England as a nation should be qualifying for major tournaments. There are so many top teams in Europe – Germany, Sweden and France to name a few and that is very hard in itself. The last world cup we got to the quarters and lost to France on penalties. You also have to have a little luck along the way, depth in your squad and a strong team bond to go all the way.

 Here is a video of Kelly Smith and Alex Scott talking about the FA WSL

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

Is England’s Problem – Talent Identification?

Is Englands Problem – Talent Identification?

Recently I watched a video by Rasmus Ankersen about Talent Identification and some of the reasons why top athletes become top athletes in there sport.

When watching it i kept on thinking has england been looking for the wrong players? and have countries like spain been looking at something different. There are so many factors that create top international players however the top athletes have the same kind of characteristics that make them who they are. Rasmus Ankensen reserched into many top sports around the world and why these countries produce the top athletes and came out with 3 things that determine how real talent can reach its full potential. He also went into how it is very easy for coaches to miss the next superstar?

The question i kept on asking myself is how many xavi’s, iniesta’s, pedros, etc have been missed?

Ankersen goes into how performance can quite easily overlook potential. This meaning a strong quick boy who has hit puberty at the age of 13/14 who is more affective in games can stand out by scoring goals and being dominant. While a small player who is a “late developer” but has great vision, sees a pass, can dribble, can get out of tight spaces but physically cannot keep up – gets overlooked.  example: Shawn Wright Philips getting Released by Nottingham forest for being “too small”.

Barcelona’s academy La Masia state that the main characteristics in players is that they are very technical and cognitively sound and are not interested in physical attributes in players at younger ages.

“The main thing that the scouts look for is that the children make decisions differently from everybody else. By this I mean their speed of thought. It is a quickness of mind we look for. Already at 12 or 13 they understand that football is played within a particular style.” P.Guardiola, Ex FC Barcelona Coach

Ankersen also goes onto mention that sometimes players that are super talented early that are both physically dominant and skillful technically and cognitively are called “shouting talent” example Wayne Rooney.

Here are the three main things Ankersen came up with:

1/Great Talent is not necesserily right talent:

Arkersen mentioned that sports clubs use diverse ways to analyze and evaluate player performance. He mentioned that some players in certain tests (physical or cognitive) may not shine but may shine in other areas of the game that they are not getting tested on. The first thing that came to mind was a try out for youth players at clubs and what clubs are testing players on. Are clubs testing on pure speed? Are they testing on physical strength? Are they getting evaluated in non-pressure exercises? What are the coaches looking for in players?

2/What you see is not what you get:

He also went onto how an athletes performance (without the correct training) gets compared to an athletes performance with the correct training. He goes on to saying that too many times an athlete that doesn’t perform to the level of an athlete that has had the correct training gets overlooked on their results then instead of knowing the training history.  For example a player that goes on trial at a club may have the potential to be a world star but does not perform to the level of players who have been coached the correct way. They get judged to early and never get another chance. Do coaches really do their homework on players they are not sure about?

3/Never Overrate Certificates & Never Underrate Character:

Arkersen goes onto mention that an athletes character and mindset is way more important than results on a piece of paper or a medal/certificate. For example players that are performing to a high level scoring goals at a younger age and having success but do not have the mental strength to take their game to the next level, will quickly go down the pecking order. Arkensen goes onto mention that a performance environment should not be designed for comfort but for hard work. This can also relate to too many young players been spoiled. Meaning that a younger players getting offered crazy contracts worth lots of money too early. Does there attitude and hunger for the game get affected? Do the clubs create this player demeanor? Will it keep on happening.

Barcelona are an excellent example of creating players that are humble,

“These guys might have been chosen to be part of Barca but it is humility that earns you respect. We don’t want them to go around talking about huge amounts of money. You can be humbled if your surrounding are, but it’s tough. But take Iniesta – he is not arrogant, he more or less goes unnoticed.” 

Carlos folguera – FC Barcelona Academy Director.

Here is a video on the LA MASIA – FC Barcelona

However i understand that England is trying to do the right thing to produce good players. My recent Q&A with John Peacock suggests that the FA are stepping in the right direction. There are shining examples of excellent academies that are producing top level players such as Southampton Academy. Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are three players that were produced and played on the champions league and International Stage.

Here is a video with Alex Oxlade Chamberlaine of how Southampton FC were patient enough to allow him to fulfill his potential.

Theses are great examples but again i ask myself why isn’t England as a nation producing players of this nature on a regular basis? Is it the premier League World market? or aren’t we just producing top level players to play at this level? If players are good enough why cant they force their way into the top level teams.

To see more on Rasmus Ankersen visit: www.thegoldmineeffect.com

The Future of the game and how England need to adapt…

Here is a great slide show on the future of Football/Soccer and where it has come in the world game. This was produced after the 2008 Euros to analyze the english game and where it has to go to become a world force again.

Future_of_the_Game by Dick Bate, English FA

It shows clearly that the game needs to adapt to the modern game. The 2012 Euros was a perfect example of how far behind we still are in the game tactically and technically. In the quarter final versus Italy, England were completely out played. England played flat 4-4-2 (defensively turned into a 4-4-1-1) and got completely overran in midfield. Andrea Pirlo was the complete play maker for italy, accept for the final versus Spain. Spain got their tactics right as Xavi was tight to Pirlo when Italy had the ball, which didn’t allow him time to dictate. For England this was not the case due to the lack of tactical know how and old fashion 4-4-2 style. Italy played the modern 4-4-2 diamond and had joy versus Germany’s strict 4-3-3. Their tactics were excellent. They forced them inside to their numbers in midfield to allow Pirlo again to dictate. However in the Final Spain (playing 4-3-3) Dictated the game due to the high pressing game.

Here are possession stats over 120 mins (extra time)  – Eng Vs Italy

Here is a video of Roy Hodgson before Euro 2012 talking about the pros and cons of 4-4-2 and and his not so positive opinion on the 4-3-3.

Roy Hodson on the 4-4-2 and 4-3-3

How Roy Hodgson & England will adapt its style due to the experience of the Euro 2012:

England in their latest friendly against Italy played 4-2-3-1 (4-3-3). This for me is only a positive. Here are reasons why 4-3-3 is being used across the world and why it is so affective

• For a zonal back 4 defence, one mobile central striker can be more of a problem to handle than two.

• “Early” and “high” width can be established on gaining possession.

• Movement, inter-change and positioning “between” opponents causes marking difficulties for zonal defences.

• If opponents mark on a man for man basis then more “individual” working space is available.

• Three MF often outnumber opponents for attacking build ups and defensive responsibilities.

• The shape of the three MF players can be changed / inverted to provide marking problems for opponents.

• Three MF players offers defensive numbers and compactness in central MF areas and reduces pass routes to opponents central forwards in the defending half and around the penalty area.

• Two of the three MF have the freedom to attack leaving “security” behind.

• A zonal back 4 covers the width of the field more economically and quickly, and defenders are generally in closer proximity to each other to provide support if necessary.

It is clear to see that 4-3-3 and now 4-4-2 diamond is being used more on the international stage and in club football. For me England and Roy Hodgson adapting in their first friendly back is a step in the right direction.

Understanding that football at International level is a results driven business however if you want to adapt with other nations with the same thinking then it seems 4-3-3 is the style and way forward to be successful. The Spanish national team obviously have excellent technical players that have been using 4-3-3 for years, and recently have used the silent number 9 but thats another subject…

If anyone is interested in a 4-3-3 playbook by Dick Bate. Please 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.