The Coach: Part 2 – Philosophy and Player Ownership

Chris Henderson, 19 March 2019

The second part of The Coach series looks at Chris Henderson’s first workshop of FA Level 1 in Coaching Football. The journey continues…

The first session of my FA Level 1 in Coaching Football is now done. It ran from 9am until 5pm.

It was a lot to take in over the full day but it was deeply rewarding. The group is a cracking bunch of people, and we all had a laugh together right from the get-go. The trainer is a likable guy, and clearly knows his stuff.

The early part of the morning was labelled ‘The Boring Bit’ where we registered, made our introductions and were given the course materials and handbooks. Once that was out of the way, we cracked on with the detail.

It’s also no coincidence that the ‘England DNA’ was introduced in 2014 – the same year England bombed out of the World Cup in Brazil

The England DNA

Our trainer talked us through the ‘England DNA’ which has become the cornerstone for FA coaching since 2014. Its purpose was to ‘outline a playing and coaching philosophy for England teams and a vision of the future England senior international.’

From what I hear from friends who did the course before 2014, it’s changed beyond all recognition. It’s also no coincidence that the England DNA was introduced in 2014 – the same year England bombed out of the World Cup in Brazil without winning a game and finishing in fourth place in the group behind Costa Rica. Things had to change.

The behaviour and integrity of the players is a fundamental element of the DNA, as well as fitting the right mould for the future. It helps to explain Gareth Southgate’s style and choice of players since he took charge of the senior squad. Troy Deeney and Glenn Murray, as examples, have often scored more than their English contemporaries but neither player has had an England international.

Based on the recent upturn in form of the England senior team, as well as countless trophies for the youth teams, the new system appears to be working.

Establishing your philosophy

The whole set-up feels professional and well-organised, and this was the ‘lightbulb’ moment of the day. The rest of the morning session was built around establishing what our playing philosophy was. We completed a task which aimed to place our coaching philosophy on a sliding scale from ‘in possession’ to ‘out of possession’.

My experience from down the years tells me that one bad apple can spoil the bunch

Mine was exclusively ‘in possession’ which was unsurprising to me, but it was great to have that reinforcement. Apparently it’s basically the same as Johan Cruyff’s philosophy.

My number one thought going into this task was that when I manage or coach teams in the future, I will have a zero tolerance policy on prima donnas and general greediness. My experience from down the years tells me that one bad apple can spoil the bunch.

To the contrary, the trainer had the view that if any player feels like they can score from anywhere on the pitch, they should try. It flies in the face of my own thinking, but that is obviously what a philosophy is, in essence. It’ll be interesting to see how these ideas develop over the coming sessions.

Practical sessions

After lunch we headed out to the 3G pitches where the trainer showed us some example practice routines in both ‘passing’ and ‘shooting’.

Incidentally, the word ‘drill’ has been banned by the FA. Every mention of the word resulted in a penalty of buying treats for the group for the next session, which one chap did about 10 times.

Our trainer regularly stopped each exercise to explain what and why he was running certain routines. This, we later found out, was an example of ‘player ownership’.

Coaching is different to management in one main area: its purpose is not to win but to help the players improve

Player ownership

The afternoon session was built around the term ‘player ownership’, which means to allow players the responsibility of making decisions, both in training and in matches.

This can take many forms but can involved asking open-ending questions to the players during sessions or even allowing players to choose their own position or run their own sessions. It’s an interesting concept, so we’ll see how it develops over the next few weeks.

It fits in with the general concerns of ‘player power’ you often hear about the Premier League. We were told that coaching is different in one main area: its purpose is not to win but to help the players improve.

So it was time to head home, session one of six was in the books. The focus of the next session will be to lead our own practical session on ‘in possession’ for the rest of the group. Until next time.

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Chris is the founder of The Football Brief. He runs our regular series and can usually be found waxing lyrical about Blackburn Rovers and R9.

By |2019-03-21T12:56:36+00:00March 21st, 2019|

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