I spent last Sunday with a group of football coaches from the FA East region, finding out about the FA’s new initiative, “England’s DNA”.
With presentations and coaching demonstrations on “who we are”, “the future player”, “how we coach”, “how we play” and “how we support”, the day offered both theoretical and practical guidance as to how the FA expects its coaches to develop the Future Player – from grassroots to the international stage.
For all the fanfare around the “DNA”, perhaps most revealing was the statement, in an introductory video, that there was, in fact, no fixed model – as soon as a document is written, it goes out of date (or evolves, to maintain the biological metaphor).
What was offered was a framework, beyond the “4 corners” (see below) for the philosophical grounding of football coaching.
It sounds quite high-powered – in fact, it was practical and realistic, and there are definitely lessons to be learnt.
I am a qualified FA coach, but not an active one. If I am entirely honest, I signed up for the conference as much to record my (obligatory – note to ECB CA!) annual CPD hours for the season as to find out about England’s DNA…but the day gave a fascinating insight into the efforts of a national sports governing body to enthuse and direct a diverse body of (mostly) volunteer coaches.
Covering all the bases – 4 corners
Even at level 1, football coaches are encouraged to consider the “4 corner” model when designing practice sessions – with varying proportions, each session should aim develop the players’ technical, physical, psychological and social skills.
Not so different for the holistic sessions envisaged in the latest round of post-level 2 CPD offered by the ECB Coach Education, integrating technical, physical, tactical and psychological – but the FA expect this of volunteer coaches with the U7s.
How we coach – the England DNA Coaching Fundamentals
Part of the “How we coach” presentation was a newly released list of 12 Coaching fundamentals – a mixture of behaviours, practice outcomes, and direct guidelines on session management e.g. “aim for a minimum of 70% ball rolling time in all sessions”.
To present experienced coaches with 12 “fundamentals” seemed rather abrupt – the follow-up question (“how many do you currently offer in your coaching”) made this feel rather challenging – and I assume that newly qualifying coaches will get much more detail on how to implement them.
What’s your DNA?
At the end of the day, the coaches were encouraged to take away a blank template for their own club’s DNA.
How many will eventually be completed and implemented is uncertain, but the exercise looks to be very worthwhile. A clear statement of how the club defines itself, the style of play they seek to encourage, the characteristics they seek to develop in their players, and how the club coaches and supports the process, sets the benchmark.
Cross-over to cricket?
In some respects, the ECB coach education model is ahead of the FA’s, especially in respect of the emphasis in courses on “how to coach” – it seems that the FA have assumed that anyone who wants to coach at junior levels simply has to run the appropriate drills, so the Coaching Fundamentals seek to address this.
But the sections of England’s DNA that focus on vision and outcomes (“who we are” and “how we play”) help to set common standards of performance and behaviour at all levels, for players, coaches and administrators., and to align the various functions to support the Future Game, another FA initiative.
And without that vision, all we do is turn up on a Friday night and throw balls around…