Licensed Coaches Conference At St Georges Park

posted Dec 11, 2012, 3:03 AM by Wheathampstead Wanderers
The FA Licensed Coaches' Club Conference 2012 (Levels 1+2)
As a paid-up member of the FA's new Licensed Coaches Club I was fortunate enough to attend the 2012 annual conference over the first weekend of December. Last year this was a 1-day event at Wembley Stadium but this year the event for Level-1 and Level-2 accredited coaches was held over 2-days at the fantastic new facilities at St. George's Park and under the banner "Shaping the Future".
First off a few words about SGP. Spread over ~330-acres there has been a lot of hype about the new £100m facilities that will be the base for 24 different England squads across different ages and across both male and female football. All I would say is that the facilities have to be seen to be believed as they are simply amazing and all of the 300-odd coaches that had assembled from all over the country were equally impressed. Much has been said about the FA's commitment to coaching the coaches and putting an emphasis on developing the technique of our young players and we have seen that with the changing philosophy through extended initiatives as rolling subs, unpublished leagues at younger age groups as well as the introduction of the pathway to 11v11 via 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 before finally getting the boys onto the larger pitches. The FA has recognised that having this all in place is of no use if the young kids playing are not being coached properly so huge investment has gone onto the coaching side and SGP is a centre which will be accessible to not only elite coaches but also the likes of us in grassroots football.
The conference itself was a great opportunity to mix with like-minded coaches from all the country that share a common passion and that is in training and developing children in football. There is a cross-mix of coaches with some coming from professional academies but the majority from clubs just like WWFC and there certainly is no elitism as I even found myself in a 1-on-1 chat round a table helping solve out a problem that a coach from a Premiership academy was having issues with.
The conference itself was a mix of presentations and attending practical sessions being held by various National Development or Professional Club Academy coaches. The event was started off by Sir Trevor Brooking and Les Howie, Head of Grassroots Coaching. The next presentation was an Olympic and Paralympic Report with the panel including Jessica Ennis' coach, Tony Minichello. This was a fascinating insight not only from the perspective of coaching the best in the world but also into views of coaches from different sports, something that the FA is increasingly encouraging coaches to open their eyes to.
The practical sessions I attended on the first day were on one of the 11 outdoor pitches and the one that is the replica of the Wembley pitch that England will train on before games. The first session was "Ball Retention and Possession for u12's-u16's" with the second session being "Game transfer from 7v7 to 9v9 to 11v11". The coaches were miked up and talked us through each 1hr 15min session while they also had colleagues on the sidelines talking to us about any questions we had. These sessions are fascinating and a great learning opportunity whilst seeing the enthusiasm of these coaches (who you'll see on many FA videos through your Level1, 2 or Youth Module courses) just makes you want to get your tracksuit and boots on and get out there and take another session.
Following a couple more presentations, then a tour of SGP and a quick change of clothes there was a 'gala' dinner in the evening where the after dinner speaker was ex-Bolton manager Owen Coyle with the chair, Mark Clemmet from the BBC, pulling no punches but again another really interesting and enjoyable part of the weekend made all the better over a few pints of Stella, which continued into the bar in the evening as we watched the re-run of England thrashing the All Blacks!
Owen Coyle spoke again the following morning before we went on to what was the highlight of the weekend for me. Dr Steve Peters, Consultant Psychiatrist to UK Athletics, British Cycling and Team Sky Pro Cycling gave a talk entitled "Managing the Mind to Optimise Performance". The audience were spellbound hearing Dr Peters talk about the Inner Chimp and in a quick summary how he has progressed from dealing with serial killers and psychopaths to elite sportsmen as Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Craig Bellamy and Ronnie O'Sullivan amongst others. It was a fascinating insight and just a shame that it was condensed into little over one hour as most people could probably have listened to him all day. For those that want to know more he has written a book called "The Chimp Paradox". It's now in my pile of good books to read so I'll be happy to let people know more once I've found the time away from planning training sessions etc. to get my head down and read it!
The next two sessions I decided to attend were thankfully indoors given how cold it was outdoors on the Saturday afternoon and these were held on the amazing full-size 4G pitch (picture attached). The first session was one around "Behaviour Management" and given how excited some of the boys I train can get I certainly picked up a few tips here for immediate use, with the most important around planning the social side of the session as much as the technical side - those who have done their FA Level 1 and studied the 4 Corners should understand what I mean here. My final session was "Developing Possession" which was also good but the boys doing the session (Derby u16 development centre players) were certainly a few steps ahead of my u11 Tigers!!
We ended back in the warmth of the main building where Brendan Batson, who many of you will remember playing in that great West Brom team under Ron Atkinson but who since has made a name for himself through the PFA and as a football consultant. He talked through the coach bursary programme in place for black and Asian coaches that are currently hugely under-represented in the coaching fraternity.
This was an extremely well-organised event from the few people involved in FA Learning that get involved with the FA Licensed Coaches Club.  To-date you have been required to pay an annual subscription for membership and this year the fee has been scaled as to what service you require. Once you do join you get access to a members-only website that has a plethora of coaching material and drills/ computer-animated videos all based on the FA's latest bible - The Future Game. You  an also get a coaching magazine/ booklet entitled 'Boot Room' that comes out 3-4 times a year and is full of coaching related articles from top coaches in the UK and around the world. The FA Licensed Coaches Club is open to all coaches that have at least attained Level-1 and kept their accreditation current. They are looking to make this free to join next year although I guess there will be a climbing scale for the additional resources. If you want to know more then click on
As a final message. There are over 400,000 volunteers every week taking part in football of all ages across England and around 79% of all youth clubs have a licensed coach. Much has been said recently about the volunteers that made the Olympic and Paralympic games such a great spectacle but every week rain, shine, frost or with those bloody cold winds over Butterfield Road we'll get out and make sure kids of all ages have the opportunity to participate in the world's finest sport and in the main get some thoroughly good coaching in life as well as football. Most weeks we don't get any thanks for that but it was great to hear people like Sir Trevor Brooking and Owen Coyle say that we are the true unsung heroes of the game without which the professional game in this country would be nowhere like it is now. The game is supported by the grassroots at the base and we are those volunteers that can help shape the future...
Kev Lennon
U11's Head Coach