By Jez Semple

In the latest in our UCFB In Focus series, Jez Semple, programme leader for BA (Hons) Football Coaching and Management at UCFB Etihad Campus, explores the methods used by modern day football coaches at grassroots and professional levels, and how it’s not all just about the ball these day.

Jez has over 14 years of coaching experience in grassroots, academy and professional environments, from youth to both the male and female senior game. After finishing his playing career, he completed his FA Level 2 and then UEFA B Licence, originally teaching school teams before taking his own education further. After completing a coaching science degree, Jez started to coach in academy youth groups before taking on a tutoring role with The FA, where he has since delivered a number of FA Level 1 and 2 courses.

Having played football for over 40 years and not all of it ‘beautiful’, I have experienced a range of coaching as a player and in the last 15 years as a coach myself, in both the academy and grassroots environments.  Currently there is a growing movement away from what I first experienced in my youth, from drills to improve components of physical fitness and an isolated technique, to a player centred game related learning environment. This allows players to develop a broader range of outcomes.

Currently tutoring the new generation of FA Level 1, 2 and 3 courses, I see grassroots coaches becoming more inquisitive about differing methods of delivery. These pedagogies and when, where and how they are used is driven by a motivation to find the best fit in player development. The outcome from this change in approach of coach education is a new culture that increasingly exists in coaching across youth football.  Coaches are challenged with getting to know their players and to identify how they will best develop. Creative practice design that facilitates problem solving and decision making, while still hitting the institutional bases of physical and technical content, is the way forward.

Within the academy environment, club philosophies are strong and drive practice design. However, the outcome of producing players for the first team in an increasingly competitive market place is challenging beliefs, while the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) demands are bringing specialist expertise into the environment for the first time. The fallout of this is that new methods of delivery and education are becoming the practice of choice for the modern academy coach, with an emphasis on moving to create a player centred and player lead environment that builds the resilience needed to compete at the top level. With more first team managers looking to handover responsibility and ownership of critically important decisions to the playing staff, it is equally important that we help develop the person who can excel in this environment.

In grassroots, there is also opportunity to aid in this more holistic approach. With coach education leading in this new environment, the messages are changing. Players psychological and social needs require as much focus as the physical and technical areas.

At some point in the coach education journey, as new coaches realise the size of coaching, I am asked: “How do you achieve all this?” My answer is always the same – good luck!