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Practice Play Courses - How It Has Improved Me As A Coach.

This blog has many excellent articles written by John and Roger mainly, with a huge imput from Steve Haslam with his great detailed replies, for those who dont know, John and Roger originally set up Premier Skills. Many of the articles touch on what the course work is about and what is wrong with the English game. However I thought I would come at this from a different angle. I run Premier Skills Academy a football coaching company in Hatfield and London, so you may think I am biased in my views, but I will write this with honesty.

"keep the ball on the safe side"

A brief background. 19 years coaching grassroots kids and some adults. I have worked briefly for Stevenage, Barnet and Luton. In 1997 I passed the FA Level 2, having never coached in my life. In 2008 I completed the new FA Level 1 and had to redo my Level 2 in 2010 as I had never done a bridging course when 1st 4 sport became the awarding body. I have completed all 3 youth module courses and working with disabled players course,

"two score easier than one"

I spent a large part of my coaching in the early years doing drills, fitness work, technique work. I also spent many an hour complaining about bad behaviour, not listening, uninterested kids and know-it-alls, sound familiar to some of you?

Grassroots is tough, so you have to learn how to deal with all sorts of kids. Some are no problem, then another group will really push the boundaries, more on that later.

"open the curtain"

My first big coaching influence was a guy called Paul Cooper, who ran give us back our game campaign, I met him on a forum called footy4kids. Paul opened my eyes to using small sided games as a way of teaching instead of the traditional FA way. Once I started this method the behaviour improved. I was sure this was the right way to go, play ssg, with minimal coaching interruptions. It was through the forum I heard about John Cartwright, Paul had mentioned him briefly in relation to learning through play.

"play in the future"

In 2010 I first attended a Practice Play level 1 course in Battersea Park. Roger was the course instructor, his excellent presentation skills and sense of humour stood out. But as good as Roger was at delivering the work, it was the detail in the work that really got me interested. 4 hours later my head was spinning,

No other course had opened my eyes the way this one had.

"holding space"

In 4 hours I had learnt more practical knowledge, than all the FA courses put together. Now I still was new to this method, so had forgotten many parts of it by the time I tried it out. Luckily for me once I had paid, I never had to pay again for a Level 1. I have since been at 11 Level 1 courses and learnt something from each one. The following is from Sam Wilkinson Lessons relearned.

"play with your eyes up"

Continuity is key.I had forgotten how powerful continuity in coaching is. At Premier Skills we have a clearly defined playing philosophy and a coaching programme that works towards achieving that philosophy in a progressive and gradual way. Every Premier Skills coach has a detailed understanding of this playing philosophy and how to achieve it through the delivery of our coaching programme.

"check your shoulder"

That has been the main diference, continuity. I no longer flip from one session to another. I now have a vision of what I want from players. I understand the game in greater detail than I did. So in essence, Practice Play courses have given me the understanding of what to coach, how to coach it and when to move on. Compare this to my first 12 years, where I was always looking for the next drill, what do I coach this week, is it set pieces or defending. I had never been told about a game style before? So for 12 years and numerous FA courses know one had told me about a game style and how to coach one until I came across Premier Skills. Its a bit like installing an IKEA flat pack without the instructions, you know what it looks like but you dont know where the pieces go.

I now have more confidence to coach different age groups and abilities. I see the game differently now. I now have more success. The teams are improving, we dont cherry pick players.

"start again"

I said I will write with honesty. Practice Play is not perfect, I have had kids who do not like the games, although few, however perfect does not exist and I dont think it will ever. Example would be one 7 year old girl I coach loses interest once we play games. every other child wants to play matches only. Practice Play is about playing realist practices, but she would rather have a ball at her feet on her own, than play a match. I have made some changes hear and there to suit the children, but thats what we do as coaches. Not all groups of kids are the same. This takes me back to those kids who push the boundaries. I have one group who nearly all go to the same school, same class. So they are very familiar with each other. Since we took them away from the older group they used to play with, they have become a handfull. The old me would have shouted, moaned at them and probably said if you dont want to listen then I wont bother training you. So after 3 weeks of trying to get them to all pay attention, I got the parents involved to keep an eye out for their challenging behaviour. Not easy keeping mums with you when its freezing cold and they have other kids to look after.

"running right, running left"

I quizzed the boys on the shouts they make in the game, the ones you see in between each paragraph. The idea was to see how much they have learnt, sometimes we think they are not listening, when infact they have. Continuity was the difference, the fact that Practice Play does things over and over, it becomes engrained. So although the last few weeks we did not move on, the boys still heard the messages enough over the year to understand. If I was doing my old work, nothing would have really been learnt due to the constant changes and lack of vision.

"touch move"

No other work I have come across has so many bases covered in the way Practice Play does.

Practice Play is the best work I have come across. Barcelona, excellent at developing a quick short passing game, but they have to go to another continent to find those creative exciting strikers. Practice Play has those amazing dribbling players in mind in every session. Xavi, Iniesta have excellent passing ability partly because of their vision, Practice Play teaches that in every session. Two footed players have become rare these days, Practice Play has that covered. Keep the ball, keep possession trying to find gaps to penetrate, Practice Play teaches you how. Individualism, exciting players who can pass, dribble, defend and play in different positions, tick that box as well. Germans have always been known for being organised, our footy language helps with that. Heading, another topic that is so under coached, we have work for that as well.

Just to touch on Futsal. Noticed how many coaches are desperate to sign up to a futsal course. Believing it will change their kids, It wont hurt to play more football, but Futsal is not the answer to all our problems. Great game, very quick, encourages creativity, lots of touches on the ball etc. However nothing improves you like great coaching. I have been on a futsal course, another series of drills. Practice Play is far more suited to futsal than the futsal course I attended.

If you have never been on a Premier Skills course in the UK, check out

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