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‘If they love coming to training, it’s job done’
Carl Wild’s work can be broken down into two distinct streams.
First, there is the youth coach who worked with girls at Crewe Alexandra, Stoke City and – until August – Manchester City, where he was foundation-phase lead. He now heads up the junior section at Chester FC.
Carl’s other passion is coach development. By day, he is programme leader of the football coaching and management degree at UCFB, an English university which specialises in football and sport-based qualifications.
By night, he has combined his coaching roles with teaching the FA Level 1 and 2 courses, and is now a published author. His book – The Intelligent Soccer Coach: Player- Centred Sessions To Develop Confident, Creative Players – was released last month.
In the first of this two-part interview, Carl explains his thoughts on coach development and the three things he hopes his book will help coaches to understand…
SCW: Your day job is about developing the coaches of the future. Some years ago, it was said that England didn’t have enough coaches qualified to Uefa Pro and Uefa A standard, compared to other European countries. Do you think enough high-quality coaches are coming through now?
CW: “I think they definitely are. What I would say is that qualifications aren’t always the be-all and end-all.
“At Chester, for example, we were looking to get a number of coaches in to support the junior section, and the only thing you had to have was an FA Level 1.
“I didn’t want to say you’ve got to have an FA Level 2 or you’ve got to be a Uefa B Licensed coach – it is about getting the right people in, those who want to work with the players and be part of an environment where they are challenged on a weekly basis.
“Qualifications do help in many ways. Putting my FA hat on, the previous Level 1 and level 2 course, which are just coming to an end, have been fantastic qualifications.
“Just going through the process of getting that education, which a lot of coaches have been doing over the last few years, is a massive help.
“I would like to think there has been a change in this country in terms of how we now work with players – there’s definite evidence of that.
“Hopefully by getting more people through the door, the quality will increase as well…”
“At UCFB, the number of students we get through the door each year is increasing, so there is more of a demand to start a career in coaching. Hopefully, by getting more people through the door, the increase in quality will be there as well.
“There are definitely resources for them that weren’t available when I started coaching, like the type of program we’re delivering, and the CPD events the FA and other people provide.
“Also, there are definitely a lot more support mechanisms and that can only be a good thing.”
SCW: What inspired you to publish the book?
CW: “It came after spending time as an FA educator and a lecturer and finding that some of the information I was giving was being received well by coaches.
“I wanted to produce a resource that could be more widely accessible for people, if they wanted it – and I was trying to get three main areas across.
“It was all around understanding – I wanted to get them to understand themselves a little bit more as a coach; I wanted to get them to understand players a little bit more and understand children’s needs and how they develop; and have a little bit more of an understanding around the game.
“I feel people believe they know the game – and it is quite simplistic in terms of its rules and how it’s played – but I wanted to go a little bit deeper in terms of that invasion game understanding and the different principles within it.
“Those are the three things I really wanted to get across. The best way forward then was to put practices in there, but use them as examples and point out why they maybe should use them.
“It was getting them to understand the type of practice we should be doing and then hopefully, from that, they can start producing their own and just go back to the book as a resource and a little bit of help from time to time.”
SCW: We often look at a soccer career in a very linear way – a playing career followed by a coaching career. But people become coaches at different stages in their lives, even 19 or 20. When you’re coaching, do you have a responsibility to inspire players to get into coaching themselves further down the line?
CW: “I’ll go back to the book if I may. In the introduction, I say that probably the best thing you can have as a coach is if, 5 or 10 years after you finish coaching a particular group, a player meets you, shakes your hand and tells you they are still involved in football – whether it is officiating, coaching or whatever.
“That is the best result you can get, because not many of your players are actually going to be full time professionals, so it is just getting that love of the game across to them.
“If they enjoy the game that much – they love coming to training, they hate it when training is over, they love coming to a match day, they don’t care what the result is, they just enjoy being there with their mates playing the game – then they will stay in the game. That’s a definite.
“That is the key bit for me – getting that experience and environment spot on, so they just love coming. If you can do that as a coach, that’s your job done. Because, at the end of the day, if they don’t enjoy the game of football, they won’t stay in it. it’s as simple as that.
“We have a massive responsibility that we probably don’t realise we have as a coach – an impact on whether these kids stay playing football or not, whether they go off and find another sport or just even stop physical activity altogether.
“We have a massive responsibility – an impact on whether kids stay in the game…”
“Sometimes we just need to reflect on that, think about what we’re doing and making sure we’re having the right sort of impact – a positive one.”
SCW: Is there any one particular area of coaching you would like to see done differently that you’re trying to get across to people at the moment?
CW: “I don’t think we take the planning part as seriously as we need to, compared to the amount of time we spend actually delivering the practices.
“Say we’re doing dribbling – we would mainly just look at the dribble, which is great because we should have a focus for the session. But I think there needs to be more focus on the before and after, as well.
“So, for example, in a 1-v-1 practice where a defender plays a ball into an attacker, who tries to dribble past the defender, I try to get coaches to understand how it would actually look in a game.
“The defender wouldn’t pass to an attacker in that situation and the defender would be tucked inside because they will be trying to stay compact. The ball will probably come from a different area from a teammate, so let’s get them receiving in that way, and have the defender approaching them in that way rather than the way they usually approach.
“Then, stopping the ball when they get to the line…we wouldn’t do that in a game. So what happens if they do get over the line? It might just be a pass into a small goal that replicates a cross.
“I’m trying to emphasize to the people I work with at the moment about having that thought process in terms of what it actually looks like within the game, rather than just putting on a practice that, say, looks at dribbling, when we can probably go a little bit further with it.”
NEXT WEEK: “You wouldn’t teach a seven-year-old algebra – you’d give them the basics. It’s the same with kids playing football…”
IN PART TWO, CARL WILD DISCUSSES THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT PLUS: HEAR MORE OF HIS INTERVIEW ON OUR PODCAST — CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD