Young players can take instructions like 'make the pitch big' and 'check your shoulders' very literally - so take a different approach, says HANNAH DUNCAN MORE
Persistence is the key to Sian’s rapid ascent
Sian Osmond was taken to her first soccer match at six months old. She cried every time her dad’s team scored.
But tears quickly turned to cheers and by the age of 18 she received the FA Level 2 coaching badge. A further decade on, the 28-year-old has the Uefa A License and is head coach of London Bees, who play in the third tier of the women’s pyramid in England.
What started as medical cover, watching games and observing training quickly became a swift rise through the coaching ranks with the Bees, from under-17s manager and development team assistant coach to development team manager, first-team coach and now, after an interim period at the helm, permanent head coach.
Sian’s full-time job is as a women’s recreational football officer at the Middlesex County Football Association, where she is working to increase adult participation in the run up to Euro 2022, hosted in England.
SCW caught up with Sian to talk about how she has developed as a coach, and her advice for coaches looking to climb the coaching ladder…
SCW: If you think about yourself from when you started with Bees to where you are now, what are the biggest differences?
SO: “Qualification, definitely, because I came in as a Level 2 coach and now I’m A license, which is a huge journey to have taken over the last couple of years, particularly with Covid-19 and everything else going on.
“But it is probably also confidence, I think, particularly when I had that first little dip into coaching senior players,
“I wasn’t sure if what I was saying was right, particularly when some of them were international players and played at a level I would never have reached.
“It always felt a little bit intimidating at the start but now I think I feel a little bit more comfortable in my own skin in terms of how I deliver, what I deliver and believing in what I’m coaching and trying to get across to players. But that came with a lot of time.”
SCW: Do you think part of it is just getting on with it and getting used to coaching those types of players?
SO: “That was probably my way through it. I always knew that was the level I wanted to work at – I wanted to work with senior players.
“I enjoyed working with the youth players and the development girls but I’m quite a competitive personality, so to not really have that, I found that quite tough.
“I like to think having a warm, coaching style means players can approach me…”
“So knowing it was something I always wanted to do, I knew I had to suck it up. It was not to say the players weren’t fantastic with me, because they were, it was just different.
“It pushed you that little bit more and I think in the end it probably made me better because it made me go away and read books and listen to podcasts and ask questions of the coaches that I was working with and try to learn more, which meant they got a better version of me.”
SCW: Have there also been constants all the way through your coaching, no matter who you’ve worked with?
SO: “Probably me as a personality. I’ve always considered football a game at the end of the day – I’ve always wanted people to enjoy it, be excited to be there and be a part of the group.
“I think that was an energy I brought at the beginning when I was working with the under-17s and I’m hoping that’s something I carried through.
“I want players to enjoy the environment they’re in. I think that is when you get the best out of people.
“From that perspective, I’d like to think the sort of personality that I’ve brought through, and trying to have that warm, coaching style, means players feel like they can approach me, even if my role has changed into a more authority role.”
SCW: You will have learned from different coaches on your journey up the ranks at London Bees. How important do you think it is for coaches to make the most of those opportunities when they get them?
SO: “It’s huge. I’ve been insanely lucky with some of the names I’ve worked with, they’ve been absolutely fantastic.
“Even if there’s things you’re watching and you’re not sure you like it, it’s all a learning curve. Whether you’re observing, assisting or delivering yourself, there’s always a learning opportunity within that.
“Within the first couple of years I learned so much because the amount of tactical information you’re absorbing, just from listening and seeing the players’ reactions, was just an amazing opportunity.
“Anyone that gets the opportunity to observe other coaches working, no matter what level you’re at, I think it is vitally important because you’ll always pick up things you like, things you don’t like, things you’d like to question, and things you’d like to try out and explore a little bit more.”
SCW: A lot of coaches will really admire your journey and might like to do something similar. So to anyone working for an academy who is keen to progress up the ranks at a club, what advice would you give to them?
SO: “I think persistence is the biggest thing. There was probably a year and a half where I was literally just picking up cones and observing, and at some point when it’s raining on a Tuesday night, you’re thinking ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing here?’.
“But if you really do put your time, effort and energy into it, you will get what you want to achieve out of it.
“Also, just be open to listening to any sort of suggestions or feedback you can get. Again, I was really lucky with the coaches I worked with that they would give me feedback around what I did. Players did as well.
“It’s not always the most comfortable experience hearing it because it might not always be positive, but I think it’s vitally important.
“The biggest thing is to try and use and put that feedback into place, because I know I’m not the final product by any stretch of the imagination.”
SCW: What about someone that might have been in an assistant role, and is then asked to step up into a number one role? What advice would you give to them?
SO: “Don’t panic! Just own it. I think that’s something I probably wish I did earlier.
“I had a real set thing in my mind in terms of how the team could play when I first took over and the shape I wanted to play as well, but I didn’t change it early enough because I was thinking ‘what will the players think? What will the club think? What will the other coaches think? Can I change it immediately?’.
“Be open to listening to any feedback you can get. I think it’s vitally important…”
“But I think you’ve just got to own it. If that’s what you want to do, just be confident enough to go and do it.
“You’ve been asked to do the role for a reason – if they didn’t think you could, they probably wouldn’t have put you in, or at least that’s how I’ve gone with it.”
SCW: And what of those senior coaches who are in a position to be able to influence those coming up the ranks – what would you say to them?
SO: “Keep doing what you’re doing. If you’ve got people that need your ear, it’s massively important.
“I am lucky in that I can pick up the phone and speak to any of the managers that I have worked under, or coaches that I have worked with, and they have always got an open ear.
“These are all people I’ve worked under and I feel like they’ve influenced me as a coach and made me who I am today, so I’m forever grateful.
“It does make a difference, particularly if they’ve worked at the club – they understand the context, they might know some of the players and bits and pieces like that.
“It’s important if you can help support coaches along the journey. I’m hoping one day I’ll have someone speaking about me in the same way because to pass on your practice and make others around you better is amazing.
“If you’re in that position, be open to it – it’s because you’re so good at what you do that people admire you and want your advice.”
“I’m always grateful for the journey I’ve gone on with London Bees because I’ve worked with some absolutely amazing coaches…”
HEAR THE FULL-LENGTH INTERVIEW WITH SIAN, INCLUDING HER FULSOME PRAISE FOR BEES’ FORMER HEAD COACH LEE BURCH, ON OUR PODCAST — CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD