The Coaches Academy caters for any coach regardless of level or experience and offers regular opportunities throughout the season for coaches to get together and deliver sessions with the support of Mark Haining, OFA County Coach Developer.
Crowmarsh Youth coach, Paul Whitty led the first Coaches Academy session of 2016 with his U15 team and following the session, offered his view on his experience:
“Before any coaching session I usually find myself feeling at least a little nervous and wondering how the session I have prepared will work and how the players will respond. This is particularly the case if one or more of the drills is going to require some detailed explanation and extended periods of concentration from the squad. Players tend to be sticklers for the rules once drills start so getting them clear at the outset is important. However, one of things that was reinforced by my experience at the Coaches Academy session was that flexibility is a good thing and changing a drill as it is in progress doesn’t mean that the plan you created has failed, just that you are learning from experience. Setting up a session plan on paper and delivering it to a 'lively' group of fifteen year-olds are two very different things as all coaches will know.
"I delivered the whole of the session, around fifty minutes, and the topic I concentrated on was creating space through movement and one-touch passing in a crowded midfield. In matches my squad can find it a challenge to stretch the opposition when we play the ball out of midfield and into the attacking third so this was something I wanted to work on. I was observed by the OFA County Coach Developer, Mark Haining and coaches from Goring Robins and Oxford City. Although the temptation was to spend longer than usual on the preparation of the session I decided that it would be most useful if I simply delivered a session in the usual way as getting feedback on that would be much more useful than getting feedback on a session I had spent an unrealistic amount of time preparing. So my pre-session notes were a couple of hand-drawn diagrams in my notebook rather than a fully-formed session plan.
"As the session drew to a close and I set the players a Defence v Attack game, Mark called me over and suggested that I let that drill run whilst discussing the session with him and the other coaches. The feedback from the observers was very helpful. They focused on how they had seen and understood the various drills which is a really useful approach and focused on their experience of what they had seen rather than jumping in and saying ‘well, I wouldn’t have done it that way’ or trying to correct what I had done. The feedback wasn’t confrontational in any way and started from the premise that whatever our experience as a coach we are all learners and are all looking for ways to improve the way that we work with our squads.
"We spent a lot of time discussing a couple of the rules in one of the drills. As I explained to Mark and the coaches, I had adapted these on the spot as I was expecting a maximum of ten players and instead found myself with fourteen. As a result of this discussion, I revisited the drill in my next training session, made some alterations based on what was discussed, and got some of the best play from the squad that I have ever had! So the session was a great experience for me as a coach but also had a positive impact on the players through the learning that I was able to gain.
"I’m a big supporter of collaboration and discussion amongst coaches and many of my most positive coaching experiences have come about when sharing coaching duties with a colleague. The Coaches Academy session was a very supportive experience and the chance to discuss issues with Mark Haining and the other coaches was invaluable. I’d recommend it as an experience to any coach interested in improving the way they work with their squads.”
The Coaches Academy sessions are hosted at club venues where coaches can work with their own players. Other coaches are welcome to attend and observe the session, giving the lead coach feedback and support.
To find out more about the next Coaches Academy session, please contact James Shiplee, Football Development Officer at Oxfordshire FA on 01993894403.