COACH TALK: 45 minutes with Pat Malone
I feel that it is very important to get the opinions of coaches who have been around the game in Ireland for some time. This week I chat to Pat Malone from Premier Skills Ireland.
TCD: How did you get into coaching?
PM: I started coaching with my Dad – Christy Malone at Dingle United in Cabra. I was around 17, I think. I just gave him a hand initially and then as time went by I began to do more and have more input. He always had pretty good teams during his time at Dingle. The first team I helped coach had some really good players in it including the current Head of Coaching at St Kevin’s Boys– Alan Caffrey. Caffo was a special player who never got the breaks he deserved. He was a player with great ability who always had a trick or two up his sleeve, something that was always encouraged in him by my Dad but in today’s modern “must win” world of schoolboy football is so sadly lacking.
I completed my Level 1 & UEFA B Licence whilst at Dingle and from there I progressed to work under Pat Cleary. Pat was then manager of Ards FC and initially I played for him. I had just recovered from my 2nd ACL rupture and played that one season for Pat. We won the league & Cup double that year so I decided I’d put my body through too much and decided to give up playing and concentrate on coaching. It was also a good time to go out on a high. I began to assist Pat in the following season and learned so much from him. In my mind he was a “Guru” and still is. After working with Pat, I decided to concentrate on completing my UEFA “A” Coaching Licence which I did with the Scottish FA. Pat had recommended that I do it with the SFA. It was a fantastic experience, very tough with no real margin for error – you only have to look at the coaches who have completed the Licence with the SFA – Jose Mourinho, Andre Vilas Boas to name but 2 to see how high the standards that are required.
I then began to stand on my own and have worked with a number of clubs, leagues & associations. (Kinvara Ards FC/DDSL Kennedy Cup Squad/Republic of Ireland U15/U16 & U17 squads/Shelbourne FC/Bohemians FC/Drumcondra FC & Home Farm FC).
In July of 2012 I began work with Premier Skills in Ireland and have not looked back since.
TCD: What is your current role at your club?
PM: I am co-Licence Holder for Premier Skills in Ireland along with Colm Barron. Our company provides Innovative Coach Education & Player Development Programs. This work is based primarily on the “Street Football” concept utilising the “Practice Play” Methodology.
I believe that there are real deficiencies in today’s game and a huge shortage of skilful individuals such as Johnny Giles/Liam Brady from the past. These players learned their game on the street. Times have changed and children cannot for safety reasons play on the streets anymore but the principles remain the same in my mind. I believe Premier Skills can help counter theses deficiencies with its methodology and believe it can make a big difference in not only helping produce excellent players but also by helping produce excellent coaches.
The opportunity arouse when I along with Colm were approached by Roger Wilkinson, co-founder of Premier Skills to take up the franchise and licenceship for Premier Skills in Ireland. It was a fantastic opportunity, one which both Colm & I could not turn down. It is great working with someone who is so like minded in terms of how the game should be played. Its working well and I would be confident that Premier Skills will grow further in the future.
The Premier Skills Practice Play Methodology is used at a number of Academies in England currently which include West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Coventry City to name but a few.
It is also used as part of the Coaching Development Program at a number of clubs in Ireland. To date we have completed courses in St Kevins Boys, Trim Celtic, Malahide United, Mountview Boys & Girls FC and Shamrock Rovers here in Ireland. We also held a Level 1 Course with the NDSL which was very well received.
TCD: What changes would you make to the grassroots game?
PM: Where do I begin!! First of all I would do away with all league tables’ right up to U 12. Kids don’t need league tables – they naturally want to win. They are competitive, it’s in their DNA. By taking away the league tables I think this could have a greater effect on the parents. There would be less pressure being put on the kids and therefore they will enjoy the game more. I would have small sided games programs right up to U12 based as follows. The transition year would take place at U13.
U8s U9s – 5 v 5. (Indoor from Nov – Feb. Futsal ?)
U10s U11s – 7 v 7. (Indoor from Nov – Feb. Futsal ?)
U12s – 9 v 9.
U13s – 9 v 9 Aug – Dec. 11 v 11 – Jan – Jun.
From U 14s and above it is the 11 v 11 game. You could have perhaps rules at U 13 (jan – Jun) that the opposition cannot prevent the Goalkeeper playing the ball out at a goal-kick to his team in their defensive third. This would allow players the time to develop key skills with limited pressure where currently we don’t see enough of this aspect of play.
I would have clubs hold “In service training days” – say 3 per season where all coaches from the club come together and learn & develop their skills as coaches. Clubs could utilise the services of Coach Education providers such as Premier Skills or similar to help with ongoing Professional Development of coaches.
“I think that the FAI need to first come up with a playing style that suits Ireland. They need to take into consideration all factors that influence the game in this country, from climate right through to having to deal with all the other sports played by youngsters in this country. They must then find a way of developing a program that allows this playing style to be put in place”.
PM: My philosophy is simple. I want to see the game played in a manner that encourages skill, teamwork and sportsmanship. I have always encouraged development over “winning at all costs”. I believe that if players are given an environment where they can develop their skills without fear of failure they will improve and then the natural course that will follow will be results. All young players and adults for that matter want to win. They don’t go onto the pitch thinking I want to lose. It’s a natural instinct to want to succeed.
I was at Home Farm for 4 years, in that time my ethos of all that I tried to bring to the club was primarily about “Developing the Player”. The results were secondary and for the most part results took care of themselves. It was the Player Development work which brought about the results. Coaches and managers have to remember that they are there to facilitate these players in their development as footballers. Some managers think its all about themselves – this is wrong. You have to put the players 1st – its that simple.
Regard a playing style – I want my teams to play out from the back, through the thirds creating overloads in wide areas and making sure there is quality in our passing. The real work takes place off the ball, the players without the ball are the influential ones. The positions they pick up and the use of the spaces are so important. This is what gives the players on the ball the “picture” of what comes next. We can’t say it’s all about passing because its not – it’s about the decisions that players take either with or without the ball. Players need to decide what is needed to progress, “Do I pass” or “Do I run with the ball”, if I have no forward option then “Do I start again”. This is all the basis of Street Football. In the street football environment players learn how to control the ball, how to and when to pass, when to run with the ball. This is why I chose to take up Roger Wilkinson’s offer to take the franchise for Premier Skills in Ireland along with Colm Barron. I believe totally in this philosophy.
TCD: What type of player do you like working with?
PM: I like to work with players who have a good attitude and want to improve. They can have all the skill in the world but without the right attitude they will never succeed. I am very aware that not all players will have the same ability, some will have the ability to go very far in the game, some will play purely for enjoyment and some unfortunately will discover other things in life that will take away from the game.
I have worked with elite players in the past and for the most part I enjoyed working at this level. It does however have its drawbacks – some parents think their child is a top player who is going to be the next “Messi”. I think most parents need to take a step back and try to look objectively at football. I have my own children and my son Craig does nothing else but talk about “being a pro”. Maybe because I have been involved in the game so long that I am able to be objective. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing I would like to see more that my son achieving his dream, but I am realistic with him and I have always been honest with him from day 1 in regard to being a Pro.
Overall, if a player that I am working with wants to improve, I will help them improve. I can guarantee he will improve if he wants to learn and is willing to put in the time. So players of all abilities at whatever age, once they have a willingness to learn I enjoy working with.
“Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.” — Josef Albers
TCD: What is the future of Youth football?
PM: I think that the future of Youth Football looks like it’s not going to change any time soon. There are too many people pulling in opposite directions so there is no Master plan. Until such time as our Association comes up with a playing style then we are all going to be on different pages.
If we look at the top associations in Europe currently – namely Spain & Germany, the same game is played right throughout their respective countries. It’s also very apparent that the Playing Style is utilised right throughout their game from Grassroots to the Professional Game.
I am not saying that Ireland can produce an exact copy of one of these styles but even Jack Charlton had a playing style – it wasn’t a very pretty one but at least he had one.
I think that the FAI need to first come up with a playing style that suits Ireland. They need to take into consideration all factors that influence the game in this country, from climate right through to having to deal with all the other sports played by youngsters in this country. They must then find a way of developing a program that allows this playing style to be put in place.
I look at the current Grassroots courses on offer from the FAI -Kickstart 1+2. Both of these programs in my opinion are severely deficient in helping develop footballers for tomorrow. The game is evolving at a rate and we are not keeping pace with. We are “light years” behind and dropping further behind. Things have to change and it needs to be sooner rather than later.
Pat Malone runs Premier Skills Ireland -PREMIER SKILLS is a football company dedicated to developing top
quality coaches and great players. They aim to do this by delivering innovative coach education and player development courses at all levels.
We would like to thank Pat Malone for contributing to Coach Talk.
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