COACHTALK: Mark Rodricks
We head to India this week and speak to u10’s Pune FC Coach Mark Rodricks.
TCD: Did you play football before you started coaching?
MR: I have been playing since the age of 9 and still continue do so. So that’s been almost 15 years now of playing football.
TCD: How did you get into coaching?
MR: Since a young age, I’ve been close to the professional clubs in India and have followed the I-League clubs. Somehow running 5 rounds of a ground and then kick the ball around didn’t seem to appeal to me as how a person became a good footballer. Football coaching methods in India are archaic and I never got taught the right way or had the chances to grow like the kids these days have. Coaching was a natural progression to the change I wanted to see.
TCD: What is your current role at Pune FC?
I am the head coach of the U-10’s at Pune FC. That is formulating and implementing the program in accordance with the club’s footballing policies. I work closely with the Academy Director on this program.
TCD: What changes would you make to the grassroots game?
MR: Since this is India centric, I have a fair few things I would like to change:
- Indulge the kids to use a football and be comfortable with it rather than have them run around the pitch. Having a football at their feet is the most important part of their learning.
- Take corporal punishment completely out of the game.
- Focusing more on helping the kids love the game and cultivate that passion. This means making the sessions fun.
- Not stifling a kid’s progress to a certain playing position on the field. A player has to play across the field and can then decide for him/herself what they like.
- Tournaments should have rules where there’s either no substitutes bench or rules where all children get up and play the game. No kid in the age group 6 to 14 would want to be sitting on the bench and watching a game.
- Coaches need to remember that the game is the biggest teacher of all, and what a child can learn by playing, a coach cannot explain that in words.
- Bring other sports as part of their education. Coaching only football is dangerous. And all round development is vital.
TCD: What age to kids move to the 11v11 game in India?
MR: As far as my knowledge goes, school level would be as early as 10 but academies are 12+ years and above.
TCD: What is your coaching Philosophy?
MR: With the right amount of information at the right time, I love for players to experiment and learn things on their own. I encourage the boys to use their head and their brains! Learning something new every day is a vital part of their learning. Since I coach kids mostly who are under U-10, I do not impose a playing style on the kids other than ensuring the kids are comfortable with the ball at their feet. I encourage 1v1’s and try and cultivate fair play and a will to succeed.
TCD: Have you any mentors?
MR: I have a lot of people who have helped me through the years but I try and take the most out of players, coaches and anyone involved in the sport. It helps me with my learning and to be a better coach.
TCD: What kind of player do you like working with?
MR: Each player brings something unique and different to the table, especially at a young age. At this age, your coaching learning sometimes gets thrown out of the window. The kids coerce you into improvising. I try and learn from each and every kid I coach.
A love for the sport and the willingness to learn in a tiny tot is an added bonus since that’s half your work done.
TCD: What is the future of football in India?
As much as I’d like to sugarcoat this and paint a rosy picture, since the apex body in India doesn’t seem to be doing much for the sport in the country, even with a large talent pool being the 2nd largest population in the world, we lack far behind Asian countries, let alone European/African/South American countries.
We need more coach educators, licensed coaches and an impetus on an all-round learning along with infrastructure easily available. These all are ingredients for shaping a positive future.
A little nudge and football can be sent on its way in India.
TCD would like to Thank Mark for this interview. You can follow Mark on twitter @markrodricks
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