Coach Talk

COACH TALK: Dennis Hortin

This week I’ve gone Nordic, I’m speaking to Swedish Coach Dennis Hortin from AIK Alvsjo. Dennis has some very forward thinking  and progressive views on player development. This possibly the longest and most informative interview I have done. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to him.

Let’s Start >

DH: This is by far the most I’ve written in english for a good while, so I know there’s a lot of spelling and grammar fails in there, so please point me to them and perhaps suggest how I can phrase it differently if you have time.

TCD: I don’t really like to add or change your words. It’s nice to listen to non-English speaking coach. If I feel there is a need to change a word or two I will. Otherwise we keep your words. So lets start.

TCD: How did you get into coaching?

DH: I’ve been in to football since I was 6 years old, and until I was 26. everything was focused on my own journey as a footballer but from this age I slowly moved towards coaching. I don’t know why exactly or if I deliberately wanted to be a coach but since my contracts as a footballer rarely gave enough money to pay for my bills and food I had to earn more money which often ended up in additional responsibilities in a club and in most cases that was to engage in youth coaching.

I found it very interesting and the interactions with youth players quickly made me aware of that knowing the game and “teaching” (I’ll get back to the quote later) it are two very different concepts. I started to dig deeper into coaching and that eventually ended up in a great interest for learning, What learning actually is and the coaching that got me hooked.

It is very interesting and a lot more complex than what I initially thought.

I’m 34 now, so actually starting on my 10th year as a coach now in 2015. Time flies and I think it’s important to reflect on what I do and how I practice to minimise the risk of me just repeating my first year as a coach over and over.

TCD: You might talk to me about your coaching philosophy?

DH: First of all, I want to get away from tradition and market driven forces since they are rarely evidence-based.

I’m aware evidence is rarely fundamental truths, but to cite Dr Richard Bailey, “Thou shalt embrace science for it is a candle in the dark.”

Meaning that I try to guide my self with evidence, but apply it in the context of the socio-cultural aspects and challenges in the society were I practice.

So in practice, it’s an holistic approach that comes down to a bio-psycho-social (BPS) balance, game based practice design focused on deliberate play, self-determination theory (SDT), early engagement/diversification/sampling and late specialisation and promotion of multi sport activity.  Also to nurture a mindset of growth and learning and a guided discovery type of approach that also are very much in line with the UN child convention and “Idrotten Vill” (the Swedish National Association of Sports guideline “The will of sports”).

It is also a game that requires a lot of soft skills such as creativity, decision making and co-operation. These are concepts that are fundamental to the game and that technically can’t be taught, but it can be learnt. Hence why I quoted “teaching” previously. It’s all about the environment I create that provides learning opportunities for the players to develop these soft skills, and I need to back off to give them room to learn.

To me, it’s not about being on top of the players and dictate and instruct learning. The learning is their journey and I just provide an environment that allows learning and needless to say representative tasks are fundamental. Pretty much everything I do is game based.

TCD” What coaches inspire you?

DH: Coaches that aren’t stuck in tradition and that are open for debate. But mainly, I tend to follow people outside the world of football since I feel it’s so much tradition bias in what is often preached.

While I can see the excellence in coaches such as Guardiola, Bielsa, Mourinho etc, I’m not sure what they practice always aligns with youth football and learning. Their world is completely different from mine. I find much more useful inputs, discussions and interactions thru contacts on social networks. After all, there are so many excellent youth coaches out there that aren’t known to the public, and they are the ones I can get so much from. And of course people like Côté, Toms, Bailey, Kidman, Pearce, Hancock etc.

Interactions with people like mentioned above really help me improve my coaching. The ones that inspire me are not the type of coach who stands on the top of an iceberg only acknowledge and preach what is visable above the surface. It’s the ones who see what’s below that inspire me.

TCD: What is your current role at the club?

DH: I work as head of youth (boys 5-13 mainly, but are involved in 14-16 as well) as a coordinator which means that I interact with around 40 youth teams and close to 100 volunteer coaches and I’m there for them in terms of practice design, discussion regarding BPS balance in our programme, communication, promotion of the application of SDT, diverse content, the promotion of multi sport activity and planning. Most of them are parents and to me, that is excellent. Many voices in the football industry blame the “not educated” parents at youth level when player development falls short at the elite senior level. The best thing with parents are that they are there for the child, they have mature values and are open for ideas and discussions. With just a little bit of support and a few meetings a year, parents are awesome youth coaches.

I’m involved in our programme and curriculum, and also run sessions in the afternoon from 3-5 PM for children 10-16 year olds that want to play more football.

And on top of these practical responsibilities, administration and communication are important to constantly maintain and a huge part in a role like mine.

TCD: How many teams do you have at the club?

DH: As stated above, my responsibilities are at the boys 5-13, and that’s about 40 teams. But in the club, it’s almost 70 teams if boys 14+, seniors and the girls/woman side are included. We have 100 teams playing each weekend, and we’re the 9th biggest football club in terms of number of youth players in Sweden. We have around 1400 active youth players in the club. Reason why we have 100 teams playing each weekend, but only 70 teams “on paper” so to speak is that each team consist of 18-30 players which means that some teams need to register for two or three parallel series to ensure enough pitch time for all players. Ages 5-7 don’t play fixtures.

TCD: From what age do teams begin to play in organised fixtures?

DH: From 8, they play 5 vs 5. This is subject for debate imo. But with the way pitch time are dictated it’s hard to structure it in another way at the moment. I’d like the StFF (Stockholm regional FA) to remove organised fixtures at ages below 11 and promote pool play rather than the adult type of season schedules.

TCD: Talk to me about the football format in Sweden (numbers on each team at a specific ages etc)?

DH: That’s different from club to club, but in general, in the more crowded areas, I’d say 18-30 players in a team. That requires several teams playing each weekend like mentioned above. It’s common that a team of ~25 players are registered for 3 parallel mini leagues to ensure pitch time for all players. We have players in the club from 5 year olds (just play activities 18 sundays over the year), and 6 and 7 year olds that don’t take part in organised fixtures, but come together once a week to play.

Parents do the coaching, and in general there are no payed coaches below senior level but we’re moving towards hired coaches younger ages. Coaching is also considered a job here but economy and priorities are holding up the progress.

It’s hard to talk for all clubs of course but in general this is what it looks like. And in no way do I think this is a good setup from an optimal player development perspective. We definitely need change.

TCD: What pathway has your club adopted and what to you believe is the best pathway for development, when do you grade etc?

DH: In contradiction to tradition and market, we don’t split youth football in elite and recreation. We believe that they should and need to co-exist for our programme to be effective, no matter if our ultimate goal is to contribute to our society in terms of healthier people or elite level participation. We don’t grade players but from 17, when most are through puberty, we have a U17 team that participate in the top domestic league. The first age group that entered this new model was our boys born in 2001. When they reach 17, our hopes are that we can have a full team in the U17 team that competes at the top national level and a “shadow team” that run parallel with players that aren’t there yet, but that get the same opportunities as the main U17 team to perhaps challenge for a spot in our U19 team that also compete at the highest national level.

So from 17, you could say that we have two parallel pathways but with the same opportunities, and with the understanding of that trying to identify future success is risky business, even as late as at 17 or even 19. So it’s a lot about keeping players in the club for as long as possible and maintaining equal opportunities.

We also promote diverse content all year around for 6-9 year olds and during the winter for 10-12 year olds. This isn’t optimal, but for now a good way to include diverse training for those who don’t participate in other sports. As much as possible should be game based activities and coaches are encouraged to let the kids help out with planning and content. From around age 10, we include what the Swedish school of sport and health sciences label as “pedagogical rules”. No players have fixed positions before age 16. All players have equal pitch time. This isn’t the case yet for our U17, U19 and senior teams, but hopes are we’re educating good enough and many enough players to provide our U17, U19 and senior team with homegrown players and at a level good enough to allow rotation in the future.

From 13, we have teams registered at three different levels to provide diverse opposition for our players. But we don’t practice ability grouping prior to 17. All teams in an age group practice at the same time and under supervision of an age group manager, which is similar to my role but concentrated at one or two age groups. Reason why we keep all teams in each age group together from 13 is that we want to slowly bring them together for a softer transfer to our U17 team, which of course will consist of players from different teams and if they already know each other we put less stress on the players psycho-socially and the team will hopefully be up and running instantly in contradiction to what’s currently the case, which of course favours environment and learning climate as well.

This is a very brief conclusion to our model, and restricted to the boys/mens sides. I’d might add that not everyone buys in to this yet, so some teams still run traditional approaches, but we’re getting closer and closer for each year.

TCD: Across the world it seems winning has now become a priority for many coaches working in youth sport. Is this the same in Sweden?

DH: Yes I agree, but I think we need to define “winning” in terms of a motive or priority. I don’t think winning is the motive, but more a “bi-product” of the false idea that ability grouping is a must to develop future elite players and that end up in currently weaker players being left behind, ending up in selected teams winning more than non selected teams. This is the common belief and practice in Sweden. So in regards to your question and in the light of my “definition”, yes, winning seems to be important.

TCD: How has player centred coaching evolved in Sweden?

It’s getting there. We’ve had a debate over the last couple of years that are culminating right now in the light of how our senior national team drops on the FIFA rankings and how few players we have represented in the top European leagues.

The generation born in the late 60’s to early 80’s like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fredrik Ljungberg, Olof Mellberg, Henrik Larsson, Kim Källström, Thomas Brolin, Patrik Andersson, Stefan Schwarz, Jonas Thern is soon gone. Only Zlatan and Kim still playing of the ones I mentioned, and they are well over 30 years old, and no new players from the mid 80’s and later seem to fill their place. This has definitely added to the debate in Sweden and I think we’re about to see a lot of change. Though, policymakers and authorities perhaps don’t lead the change. It’s more of something that comes from the “people” which of course is a good thing, because it will be more accepted than if changes are dictated from the top. Same procedure as player centred coaching pretty much.

But from time to time, our national and regional FA’s propose changes. The SvFF are currently making changes to the coach education programme, and the regional FA’s that run most of the youth competitions have recently made changes that are very positive. The tradition is still a coach centred one, but the player centred approach are being practiced more and more. We’re not there yet, but as initially stated, we’re getting there.

What’s the SFA’s vision for coaching in Sweden?

The SvFF are making changes, but I’m not entirely sure they are in control. For example the LTAD model is being used and marketed as change without any obvious changes to content. It looks good to the naked eye perhaps and “makes sense” to the general public with “ages and stages”, but learning, development and progress are so much more than chronological age, it’s a very sensitive process that is effected not only by biological development, but psychological and social development as well, and many models fail to take that in to consideration. That’s why it’s so dangerous to use it. I think authorities should be expected to deliver a more thought out model.

With that said, I do think that SvFF is on the right path, even though progress is slightly slow and a bit off at times.

So I’d say that the vision is blurry, but the progress towards something is on and currently in the right direction.

What’s the one thing you would change about youth football in Sweden?

Oh, I’m not sure I can restrict myself to just one thing, but If I had the power to change things, it would be to create multi sport clubs for 5-16 year olds, and sport specific clubs shouldn’t engage players younger than 11. In that way there’s a good window for 11-16 year old players to choose to specialise, and time for a more diverse type of content that are of great value long-term. Academies should start at 17 when the majority of kids are through puberty but since it’s so hard to predict future success even as late as at 17, academies and traditional clubs should work together rather than competing at admin level to ensure a wide path to the senior game.

To support this financially, (brace yourself) I’d also like to cancel all youth national teams and youth regional teams below U19 level since I can’t see the value of a system that either give false indications to the ones who are included, or exclude players that perhaps shouldn’t have been. It provides nothing more than psychological setbacks. Hence why we don’t practice ability grouping prior to 17 and parallel to U17 and U19 will run shadow teams.

I understand this is very thought provoking, but I think that this is much in line with what evidence suggest.

On top of that I’d like to see changes in content and tradition as well, but I’ll stop here.

What advice would you give to a coach starting out?

Find your own way, and look deep and wide for input and ideas. Look beyond the sport specific content, and look in to several areas of research. Such as psychology, sociology, neuroscience, physiology and try to grasp the complexity of it all. Search for contradictions in what is preached, follow and interact with people who talk straight. This will not lead to knowledge, but it will help you grasping the complexity.

A final message if you like?

I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some common myths in youth sports.

Early specialisation, 10000 hrs, isolated technique practice, learning styles and ability grouping are frequently preached and practiced with no evidence to support it. This is a slippery slope in my book, and any one that preach such practice as obvious or something that shouldn’t or can’t be questioned simply don’t know what they are talking about.

And finally I want to state that since youth sports and development is so complex, I don’t think there are any right answers.

However, I do think there are answers that are wrong.


TCD would like to thank Dennis for contributing to the blog. Certainly one of the most informative and honest interviews I’ve had the pleasure to do.

Follow him on twitter @DHrtin

I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me, if you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend.

Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Coach Talk Irish Grassroots Football

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.

kids_slumTCD: 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

I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or drop me an email at If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend, a fellow coach.  Thanks for reading, as always.

Please follow me on twitter @Coachdiary


Coach Talk

COACH TALK: Mike Geoghegan

Mike Geoghegan is a friend and a very good coach, I talk to him about his views on coaching and future of youth soccer in Ireland.

How did you get into coaching? 

I had played Leinster Senior League with Newbridge Town and was approached in 1998 to go back there as player manager. Back then the manager also looked after the coaching role and I enjoyed that aspect. We built a good young side and won the Senior Division Title in 2000 and I was voted joint LSL Manager of the Year. Pressure of my day job then took me away from coaching for a couple of years until one day I went to watch my eleven year old son play with Naas AFC and to be honest the coaching was so poor I had to get involved. I enjoyed a few years with the boys. They were not a great team but were committed and honest with two or three good players and worked their way up to major in the DDSL.

I wanted to do my coaching badges but the FAI would not exempt me from Kickstart 1 or 2 despite my LSL record so stubbornly I held off until 2007 and then gave in and started with Kick Start1 and am now doing my A Licence. I have also recently qualified as a Business and Life Coach.

What is your current role at your club?

I have two roles one is Director of the Academy for the Kildare Underage League which looks after approx. forty clubs. My focus is on the age groups from six to fourteen.  This role is enjoyable as it combines on the field coaching with planning a Coaching Strategy for the Academy and the League. I am also the Head Coach at Naas AFC where we field twenty five teams in the Kildare League. So I coach six days a week at present.

What changes would you make to the grassroots game in Ireland?

I would put the Kennedy Cup back by a year to under 15 and the emerging talent programme back to under 16. This would allow the Leagues more breathing space to develop players and allow the players a vital extra year to grow up in life and football terms. I would abolish nine a side football. I am a big advocate of small numbers on small areas but not big numbers on small areas which favours physicality.  I would like to see no competitive league football until under 13. I would introduce five aside for under 8s, then seven a side until the Christmas of the under 12 season. I would bring in offside from under 11 at seven a side.  The second half of the under 12 season, I would start non-competitive eleven a side with matches interspersed with coaching clinics for coaches and players. Competitive league eleven a side would commence at under13. I would gradually introduce the kids to competition at the end of the under11 season with tournaments and cups.

I believe the DDSL should be split into three Leagues as it is too big relative to the size of the country. A lot of good players playing for the smaller clubs in the DDSL have no chance of recognition.

I would invest more in coaching standards around the country and develop a new coaching pathway for coaches who want to advance only as underage coaches. I would replace Kickstart 1 and 2 and the Youths badge new courses on How to Coach and Develop Young People as Module 1 and Football Instruction as Module 2.   I would then bring both together for a Coaching Young Players Diploma.

Image 1What is your coaching Philosophy?

My Coaching philosophy is Guided Discovery. The Game is the Teacher, The Player is the Student and the Coach is the Guide. The normal style is Coach tells player does.  At the other end of the spectrum there is now a lot of talk at the moment about street football and free play football all of which has merits. But I believe young players need a guide to help them develop. You can learn from your mistakes more easily with someone to give you a steer by asking the right question at the right time. We need to produce more thinking players who can solve the problems on the pitch. I combine the Guided Discover Coaching style with Small sided games using 1v1 2v2 3v3 4v4 and 5v5 in most training sessions at all ages. We will regularly use four small goals on small pitches and sometimes use two bigger goals with Keepers. Variety is key.  I also concentrate a lot on technical skills and players being two footed.  I read a lot of coaching material and cherry pick what I like.

So to sum up my Philosophy it is Small sided games coached with Guided Discovery. See PURESOCCER which Aaron Callaghan and I developed.

What is the future of Youth football in Ireland?

Youth football in Ireland needs leadership to try and keep pace with a rapidly changing game. There are a lot of good people in their own way trying to do good things but it needs to be brought together into a cohesive master plan for developing young people and young players. Most coaches in Ireland are Dads or ex-players who are instructors not coaches. We need to firstly train people in the art of coaching and teaching and then add in the football instruction. We need to concentrate more on developing the young person and their self-esteem.

I am concerned about the future. The recent row between the DDSL and SFAI shows that the kids have become secondary to the politics. This row is about adults not kids. This is not the backdrop for healthy change. I think some positive changes will be introduced but will it be enough as we are starting a few years behind. We are small enough to make radical changes to the game but only if all of us who love the game pull together.

The Coachdiary would like to thank Mike for a very honest and open interview.

Coach Talk Jobs In Football


Coach Profile: Richard Sutherland –

Location: Madrid

TCD: Did you play football as a kid?

RS: I played football for many years in Glasgow and ended up playing at a Division 1 youth team.

TCD: How did you get into coaching?

RS: I started coaching initially my local school team while still playing and then moved to college (knew I wasn’t going to make it as a pro player) to complete a degree in Sports Coaching. Whilst at college I gained some valuable experience working in many different football environments; grassroots, elite and 1st teams. I then moved to the USA when I completed college and worked full time in New York & Connecticut. I returned back to Scotland where I worked with Glasgow Rangers (Youth Academy) and the SFA for 3 years.

USA & Sligo

In 2003 I was persuaded to go back to the US to work with my old boss in a new club where I was 1st Team Assistant & Academy Director. Then in 2006 I moved to Sligo Rovers to take the U21’s, assist with the 1st team and create the start of a youth entity in the club – camps, weekly clinics, relationship with local clubs etc.


I moved to Bohs in 2007 to become Head of Youth Development and U21 Manager where I stayed for 2 years before moving onto Manchester United and then finally Atletico Madrid.

TCD: What badges have you got now?

RS: I am UEFA A qualified and have qualifications from Scotland, Ireland, England and the USA.

TCD: Tell me a little about the and who is behind it?

RS: I am the main figure behind and developed the site to provide coaches (new and experienced) a platform where they can ‘showcase’ their talents by uploading their CV’s into our database for employers to search.

TCD: What does do and who is it aimed at?

RS: Its a One Stop Shop for football vacancies! It allows employers the chance to advertise and recruit staff with the required experience, qualifications and desire to succeed in the game. The site advertises all jobs associated with football and has had openings for – Marketing Managers, Commercial Managers, Facility Managers, Administrators, Security / Stewards, Journalists, Reporters, Commentators, Physiotherapists and of course a host of coaching roles such as Technical Directors, Coaching Directors, Head & Assistant Coaches etc

TCD: Where are most of the jobs?

RS: Jobs can come from anywhere in the world and are posted 24/7. We have advertised in the last 6 months for openings in America, Australia, Canada, England, Ghana, Ireland, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, Spain and Wales.

The jobs vary from post to post however the majority of positions available are within coaching, medical and journalism.

TCD: Where are you working now?

RS: I am still working with Atletico Madrid and the main feeder club to Real Madrid (ACD Canillas) as well as running the website.

TCD: What are you thoughts on the small sided games, should we 7v7 football for longer?

RS: My thoughts on underage football are the same as they were 4 years ago when I was in Ireland – there needs to be a move away from competitive football at U7 – U11 and a bigger emphasis on player development. There is nothing wrong with having the better players all training together but no-one benefits from winning 10 or 15-0.

TCD: In Barcelona they play 7v7 for much later, is this the case in Madrid?

RS: Don’t be misled by the shouts that all other countries play small sided games for longer – in Madrid they play 11v11 at 10 years old as well – and it’s competitive! They do have the option however of playing Futsal as well! The kids start at 6 years old and play either 5v5 or 7v7 before moving into full size games at 10 years old.

TCD: What do you suggest we could do here?

RS: I believe there should be at around U12 or U13 a national league where teams can play against other Pro Youth Teams – the problem outside of Dublin is that there is not enough quality / depth of player and so these clubs struggle to challenge their best players on a week to week basis. Why not play e.g. U12, U13, U14 all away against the same club and then U15, U16 & U17 all at home against the same club! This would cut down on expenses and would create less logistical problems – buses, pitches, referees …. etc etc.

TCD: Who is doing this at present?

RS: This is a tried and tested model in Scotland, England, USA, Holland ….
Obviously Dublin has a lot more stronger teams and so therefore they could indeed have a bigger influx of teams (without diluting the product) – this can only help develop the players and prepare them for the potential life of a footballer! I think there is room for 9v9 between the 7v7 and 11v11. The only downside would be the cost of implementing.

The Coach Diary would like to thank Richard for contributing to the site and I know where I’ll be going if things get any worse!!

To find out more click on the link

Irish Grassroots Football

Coach Talk with John McFadden

Hi Antonio,

I am a grassroots coach and also a youth worker working in the dublin area.  While i am myself naturally competitive I see the damage competitive coaches and competitive football is having on the development of the game in this country every week.

I have been privately ranting about this for years now but like yourself I have recently decided to try to campaign for change.

Initially I spoke with my own club secretary and local league representatives, who reported that they had experimented with rule changes previously but had been unsuccessful as many of the teams emigrated outside the county borders to join other leagues.  Consequently, the only way to bring in a successful change would be to have it legislated at national level so I have been trying to contact the SFAI chairman (Michael O’ Brien?). So far he has not replied to either of my emails.

I should say I heard you speaking on newstalk and was delighted to hear someone speak so passionately on this issue. I think your website is a great idea and wonder if it could be used to set up a national forum of grassroots coaches who could unite and campaign for change.  I can only assume that there are hundreds of like minded coaches out there, however I would imagine any campaign for change could only be strengthened by bringing this support group together, perhaps identify some people with useful skills.
I’m glad to hear that about the site on the radio, I really do foresee it as the perfect opportunity to mobilise a community of likeminded coaches.  I have no problem at all with you posting my mail to the blog.  like i said, I’ve been moaning to friends and anyone who’d listen about this for years now and have plenty to say on the matter.

I coach with a club called Bay FC, playing in the Dundalk Schoolboys League.  I’ve done the kickstart 1 and 2 and though I think there is much value in these for coaches I really would like to see more work done by clubs to eliminate the bad attitudes spreading from coaches to players, regarding refs, rules, winning, technical development and in general making teams matches and training inclusive and enjoyable!

I have seen many good people and decent players completely turned away from the sport by this mis-management, on my own team as well as others.

I would very much like to maintain communications and I assure you, you have my full support for everything you are doing.

Take care and best of luck,

John McFadden from Bay FC

My Reply

Thanks for the email and I’m delighted to have another coach on board. Like you I am competitive, but only because I have to be, otherwise there would be no point in being a league I guess. Being competitive is ok once, you don’t want to win more then the kids themselves. Over the last few months I have totally changed my philosophy on coaching and how I communicate with the kids. If the league was non competitive I could focus solely on player development but the leagues system makes the focus about winning. I’m trying stay to my new found beliefs of concentrating on technique, technique, technique. I think coaches would interact more and the game would be a lot friendlier, if we got rid of the competitive leagues at under age. We are missing out on developing our young players because of competitive leagues in Ireland.

I’m currently redoing my site so I can push forward with this campaign, focusing on age appropriate games and player development at the youngest, our kids should not be playing the adult 11v11 game until at least u13s.

Thanks for your comment John

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