Coaching Clinics Irish Grassroots Football


A team of Swansea City coaches, led by Swansea City’s Head of Academy – Roy Thomas and Ireland Coordinator – Aaron McNeill, will deliver presentations and practical sessions on our foundation and youth development phase at the club.

Places on the event cost £40 per coach and will include lunch, refreshments and a certificate of attendance.

CLICK HERE to book your place.

Bookings close on Thursday 30th November.

This event has been awarded 5 external CPD points for coaches who hold UEFA licences with the Irish Football Association (IFA).

List of Swansea City Academy Coaches attending:

Roy Thomas – Head of Academy Coaching & Coach Educator
Andrew Sparkes – Head of Academy Goalkeeping
Ollie Jefferies – Foundation Phase Academy Coach
Harry Spratley – Academy Analyst
Aaron McNeill – Ireland Coordinator

Further details:

Day: Sunday 3rd December 2017
Location: Pavilion, Stormont Estate, Belfast BT4 3TA
Time: 10-5pm
Cost: £40 per coach (includes tea/coffee, light lunch and certificate of attendance)

For further details please contact –


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary and @LetTheKidPlay

Coach Talk

COACHTALK: Johnny McKinstry

Johnny is qualified at the highest level in Europe and America, holding  an Academy Managers’ Licence (English FA); Premier Diploma (NSCAA); and UEFA ‘A’ Coaching Licence (IFA) as well as a range of other academic and professional qualifications.

He was Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men’s Football team from April 2013 – September 2014, at that time the youngest active Head Coach in international football (at only 27 years of age). He has achieved an awful lot and already has had extensive experience of coaching in Europe, North America and Africa.

TCD: Did you play football when you were younger? 

JM: Yes, growing up I played football along with a variety of other sports (Rugby, Cricket, Squash), but football was always my real passion.  Unfortunately I was not to go on to be one of the great Irish players of our generation – whilst I could play the game it was never a genuine prospect for me in terms of progressing into the professional ranks.

TCD: When did you know that you wanted a career in coaching? 

JM:  Football has always been a real passion for me and I have always felt I understood the game.  Growing up I could see patterns within the game and even as a kid playing I had opinions on how I thought my team mates and I should play, and on occasion would let the coach know those opinions.  When I accepted that the likelihood of becoming a professional player was not realistic, I was intent on having a role within the game and from a very early age, maybe around 16, I developed a firm belief that I could help make other players better.

“Football is the most accessible game in the world. A ball (or something similar) and goal posts (or something similar) and you’ve got yourself a game” – J Mc

TCD: What is your football philosophy? 

  • “Recruit & Develop of World Class People”……good people will do all within their power to not let you or their team-mates down. Therefore is we want to create a world class team, then we should invest time in recruiting and developing world class people
  • “Your Most Important Player is the one with the Ball at their Feet”……if we accept that every player can win the game for our team…to score the winning goal or to make a game changing tackle, then it will affect how we coach our athletes.  Think back to Tony Adams’ championship sealing goal for Arsenal against Everton.  Have we equipped our central defenders with the skill and composure to do that?  If that answer is no, then I think we need to ask ourselves why?
  • “Send Them to Work with a Full ToolBox”……you would not ask a mechanic to fix your car if they did not possess the correct tools in which to do so.  If we did, we would expect that something would go wrong eventually.  Yet we often rush pass the opportunity to equip our players with the correct skills (tools) in order to perform their roles on the field.  If we do this then how can we criticise when things go wrong.  We need to spend time in ensuring that all of our players are able to perform the wide range of skills required to succeed within the game
  • “They have to answer the question by themselves”……too often I see what I term ‘playstation coaches’ on the sidelines (at both junior and professional level) who constantly instruct from the bench, telling the players the decisions they should be making.  I firmly believe that we should structure our training programs to encourage decision making as often as possible.  Players must be able to play the situation they are presented with, and they often must do so within a split-second.  We have given them the tools to use, now we must give them the capacity to select when and how to use them.  This is no different that a student having worked with their teacher all year, and then sitting their examinations. Once they are to be tested, they have to do it for themselves.

The above represent some of the key components of my beliefs about the game and how to develop winning teams and world class athletes.

TCD: In your view what are the key traits of a modern coach? 

JM:  I think that the modern coach must be extremely knowledgable in so many different aspects of the game.  That is not to say that they must micro-manage all areas.  At the top level we have analysts, nutritionists, sport scientists, various forms of coaching staff.  They all have their jobs and should be allowed to do them; but the coach must have an appreciation of each area.  By doing so it better places them to make the correct decisions for their athletes.  I also believe the modern coach should be very approachable for their players. That is not to say they are ‘one of the gang’. Not at all. But players should feel comfortable communicating with the coach, and discussing ideas, because after all it is they who are playing the game.  It is important that a coach realises that players need to be part of the process.

TCD: Have you any mentors? 

JM:  Over the years I have been fortunate to take guidance from a number of experienced coaches within the game.  That is not to say they have been the recognised names that people will see in the media; but having been part of coach education in Northern Ireland, England and the USA I have crossed paths with a great numbers of coaches who have a wide variety of experiences within the game.  The great thing about meeting colleagues in such environments is that everyone is very open about sharing their experiences, and that in turn helps you to refine your own view of the game whilst at the same time putting across your own opinions.

TCD: You have travelled the world coaching, working with different cultures. How do these cultures (players) differ in terms of teaching the game? 

JM:  First of all it is important to acknowledge that there is good quality everywhere.  I have been fortunate to work with elite level young players in the UK, USA and Africa; and being honest, on a technical level there is not too much difference between the very best in my experience.  You do of course get some environmental differences.  In Africa the young players tend to be very driven.  The game means so much to them as success will not only vastly alter their own lives, but also the lives of their families and communities.  So you can imagine the work rate that is often apparent at Academy level in Africa.  On the other side of this coin, I would say that tactical understanding tends to be more developed in European and American countries.  This is largely down to players exposure to the game on TV and live.  You don’t have to go far these days to have the nuances of the game explained via football review shows with the likes of Gary Neville.  This means players come to training with a base level of understanding for you to build on.  In Africa and the worlds developing nations this education is more firmly routed on the training pitch and a key responsibility of the coach.

TCD: 4 years in what some might say is a remote part of the world must be a huge challenge, how did you end up in Africa? 

JM:  An interesting opportunity was presented to me to put it plainly.  I was working with the New York Red Bulls back in 2009 and I got a phone call from someone I knew who wanted to put me together with the people setting up a football academy in Sierra Leone.  It just peaked my interest.  I have always sought out challenges in life, and I viewed the opportunity here in Sierra Leone as just that.  I also saw it as an opportunity to have a significant impact on football in a country that I knew would be football crazy. It was definitely a good decision.

TCD: Is African football evolving and if so in what way? 

JM:  Yes, I believe it is.  One of the biggest drawbacks in Africa has often been the tactical development of the game.  Technique and fitness have never really been an issue; but through the lack of exposure to the global game through TV etc, the tactical level was somewhat lacking.  However through an increased access to watching the game from all over the planet, young players in Africa are able to see exactly what their peers in the rest of the world see.  The great teams and players  and the way the game is played.  Exposure to things like this naturally have a knock on effect of their understanding of the game.

“My ambition has always been to coach at the highest level – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A”.

TCD: Do kids still play on the streets or is gaming etc a factor also? 

JM:  Yes, absolutely.  Football is the most accessible game in the world. A ball (or something similar) and goal posts (or something similar) and you’ve got yourself a game.  Kids do have access to computer games through local gaming centres, but this costs a small amount of money so is only an occasional thing for most.  It is very common to see people of all ages playing football in the street and on bits of waste land.

JMCK 2TCD: Not many people coach an international team at 27, how did you end up coaching Sierra Leone? 

JM:  At the time the post of National Team Coach became available I had been living and working in Sierra Leone for over three years.  I had watched the Leone Stars regularly during that period, and I had a real belief that if I could get in the room with the decision makers at that time, that I would be a strong candidate for the job.  I had my UEFA ‘A’ licence, I had worked all over the world, and I knew the game.

We arranged a meeting and in the two days leading up to it I watched the last couple of Sierra Leone games, as well as video of Tunisia (our next opponents) several times over and put together a presentation and dossier on how I would develop the team and how we would go about winning the upcoming game.  No detail was left out….it was very thorough.  Between my presentation and interview, the association decided that I was the right man for the job and two days later was invited back in to agree terms,

TCD: You left that role in September, what are you doing now? 

JM:   As I have said, my time working here in Sierra Leone extends back further than the National Team…almost 5 years now.  Since 2010 I have managed a football academy located about an hour outside the capital city of Freetown where we work with the countries best young talent between the ages of 11 and 18, offering them around 12 hours training per week as well as full time education working towards their international GCSE.  During my time with the National team I combined both the roles, so now that my time with the Sierra Leone team has come to an end I am concentrating entirely on the next generation of players once again.

TCD: You’ve achieved a lot for such a young person, what has been your best achievement to date? 

JM:  Taking Sierra Leone into the top 50 of the FIFA World rankings was a great achievement.  That set a new record high for us as a country, and on a personal note placed us above both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which made me smile somewhat.  I think however the moment that meant the most to me was seeing one of my young academy players here in Sierra Leone make his debut for the u20 National Team.  Having only just turned 17 we had worked together for 4 years, and he was the youngest player on the pitch that afternoon.  I felt very proud that day.  I still do.

TCD: Whats the plan for the future, how long will you stay in Africa

JM:  It’s hard to say.  A football life often entails not knowing what is around the corner.  For me, I am happy to be working with the excellent young players we have here at the Academy, but you are always keeping an eye out for potential new challenges and opportunities.  6 years ago living in New York I could not have foreseen how the next half-decade would have developed; but it has been excellent.  I hope the years to come will bring equal amounts of opportunity and enjoyment.  Wherever I go next I am sure it will be a challenge, as I seem to enjoy those….it always seems more fun when you can upset the odds.  For now, I am eager to get moving on completing the UEFA Pro Licence, and I am currently in the middle of a MSc degree in Performance Coaching. So plenty of learning going on in preparation for anything that should come along.

TCD: Whats the dream? 

JM:  My ambition has always been to coach at the highest level – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A.  I want to achieve something in those leagues.  Not just to work in them, but to achieve success.  That is what this game is about ultimately – winning.  I believe I can develop a winning team at the highest level.  It maybe won’t come tomorrow, but I know if I can marching forward that it will come.  I just have to make sure I am ready for it.

TCD would like to thank Johnny for taking the time to speak with us. You can find out more about Johnny on his website  he’s also on twitter @johnnymckinstry

Images by Darren McKinstry


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me and if you don’t have anything to add, please pass this on to a friend.

As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter  @Coachdiary

Coach Talk Irish Grassroots Football

COACHTALK: Austin Speight

I met up with Austin Speight again to find out how Coerver is going in Ireland. Austin Speight is a UEFA A qualified coach and the Ireland Director of Coerver Coaching.

He has worked at the highest level in England since age 28 as a coach & has worked with some of the games biggest names inc David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Man Uniteds latest £20m purchase from Blackburn Rovers, Phil Jones to name a few.

Austin has formerly coached at the following clubs: West Ham United (92-95); Stockport County (95-98); Manchester City (98-99); Blackburn Rovers (99-06) and Crewe Alexandra (06-07) and is currently working with some of the best British and European Soccer Academies.

TCD: How long has Coerver been operating in Ireland?

AS: Since 2009 so 4 years, Globally it has been around since 1984, 30th Anniversary 2014! We are planning a couple of big coaching events here in Ireland and our main event is in Madrid at Easter which is a global Coerver event.

TCD: Coerver seems to be accepted all over the world, do we really value ball mastery in Ireland?

AS: No there is extreme ignorance here in Ireland of coaching  generally and coaching techniques. Too much emphasis is put on winning at all costs, having leagues and results at younger ages, U12 and below is not good for development of young players or coaches. Ideally, coaches need to work individually with the player and then work with the team. Generally coaches just focus on the team and winning. Ideally, focus of U12 & below should be on development of talented players. Small sided games 4v4 etc more touches on the ball, more opportunities to defend & attack, more opportunities to score and no leagues or results.

In my experience of coaching all over Ireland both North and South very few, if any, clubs actually follow any coaching curriculum or plan. Each coach. team makes up the sessions without too much thought about technique or how to develop young players both male and female. Would you send your child to any school that didnt have a planned curriculum?

Coerver is huge across the globe especially in USA, Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Asia and Australia

“Skill is an athlete’s ability to choose and perform the right techniques at the right time, successfully, regularly and with a minimum of effort. Footballers use their skill to achieve football objectives. Skill is acquired and therefore has to be learned. Coerver Coaching has developed a strategic plan and curriculum over 30 yrs to help develop young players to reach that sort of level of ball mastery and technique & I would highly recommend this program to all young players & coaches in Northern Ireland.” Jim Magilton Elite Performance Director IFA

TCD: Where is Coerver operating in Ireland?

Cork, Waterford, we have a strong base there and we also work closely with development of coaches within the Cork Schoolboy League. We deliver monthly sessions in Cork which is open for all coaches at every club in the CSL. Eddie Doyle, the league Secretary, is a strong believer in the correct development of players and also coaches.

NDSL in Dublin with Mitch Whitty have also had Coerver in to deliver coach education programmes for the league coaches.

We have a coerver partner club program which in UK many grassroots and top professional clubs work with Coerver, such as Newcastle United, Arsenal, Stoke City etc. Here in Ireland, Shelbourne FC are one of our Partner Clubs, we have a 5 year development plan for the schoolboy section of the club which is aimed at developing both players and coaches.

Outside of this we have many Performance Academies across Ireland – we have just open 6 new ones in Northern Ireland. This is were parents pay coerver directly to improve their child by weekly coaching sessions. Basically getting pro level coaching at grassroots level and sole aim is technically developing the individual from age 5 upwards.

TCD: Are they IFA now using the Coerver programme for their underage teams?

AS: Yes the new head of Elite player development Jim Magilton is a big fan of Coerver and the results it has produced globally over 30 years. He has also been promoting Coerver to all grassroots clubs in Northern Ireland to use the system and have Coerver in at their individual clubs to develop players and equally the quality of  coaching. Not just the IFA, many of the Worlds leading clubs and National Associations use Coerver to improve their players technique.

TCD: How important is ball mastery and what age can kids start to master the ball?

AS: Its essential, if you cant master the ball- you cannot play!! The younger they start the better. Our Academy system here in Ireland and across Europe we start them at 5 years old. If you are being coached correctly on technique at 5-6 years old, how good are you going to be at 10, 12, 14 etc?? 5-6 year olds generally dont have any bad /poor playing habits, so given the correct instruction, it is amazing what they learn in a short space of time. We focus on 5-7 love of the game, 8-11 – skill Acquisition 12-16- team conversion.

Result at 12-16 you have players who can create a goal, score a goal or stop a goal.

TCD: How important is it for coaches to be working on ball mastery?

AS: Very important, players will not improve otherwise. How often when watching the Irish national team on any TV channel, the co commentator, constantly repeats the phrase “Lack of Technique” in comparison to who ever the opposition maybe.  Our 1 hour sessions with players, they literally touch the ball hundreds of times. Every session we deliver always has a ball, ball mastery – players all have a ball each.

TCD: What are your thoughts on Futsal?

AS: Futsal is good, anything that improves players touch, control, foot/ ball skills is a plus. Issue with futsal is can players transfer those skills onto grass in 11v11

TCD: I recently read about some Irish kids going to Spain to train after developing through the Coerver programme, is this true and what are the differences between an Irish kid and a Spanish kid at under age?

AS: Yes this developed from our Youth Diploma Course in Dublin with myself and Coerver Co Founder Charlie Cooke. The final part of the course, we invite some of our academy players in to play in the  final session. We had coaches attending the course from La Liga clubs and they invited one of the boys over. He has developed really well and he is now based in Madrid for next two years.

TCD: If coaches are interested in attending a Coerver course, how can they find out about the next one?

We several course throughout Ireland and we are delighted to say that our Youth Diploma Courses are always very well attended.

Next Course dates are as follows: 

Limerick Feb 22/23

Belfast March 2/9

Dublin May 17/18

Cork/Waterford TBC

We also have a new course – “Play like Spain” Which will be next Summer dates to confirmed at Tolka Park.

We can also come into any club anywhere in Ireland and deliver Coerver coach Education sessions for that club, or league. They can call our Irish Office on 042 936 6910.

If you want to find out more about Coerver Coaching check out their website or go straight to their Youtube page for some great content.

TCD would like to thank Austin for this interview.

Next Up: Mike Antoniades


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