Coach Talk

COACH TALK: Pedro Dias (Sporting FC Toronto)

This week I spoke to former Sporting player Pedro Dias (CHIQUINHO). Pedro is the Technical Director at Sporting FC Academy Toronto.

Pedro a former professional footballer who retired due to injury after 15 years in the game. Pedro has been coaching for over 10 years in Portugal, the USA and Canada.

TCD: Talk to me about your love for football, when did it begin? 

PD: Since I born, I guess….lol I grow up playing soccer in my street with my friends and peers… It was a way of life, natural.

TCD: You played for Sporting Club Portugal the 2nd biggest sporting club in the world after FC Barcelona. When did start playing there? 

PD: I start my soccer career at Petrogal (U10) and then I play for Sacavenense (U14). Until I was scouted to try out at Sporting, and I made it. It was a new world for me and change my life. By that time, Sporting have the old stadium and the conditions were very different from now, but the coaches, players and staff make all the difference. It was fantastic playing beside Figo, Peixe, Porfirio.. and I have the opportunity to excel my qualities and sign as a professional Soccer Player at Sporting CP.

TCD: How did you get into coaching? 

PD: While I was playing, I decide to start my coaching education, I had 2 Acl´s operation and I start thinking in my next step. I have the passion and the drive for it, so it was a very natural process.

TCD: What is your current role at Sporting FC? 

PD: Im the Technical Director and Head Coach and I also run international programmes outside of Portugal. In my current role of Youth Technical Director and Head Coach at Sporting FC Academy, I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of a soccer academy for new/inexperienced players, as well as a competitive program consisting of 8 age groups – U8, U9, U10, U12, U13, U15, and U17.  I currently lead a technical staff of 16, in delivering the OSA’s Long Term Player Development strategy to develop young players properly and to their full potential.

In addition to my coaching responsibilities, I oversee all administrative duties for the club, including: developing technical curriculums & manuals; overseeing recruitment and on-boarding of new players; and managing internal/external communications & marketing.

TCD: What is the most important skill for a coach to have? 

PD: Patience, Passion and knowledge.

TCD: How long as SFC been in Toronto and what is the clubs philosophy? 

PD: Sporting FC is a youth soccer academy opened in 2011, operating as a non-profit organisation in Toronto, Ontario.  Our club serves the broader GTA community, and has a membership base of approximately 300 athletes ranging in age from 4 to 18 years.  Sporting FC’s motto is to “educate for life through soccer”.  This philosophy of imparting valuable life lessons through a soccer curriculum is unique to our club, and is what gives our players the confidence and conviction to succeed in soccer and in life!

TCD: What changes would you make to the grassroots game to benefit the development of children?

PD: In Canada, I would like the new LTPD, which I support could be adjusted according to whats happening right now… for example I cancel the retreat line, definitely.

TCD: Why would you remove it? 

PD: In Canada we have the retreat line from u9s to u12s. “The Retreat Line has been introduced in the Toronto Soccer Association (U11/U12) Development Leagues to allow our young players to learn and gain confidence in how to play the ball out from the back and play forward to attack, as opposed to the goalkeeper “Sending It” aimlessly down the field.” “The Retreat Line will be positioned at halfway at the U9 and U10 age levels, while at the U11 and U12 age groups the Retreat Line will be signified by off-field cones (or flags), supplied by the home team and placed 1/3 distance of the field from each end.”

My view is allowing the player 3 seconds to touch the ball, or allowing them not doing a oriented reception neither attacking the ball, the rule is not giving to the players the right tools to solve “problems” during the game. What the rule is giving is “laziness” I order they don’t attack the ball, and they let the ball be rolled in order to avoid the others players can attacking them. This is not game related. In my perspective “its a pill like pain killer” doesn’t solve the game, only create more problems on the long run. It’s not realistic.

Also, this allows some coaches to neglect the basic principals of the progression: Attacking the ball, oriented reception and decide what will be the next step.

What my players and team do is: They stay on the retreat line and don’t attack the player with ball, and do you know what opposition do? They just kick the ball away…. because they don’t have pressure and they don’t know what to do… “Kick and rush”

TCD: What concerns you most about Canadian Youth soccer?

PD: Many, the league system, the different leagues, low referee quality, low coaching quality, the winter and the indoor facilities are way too expensive, just a few aspects to change.

TCD: What age do kids move to the 11v11 (Full Size) game in Canada?

PD: They move at under 13. I agreed, because I consider this is the natural progression of the game with 7×7 on U9 to U10 and 9×9 on U11 and U12, if the coaching staff do their job properly the players should progress smoothly for the “bigger picture”. They should understand the game and they are mature enough to development and continually optimised  the routines of the 11×11 game.

TCD: Have you any mentors?

PD: Yes, Professor Rui Mâncio from Madeira Island.

TCD: What kind of player do you like working with? 

PD: Players willing to learn, and with drive to be better.

TCD: Can Canadian soccer grow as big as US soccer?

PD: Yes, definitely! But we are still little bit away…We need indoor facilities, and organize the grassroots until to build a national mens league. Long way to go.

The Coach Diary would like to thank Pedro for this interview. You can find out more about Sporting FC Toronto on their website Sporting FC Toronto.

Why not like their page on FB Sporting FC on Facebook


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

Childrens Health Irish Grassroots Football

Irish Kids disappoint the worlds best Academy coaches..

The reality is that our kids are far less superior to our Iberian neighbours and why? Well the game in Europe is age appropriate and the focus is to develop the kids technically, allowing more touches of the ball and encouraging them to express themselves by taking risks and being spontaneous. They want the kids to enjoy the game and play with a smile, be flamboyant, take the players on….Dribbling is taught at a very earlier age and always encouraged.

Encourage more touches

Kids begin learning with smaller size balls; when I lived in Portugal we played and trained with size 2 and size 3 balls (in our spare time we played with a Futsal or Olympic handballs) all the time. Using smaller size balls allows kids to get a feel for the ball and its much easier to control with both feet.It’s also much easier to master a skills. Bigger footballs are heavier and harder to control for younger kids. Futsal has a huge part to play in this country and every child taking up football or Soccer should really begin with Futsal. Kids need to be learning and developing in the game with small sided games, i’e. 3v3s, 4v4s  or 5v5s etc

Currently our focus is results driven, leagues, cups, top goal scorer, getting the ball forward and playing bigger kids over the smaller more technical and why? Well to win of course…..!

Why do we have an All Ireland competition for 9 and 10 year old’s…totally daft???!!! 

What they said!

This year 3 FCBarcelona coaches, 1 Sporting Club de Portugal Coach, 1 Sporting Braga Coach and Horst Wein to name a few all had the opportunity to watch Irish kids of various ages and abilities and they all expressed the same concerns, Irish kids are not intelligent (Game intelligence) and technically very poor.. “They weren’t able to take instructions in and could not understand the basis of a very simple phase of play”

I don’t blame the kids, the blames lies with SFAI, The leagues, FAI, The Coaches. The fact is we have leagues at such a young age and this takes the focus from away from developing over winning. Something that could so easily be rectified with a board meeting. We don’t have enough qualified coaches working at the youngest age groups. Although we have some of the best surfaces and facilities in Europe and much better than facilities local clubs in Brazil, Spain or Portugal and out kids are provided with the best equipment and enthusiastic coaches (who give up their time for no pay) in most cases.

We are not making the most of these beautiful GREEN pitches we have all over Ireland. With these surfaces, its a shame we don’t encourage and coach total football, like our European neighbours. We still look to England for solutions, which we won’t find in a hurry as they themselves are looking towards the Bay of Biscay.

The Leagues

If you look at our league structures they are solely focused on winning and fast tracking kids to the adults game of 11v11 players on full sized pitches and what has this done for developing kids in Ireland? Well, not much, we are producing less kids every year for the English market. Yeah we still get the handful that go across the water but as research has shown its not long before they return home.

A recent report stated in an average year, 50 young Irish footballers are contracted to play with British clubs. But according to a recent study carried out by the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), 85% subsequently fail to make the grade as professional footballers.

In May I spoke to the coordinator of the SSG of one of Dublin’s biggest leagues, I asked why are we playing competitive leagues as such a young age  and why 11v11 at age 11 even 12? (which is still pretty much the case, we just moved the age group).  I was astonished to hear the negative attitude of this person, he/she was more concerned with the response of what the big DUBLIN clubs would do if changes were made. Not to my surprise, they showed no concern for the kids or even expressed an opinion of youth development.

We have come along way, but we still have a long way to go….. we’ll get there…one day. Its never to late to make change. The changes are coming but when the game is run by volunteers don’t expect things to happen quickly. Finance will have a big part to play if we are to see nation attitude change towards developing young kids. A player centred approach is what is required from bottom to top.

Some interesting Stats: 

  • On average 50 kids go to England every year, 18 sign contracts
  • 94% who are good enough to get deals with an English club, don’t get as far as a second contract.
  • 75% come home and never play at League of Ireland level.
  • Liverpool Academy stated: 98% of players who are taken in by the English academy fall out by the time they are 18
  • Only 0.021% of u21’s players currently playing in the Barclays u21 league will make it to the premier league.
  • 10% of players in premier league academies make it to the professional game.
  • Over 4000 registered pros in the UK.
  • PFA estimate Over 700 kids released every year by English clubs as per Oshor Williams of the PFA’s education department, which offers support and training to prepare them for a life outside professional football. Of those entering the game aged 16, two years down the line, 50% will be outside professional football. If we look at the same cohort at 21, the attrition rate is 75% or above.
  • There are about 297 former professional footballers currently in prison. 150 young offenders 147 adults
  • Most are under 25 and around 87% sentenced for drugs offences.
  • 40% of pro footballers go bankrupt within five years of leaving the game.
  • 33% divorced with a year of retirement.

There are 12,500 players in the English academy system, but only 0.5% of under-nines at top clubs are likely to make it to the first team. There are also suggestions that drop-out rate in football is similar to other sports, such as rugby union, which can lose 76% of players between the ages of 13 and 16.

Sources ( XPRO,BBC Sport and The PFA)


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