Last week I got my level 2 coaching badge. This is the second step on the pyramid of the coaching world.
My only previous experience of coaching was back in Ireland where as a summer job some of the younger pros at the club took summer football camps, which was basically babysitting.
Parents would drive up, offload the kids and speed off for a bit of peace, so ability and interest varied in the group.
Some kids were more interested in playing with the equipment, throwing poles, climbing goals, chewing on cones. One young character in a group spent a week imagining he was a snail!
He would pull his jersey up over his head and down over his knees and just move slowly across the pitch for the day. It was great entertainment but it put me off coaching.
It all started in pre-season when a team-mate was frustrated by the options available to players to get on with their coaching badges. Most courses are run by the players union the PFA but during the football season, which is of no use to players.
So he came to the skipper and after having a quick word around the dressing room, I found a group of lads who are senior in their years and thinking to themselves 'I better do something for my future'.
The majority of younger players think their career will last forever and planning for the future is like asking them do they remember the World Cup in USA ’94? 'Eh I was born in 1995 Benno!' Ok. Ah youth is wasted on the young!
So we senior pros got together and approached the PFA about setting up a level 2 course at our training ground.
We got the green light, dates were organised, car schools were upset and an instructor was on his way. The instructor wants to introduce a new member to our established group of merry men and asks if it’s ok if Paulo Ferreira, the ex-Chelsea player who is now retired, joins us?
'What’s he done in the game,' we ask sarcastically. 'What’s he won?' (Titles in Portugal, UEFA Cup twice and Champions League twice, FA Cup four times, Premier League three times) 'Who has he worked with?' (Jose Mourinho) Ok, if he must!
We needed bodies to be able to do practical coaching sessions with, and so the development squad were forced into volunteering to help, very kind of them.
As welll as practical there were classroom sessions where there were lots of questions, the main one being 'what time do you think we will be finished by?' Other questions about styles and philosophies of coaches were discussed.
Paulo spoke of Mourinho's style and we listened intently. I think about the fact that English is his second language. The notes go up he translates them to down in Portuguese, while I spell check the notes I’m taking in English.
We had child protection and first aid modules. Is it usual that the first aid dummy gets a cuddle and a tongue in the mouth in pretend kissing during resuscitation?
Examples were given of situations and how you as a coach would deal with them. Silence and concentration were at their upmost during this module. The thought of having to use a defibrillator or perform resuscitations was daunting but you to be prepared to take responsibility.
We took practical coaching sessions ourselves while also being verbally abused by our peers. Perhaps good practice for what a real coach must endure! We filled in our log books and called each other 'teacher's pet' for going ahead with tasks, spread rumours of homework and exams that needed doing.
The practical side was the most enjoyable but being able to speak the terms required to express what we wanted to see was frustrating.
Not a master technician myself but I can pass a ball, so the temptation was there to say just do this and show it. But that’s a trap coaches fall into all too easily. It will come with practice.
A nutritional module was more reminiscing about the good old days when fish and chips and a beer were standard post-match recovery. We spoke about the changes we had seen in our time and how foreign players felt it was normal to have a glass of red wine day before a match.
That’s where it stops though, at one glass! A lot of head scratching and googling went on for the laws of the game module. In a game we don’t care about the technicalities we just want to argue with the referee.
The eight of us got there in the end and with my final assessment passed, I enjoyed the process and my previous experience of coaching has been blown away. I’m on the road to the next level and no matter what your ability I would recommend it.
Thanks for reading,