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Guest Post – The secret football coach

By an anonymous New Zealand football coach

An anonymous guest blog……surely that’s unheard of but there is a reason for that. It’s important for me as a football coach that my views, opinions and thoughts are taken off the same footing and with the same respect as any other football coach regardless of gender, ethnicity, name, qualification or experience.

Does a name, gender or ethnicity define an individual’s ability on the football pitch as a coach? In my opinion, which echoes other people, it doesn’t, but the profession of coaching is full of preconceived ideas of why and how we are all involved – things that do not define practical application or ability.

I am not one for writing blogs or getting in to discussions on social media as I tend to do my talking in a practical setting….usually on the football pitch. This is not a blog to say I have been there and done that and have done X, Y and Z as that just leads to a discussion on who has the biggest…….trophy cabinet!

There has been a lot of discussion around Women in Coaching across a variety of different sporting codes recently and a few really interesting points on the ability of female football coaches in particular. This is where I give part of the anonymity away….I am a female and I am a football coach.

I grew up with male coaches when I was playing, then when I decided to take the coaching path I was always educated by my male counterparts. This is not a bad thing in my eyes, I had no female coaching role model to inspire me; it was the profession that grabbed my interest.

Since starting my coaching journey at the age of 15 I have been through coach education pathways in 3 different countries across 3 different continents and represented at local, regional, national and international level as a coach. I have had the pleasure of working with a few influential people and names in the football family but again does a person’s name or names they are associated with matter when it comes to practical application?

Should females be chosen over males just for the sake of it? No they shouldn’t however if they have the qualifications and/or the experience in practical application then surely they have a fair shot and are on a level playing field. Females have to work that bit harder to convince mainly male tutors/officials or professionals that they have the experience, knowledge and qualifications to back up some sort of credibility within the football family. However this is all words on paper – mainly when CV’s get thrown about. How do we know who is the best coach for the position if there is no practical application and examination? I have had a number of people watch me coach whether on formal education courses or as part of squad sessions and say “I didn’t know that” or “that’s great coaching detail” or they will simply engage in further conversation as they have seen that I do actually know what I am talking about.

As females we doubt ourselves constantly until we get to the point where we are confident with our knowledge and standing to really push into the forefront. There are now opportunities to go on female only coach education courses worldwide…..which are designed to be a non-threatening and comfortable environment. This is a wise move for the introductory levels as we see more females engaging in this pathway across the globe to get started. It’s all about the confidence and the reassurance in the knowledge that we already have, that it is OK to challenge ourselves and that different doesn’t mean wrong it just means a different approach, style or solution.

What happens when female coaches want to continue through the coach education pathway? The fully inclusive courses are on offer but predominately attended by males. This is an instant problem for a lot of females who have been catered for in the non-threatening environment of a female only course. How do women bridge the gap from the Female only courses which is very environment conscious in order to encourage and nurture, to being part of the next level that is potentially male dominated and suddenly we doubt everything that may come into our head or out of our mouth? In my opinion and experience there are a few ways

  • Interact with male or female coaches at clubs or schools
  • Watch male and female coaches from other sporting codes to gain the ability to think outside the box
  • Watch football – junior, youth, senior, grassroots or elite
  • Attend informal professional development opportunities such as Coaches Network events – meet other people and learn other things that will build up knowledge before attending the next course
  • Chat to others about the courses to gain insight
  • Design new drills and sessions – this will build confidence in the knowledge that is already there and also adaptability
  • Try new things in sessions – we tend to stick to what we know

The question that needs to be asked and answered is how can we learn from each other rather than vie for position and play the male v female game? Throughout the years I have found that I learnt a lot across a number of different facets of coaching.

A coach needs to have emotional intelligence – as females we tend to have a little bit more depth of knowledge to deal with this. In other words, know when to be what to each player. I have coached with a few males who have changed their communication style slightly to influence positive change within their coaching environment. They identified that depending on age, stage, gender and social/emotional state of player will depend on how they communicate to achieve their outcomes through coaching influence.

Pep Guardiola is extremely good at highlighting why players should do certain things in certain way. He is extremely detailed in his instruction from a tactical point of view. When looking at the composition of the female game for example, players want to be reassured that they have a specific role to play and that they are doing it correctly.

We need to have the ability to know the coaching detail and the biomechanical skill acquisition information – Female coaches seem to be very astute to this point. They take a lot of time to know the coaching points that make up a skill or a drill/session e.g. Cut the ball with the outside of the right foot – foot reaches around inside of ball, left arm comes up to protect self, foot that cuts ball should land parallel to defending player, hips follow sharply to get body between ball and defender, point toes to ground to knock ball out of feet and push off back foot to gain speed and generate momentum.

A lot of male coaches are very passionate about the sport as a whole which leads to living and breathing football. All the theory that they have gained through education or personal research is developed by watching the game at various levels. This shows practical application of coaching theories, practices and tactics. Once a coach education course has been attended there are instant thoughts about how points relate to the practical setting whether they are watching a boys/girls game at the weekend or watching the World Cup. They are fully immersed in the beautiful game.

One thing that I learnt from male counterparts is the fact that they tend to be very confident when it comes to tactical awareness and adjustment. I needed to know the whys and the hows – The key to this is to get justification for their thoughts rather than just accept what they are saying. This allowed me to understand their thoughts and the reasons behind the decisions. Through education you gain a lot of tactical insight and foundation but the depth comes from the trial and error of these fundamental principles of play. Male coaches are not afraid to try different scenarios which give them the ability in the long run to adapt depending on the tactical principles of the opposition.

It is now getting to the point where there is, in my opinion an achievable vision and massive drive for more females to be involved across the coaching continuum. As a female football coach this is fantastic to hear but the infrastructure and support mechanisms need to be not only in place, but they need to be an accessible opportunity. It’s not about saying “move over men the girls are in town” it’s about saying “lads we value your knowledge, expertise and guidance. How can you support us and what can we learn from you?”

Football coaches have 1 thing in common regardless of background, experience, name, ethnicity or gender – Coaching Football. If this is the case why do we constantly criticise, moan and question our colleagues motives, knowledge and experience………….We are all part of the football family and surely there is a goal; to increase the reputation, capability and capacity of the game. Through formal/informal education, encouragement, collaboration, sharing, building trust and honesty the one thing that will be developed is proactive support! Coaching is an ever changing profession and it is modernising at a rate of knots…….we need to support where we can in a professional, voluntary or social capacity whether we are a coach, manager, parent or supporter.

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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