The England Under 21 manager believes that a player’s most informative years come before they reach senior football and that “laying foundations” through good coaching will stand any player in good stead.
“Foundations are everything in any activity you do, in football or outside,” Pearce told Club Website. “That’s why, for me, the coaches that young players get at grassroots level are big influences on life.
“If you took a straw poll from the England senior team and asked them who the real influences were on their career, chances are they’d pick out someone from the age of 16 and under. That just tells you the influences that grassroots coaches have.
“Quite often when I get my hands on players at the age of 17 onwards, a lot of those human skills, technical skills and tactical skills are in place. Their education mainly comes from the grassroots. From there onwards we’re just topping up and fine-tuning.”
Pearce won 78 senior England caps in a professional career that lasted almost two decades, but still regards his early years in the game as among the most influential.
“There were probably about two or three conversations I had with coaches that really set me up and I remember like it was yesterday,” he added.
“That will probably be the same for players in 100 years time. Someone will influence you, whether it be a Brian Clough in my case, or Allen Batsford when I was a non-league player [at Wealdstone FC], or whether it’s a school teacher or even a parent.
“Many people will help you but it will normally narrow down to two or three that have really guided you when you could have gone this way or that way in your career.”
The Licensed Coaches Club was launched by the FA this season to support and develop grassroots coaches who keep their coaching qualifications up-to-date and want to progress within the game.
The FA hopes the scheme will raise standards of coaching throughout the game and improve the health of football at grassroots level, something Pearce believes has improved significantly since his early playing days.
“I wish I was a young player now, because the opportunity to get good coaching is so much greater than it ever was when I played the game. My education as a player came from playing matches on a Saturday. The whole coaching spectrum is available there now for players.”
“Whatever standard you want to achieve, through work and effort, I think you can get wherever you want to go. I would say that to players, I would say that to young coaches and, more importantly, I say it to myself every day.
“If you’ve an open mind an you want to achieve and continually improve yourself as a player and a coach, it’s there for you. It’s down to you to grasp it, take it on board and improve.”
Pearce’s recent appointment as manager of Team GB’s men’s football team for the London 2012 Olympics continues the upward trajectory of a coaching career that began whilst taking his coaching badges as a player.
A holder of UEFA’s Pro Licence, Pearce is grateful for the support that he had during his first steps onto the coaching ladder but, whilst recognising that it can be tough for amateur coaches, he believes the necessary commitment is worth it.
“I understand that the costs of it, and finding the time, are very difficult for people that are working but, if you want a career in coaching, I would say it’s worth it.
“For a young coach it’s very difficult financially. I understand that. But is it worth doing? 100 percent it’s worth doing, if it’s going to improve you as a coach.
“Whether you can financially afford it, only the individual knows that. But I think it’s money well spent. It might mean forsaking a holiday once a year. I would do it.”
Dan Pope, Club Website editor
Image courtesy of The FA / Getty Images.
Gareth Southgate talks coaching with Club Website
Club Website also spoke to Gareth Southgate, the FA’s Head of Elite Development, at Wembley Stadium this week.
We’ll bring you what he had to say on various aspects of grassroots coaching in December’s edition of The Clubhouse – Club Website’s monthly newsletter, so make sure you’re signed up!