Southgate praises 'hard work' of grassroots coaches

Grassroots football coaches must be praised for their dedication and supported in their development, according to Gareth Southgate.

The FA’s Head of Elite Development acknowledged the efforts of thousands of coaches right across the country when he spoke to Club Website.

“It’s bloody hard work if you’re a grassroots coach and you’re taking a kids team,” said Southgate.

“I don’t think parents appreciate how many hours coaches put in, how much planning takes place, all the emails and texts to be sent, all the costs of going onto courses if your club aren’t able to support you.”

Southgate spoke to Club Website at Wembley Stadium this month at a conference for the FA’s Licensed Coaches Club, a scheme launched this season to provide continuous training and support to coaches in a bid to improve the standard of coaching throughout the game.

“The Licensed Coaches Club is part of the drive to make coaching a recognised profession, vocation and to try and raise the levels of that,” explained Southgate.

“In the past, everyone looked at getting a badge. You might have done that two years ago but it might have been 20 years ago. This is about maintaining the qualification, but it’s about continual development and further developing yourself as a coach.”

FA Licensed coaches must commit to a mininum of three hours of continuous professional development (CPD) each year. Coaches can accrue CPD hours through FA Learning courses (in person or online),  mentoring or specific CPD events hosted by the FA, such as this month’s Wembley conference.

Southgate sees the benefits of the scheme as two-fold. Not only does it provide coaches with greater opportunities to develop themselves – “as coaches we are always adding bits to our armoury in terms of how we teach” – but it provides a coach the chance to prove their credentials to others.

“For parents or people wanting to join clubs, there will be the reassurance that the person is committed to coaching,” he added.

“You’ll know that they have got all the CRB checks and things in place and be reassured that your child is going to be receiving a higher standard of coaching.”

Membership of the Licensed Coaches Club, which currently costs £12 per year, will be a mandatory requirement for all FA coaches in the future, according to Southgate.

The FA are currently “trying to build the numbers as much as possible” but, although the timescales are not clear, Southgate says the time will come come “where every coach has to be licensed and has to carry the card.”

Whilst £12 a year will be affordable to most coaches, qualifying as a coach costs significantly more. Obtaining coaching badges can cost hundreds or, for those working their way further up the coaching ladder, even thousands of pounds.

Southgate recognises that the costs of qualifying – both financial and in terms of time commitment – can be off-putting for some would-be coaches.

“We understand that a lot of the people doing courses are volunteers and want to help local communities and clubs, but it’s a balance between not making those costs prohibitive but also making it cost-effective as well.

“In terms of time, County FAs are quite often a good option, because they might put courses on across a couple of weeks in the evenings, rather than people having to take a four day block off work.

“Moving forward, we’re looking at how to make it as cost-effective as possible but, at the same time, I think you tend to get more from a course if you financially contribute to it.

“I’ve done courses in the past outside of football and, if I haven’t paid to go on it, I don’t think I’ve been quite as focused as when I’ve invested in it myself.”

It has been a busy first year at the FA for Southgate. He took up his newly-created role in January as the FA outlined a new approach to youth development.

Since then, amongst other things, he has worked closely with Nick Levett on the Your Kids Your Say roadshow, a series of events presenting the FA’s proposed changes to the structure of youth football to coaches and officials from clubs and leagues around the country.

Should the proposals be given the go-ahead by FA stakeholders in May, children will not play 11-a-side football until the under-13s age group – a new 9v9 format will be introduced for under 11s and 12s – and league tables will be removed for all children of primary school age in favour of a new ‘child-centred’ approach to competition.

The proposals, which would become mandatory for the 2013-14 season if approved, lay the groundwork for improving youth development, allowing Southgate and his FA colleagues to concentrate on improving coaching standards.

“If we’ve got the kids on the right size pitches and in appropriate sized teams, then the focus in on how we are coaching them, what we are telling them to do,” he added.

“We’ve got to get those messages out as publicly as possible, creating the environment for kids to feel they can enjoy what they are doing, not being afraid to make mistakes, playing with their friends – they are the things that kids want to go and do.”

Helping children to enjoy their football will, Southgate believes, help him to fulfill his long-term remit as Head of Elite Development, but he has his focus trained on the bigger picture.

“In the end, we will get better elite players because of the changes, but that is not the primary focus at grassroots level,” he says.

“It’s getting that environment right, so that kids connect with the community, that they are part of a club, that they understand winning and losing, and so many messages that football can give them for life.”

“Their football coach might be the only positive role model in their life. We don’t know what their family backgrounds are. So it’s a big onus on those coaches – we’re not just teaching them how to play football; we’re developing them as people as well.”

Dan Pope, Club Website editor

Pictures courtesy of the FA / Getty Images.

Dan Pope on LinkedinDan Pope on Twitter
Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

Take the hassle out of organising your sports team with Teamer. Organise, communicate and take payments.


  1. tom o connor on December 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    excellant article on Gareth Southgate

  2. shaun quirk cfjfc on December 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

    i thought we were supposed to be stopping the win lose ethos thats why no league tables at primary age well this comment” It’s getting that environment right, so that kids connect with the community, that they are part of a club, that they understand winning and losing, and so many messages that football can give them for life.” seems to me hes forgot the emphasis is on playing not winning

  3. Koopa troopa on December 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    The idea is to learn to win and lose without the pressure placed on them to “win” points. ie “we got to win today lads it will move us into third”.

  4. dannyryan on December 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Please re-think the format for the u7 & u8 age groups playing 5-a side . IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to have them playing playing 5-aside using 5-aside rules ,no overhead height and goalies only allowed to roll the ball or pass from on the ground , the kids will love it and the neanderthal coaches still out there WILL HAVE TO TEACH the kids how to play ,not just hoof to win . Trust me I SEE IT EVERY WEEK .

  5. Norbiton Removal on January 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I think besides of win or lose, it’s important to enjoy the game, because when you enjoy game, you ultimate played well, which is most important to win the game,

  6. David Williams on January 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Grassroot coaches have a hard job, far harder than those working with elite children, I know I have done both. But the problem with the majority is they do the worthless FA Level 1 course, call themselves a coach and then spend the next years teaching next to nothing. It is not really the fault of the coaches, the FA courses do not teach the right things and until they change and create a national game style, Mr Southgate will not see the talent that we see come from Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Germany and it wont be that long before we are over taken by the USA.
    The youth module courses are good for the beginner, they give useful info on how to coach and get coaches thinking more about developing players, but they still do not show coaches what to coach.
    I have worked in academies, but have had to walk away, some of the coaching in academies is woeful, for example take passing, the coaches teach “punch it in” or in other words pass the ball with speed. Problem here is this causes control issues for the receiver, but with a different use of words, “stroke it in” and a coaching programme that allows more time playing rather than drill based activities and more care in what you coach, you can get players to play the ball like the Spanish.
    I get very frustrated with coaches at all levels, you have the grasroots coach who if questioned would have no problem admitting they do not know it all, great then do something about it, but they dont and then they have the cheek to blame their players for not wanting to learn. At the other end of the spectrum you have the pro coach, has been in the game for years, has seen it all, so does not willingly want to take on anything new. I had an argument with a very experienced coach after he reeled of these names of players who have made a living from playing the game. I said I have never heard of them and said that we do not produce the players with genuine quality and coaching methods have to change, which upset him lol.
    Coaching must change, I have seen courses far better than the FA run courses, you still need the FA badges but there are other ways…..

  7. Andrew Williams on January 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Totally & Utterly agree 100% with David on this subject , i have been looking at taking my level 3 for some time but cost puts me off a great deal i simply cannot afford it . All my courses i have paid for myself and have found several to be worthless (or pointless) . The Level 1 is given to anyone who walks off the street , my wife could pass the course and she hates the sport and shows no interest but she could call herself a qualified coach if she took the level 1….read Southgate’s article with interest and he adresses the financial cost to grassroots volunteer coaches but does not offer any solutions…!!!

  8. Joe Picciano on January 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    As the current secretary of the junior club where Gareth played until the age of 16 I find it incredible to think that he is so wholeheartedly behind the proposed changes to junior football. (although 1 or two of the proposals are not bad but no consideration as to who or how they will be funded). Lets look at some of the proposals:

    1. Changing the Age bands to start at 1st of January:- This has to be the most badly thought proposal of the lot. Most boys play football or join teams because their class mates play. Now the ones born before 31st of December will be told to go and play with boys who are in a different school year. Not only that but they’ll be the youngest boys in that team. How likely is it to happen? Not very much so immediately a third of boys will be put off from playing football.
    (Lets take a lead from hockey who went with this change for2-3 years and then recently abandoned it due to the decline in boys playing hockey).

    2. 9 V 9 for U11/u12. Not a bad idea but no hint as to who is expected to fund different goals or additional pitch markings every week (the suggestion was that this would be just like gyms that have different coloured markings for different sports – Only problem with this argument is that gym markings last years, grass pitch markings 2 weeks at best!).

    3. 5 v 5 at u7/u8. An ok idea but where are all these extra volunteers going to come from to run these 5 a side teams. Difficult enough to find someone to run a 7-a-side team.

    4. No 8 month season. Most of our income as a club is on the basis that we provide coaching, pitches, matches for our players. If the’re not playing matches how can we justify any similar charge. If we are not able to maintain revenue then we will not be able to hold on to facilities, pay for coaches etc.

    5. one of the major aims of the proposals is to better develop our boys and this will hopefully feed through all the way to the national squad. In reality 99.9% of kids that play football will never get anywhere near an academy let alone a professional contract. (Gareth excepted!)

    Most of the junior leagues are totally against these proposals but the FA in their roadshows continues to totally ignore them and push on ahead. Changes thought up by a consultant that had to come up with something to justify the fee!
    A sop to the academies and Centres of Excellence who are taking boys at a younger and younger age. ( I regularly get scouts asking if they can come and look at our 6 year olds training!).

    Gareth come and look at your old club and speak to these 150 kids here now and see what they really want!

  9. Croydon Removal on January 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Defiantly as a coach we have to polish our players, we have to find out the best players from our kids, it’s defiantly not an easy task, and we have to convert carbon into diamond which requires lot of effort.

  10. daz wilkie on January 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    JOE my dear friend where have been your words are almost a mirror image of my own thoughts, it would appear theyve been talking to the nodding donkeys those who follow every last word of someone above them. LEMMINGS. and southgates opinions on current coaching are hypocritical, as far as im aware 99% of coaches are crb checked already as regards qualifications where does he think volunteers get all their time from. are we running on a different calender to the rest of the world.

    let me guess more courses more expense less time with the whole of my family. even to make level 1 compulsory isnt always possible we will start to loose teams left right and center.

    the whole grassroots system should be fun for everyone. perhaps if the fa themselves ran proper development centres across the country instead of clubs running academys where all children are just swallowed up and lost to grassroots football this might be a better idea. all children could go along and receive quality uefa coaching (because we all know they are the best coaches) and every half term have assessments the top 75% stay but they are still able to play with their clubs. the players on the fringes will all be seen and jonny no kick will still have a team to go to because his manager hasnt packed in because of the ridiculous badges he has to pass.

    rant over i think

    no wait, sorry the fa seem to have spent 2 years and god knows how much money and still got it wrong, but to be fair we wouldnt expect any thing else would we

Join the discussion