Welcome to the first in a new Club Website column dedicated to grassroots football coaches. We want to provide a platform for coaches to share their ideas and thoughts on the game and talk about the beautiful game, their coaching style and what drives them as a coach. Now, first up...
Name: David Kamperman
Clubs: Upton JFC (Under-13s), Blacon Youth (Ladies Open Age)
Position: Coach / Manager
Coaching Qualifications: FA Level 2, Youth Modules 1 & 2
Number of Years Coaching: 5 years
Affiliated FA: Cheshire County FA
Why did you want to become a football coach?
I’ve always played football from a young age. I grew up watching my local team Chester City FC and Liverpool FC. Whether it was with my dad, brother or mates, I always analysed player performance and team tactics with them. I often watched the manager and what influence they had on the team and always thought: "I’d do this if I was in their shoes".
How did you get into coaching?
My best mate John was called by a chairman of a local club to help manage an under-11s team. He asked me along to help out - looking back now probably just to put up the nets! We worked together coaching for two seasons while John completed his coaching badges. We joined up again with a new group of under 11s one season later again and I decided to take my FA Level Two coaching course. After a season being assistant manager, John moved to Manchester, so I was handed the reins.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
I've always focused on player development, technically as a player and as a person on and off the pitch. Being trusted by parents to educate their children is a massive responsibility - one which I feel privileged to have and take seriously. My philosophy is based on fun, enjoyment, inclusion and development.
With this I’m confident my coaching sessions are beneficial. It's important to ask yourself why you are coaching - for personal achievements or to help others develop? Which is more important? For me, its definitely to see the development of the players.
Who or what has most influenced you as a coach?
Firstly was my old coach. He ran a Cub Scout team as no-one else would. He created an opportunity for us play football and I am still friends with the lads I played with. I’ll always be grateful for that.
Secondly, as a coach playing other teams I see some examples of poor coaching. A lot of the enjoyment is taken out of the game and replaced with winning at all costs.
As a child I remember both atmospheres, relaxed and fun against the pressure of winning. I always wanted to win - who doesn’t? But when this is forced on young shoulders it’s not always fun.
So when coaching I always ensure that they have fun, whilst developing which will benefit them over a longer term.
What skills does a grassroots football coach most require?
Grassroots coaches require a lot of skills. It’s important to develop the player, so having good technical knowledge is near the top of the list, with good communication skills.
But being able to adapt to all sorts of situations will help no end, from being able to set up pitches to acting as secretary. Time-keeping, organising games and training, fundraising; doing first aid; playing the parental role... the list can get very long!
What are the most frequent challenges / hurdles you have to overcome as a grassroots coach?
Speaking to other coaches, the common theme tends to be parents' sideline coaching and negative comments to their children. This can quickly change the whole experience for young players, instantly removing elements of fun. Its frustrating for a coach that builds up a positive atmosphere to hear things like this.
My challenge to those who make the comments would be: "How would you feel at that age if someone was shouting at you? Would you want to continue if you knew you’d be shouted at every week?" However it’s good to see more and more clubs with respect barriers and the work the FA have been doing to support grassroots clubs and eliminate it has been fantastic and cases like these are becoming rarer.
What is your favourite coaching drill and why?
My favourite drill is a fairly simple attack vs defence. It’s match-relevant and allows players to try new skills in a fail safe environment. Attackers (red) play to score in full size goals against defenders (blue) who score by passing into small target goals on halfway.
It’s easy to add conditions such as 'attackers/defenders must make x number of passes before advancing' and adding in individual personal challenges.
What sort of environment do you create for your team and how do you create it?
I try to create a fun and enjoyable football session with a ‘fail safe’ feel. By that I mean players having freedom to try new things without the worry of being told off for something not quite working. I think this doesn’t happen very often with ever-present shouts of ‘play the way you’re facing’ and ‘keep it simple'.
I always praise good ideas, and if it takes one, two or three times to get it right, then that’s how many chances I’ll give them. Obviously I don’t neglect coaching technical points when the time's right, but I also don’t restrict them the opportunity to try.
When judging a player, what are the top five attributes you look for?
1. I like clever players - those who think about what they do, how they do it and then reflect.
2. Extrovert players are fun to work with. Having fun is important and usually in a group there are one or two that can hold a team together with their people/leadership skills and personality.
3. Confident players tend to stand out with their willingness to try new skills, positions and ideas.
4. Height of players is discussed a lot, but some of the most skilful players I’ve seen are the smallest on the pitch. Not being able to use their strength to muscle through with the ball, they adapt with very quick feet and agility.
5. Players whose awareness to see a match winning pass, or read a dangerous attack and cut it out is something to be admired.
In youth football, development stages vary a lot so it’s rare to find a player with all of the above traits. But when you do it’s very good to watch and great to coach.
You have qualified for an FA Youth Award. How important is it that youth football coaches receive education geared specifically towards youth coaching?
The FA Youth Modules gave me a fresh and more open view to coaching. My Level Two is great for technical information, but the Youth Award helped me to effectively communicate it to players.
The Youth Modules also helped me understand how I can alter practices, environments and presenting sessions to get the most from the players, which can easily be transferred in open-age coaching too.
What do you think of the FA’s new approach to youth football as a result of the Youth Development Review?
I think it’s a massive step towards making football more enjoyable and creating better young players. Smaller sided games will bring more touches for players. I’ve seen 60 minute matches where players have touched the ball two or three times, obviously gaining very little experience in a match. We should see more personality, dribbling, one-on-ones and goal scoring opportunities.
Changes to pitch and goal size will dramatically change the focus of playing too. Smaller pitches will mean less long balls where the fastest player gives chase and the smaller goals will mean fewer goal keepers getting lobbed. This will surely see more young players becoming technically better with a ball at their feet and increased shot accuracy, not forgetting the goalkeeper having a level playing field with a more suitable sized goal.
Winning; Enjoyment; Development - As a grassroots coach, in what order do you prioritise these three aspects of football and why?
1. Enjoyment - The main reason children want to return to football is because it’s fun! We can relate to it very easily, people do things they find enjoyable. As soon as it loses the element of fun, children will lose interest.
2. Development - The majority of a child's motor skills, physical ability and movement is learnt between the ages of five and 11. It should be a focus for any coach in any sport to ensure they are developed as much as possible in this area.
3. Winning - If you keep a player happy playing football and develop their skills, winning will come more naturally.
With this in mind, should all young footballers get the same amount of game time regardless of their ability and why?
Every coach will have a different opinion on what age the focus switches over from fair game time to playing the best players to get a result.
In grassroots football I believe fair game time should be maintained up until the age of 18, as I think it’s important to retain young players in football and to give late developers a chance.
What is the best thing about being a grassroots football coach?
The best thing about grassroots football is watching players develop as a person and improve as a footballer. Recently I went to a youth football tournament and saw several lads I had coached previously. I watched a couple of their games and they came over with big smiles and said hello. They were proud to tell me how they have been getting on.
Five aside - a few quickfire question
Describe yourself as a coach in three words: Fair. Determined. Technical.
What professional manager/coach are you most like: Rafa Benitez or AVB. I love the technical and tactical side of the game.
If you could add any footballer (past or present) to your team: Marco van Basten - a player who I’d wished to have seen play live.
Describe your perfect team: Playing the total football the Dutch produced, with the flair of the Brazilians and organisation and physique of the Germans.
Your proudest moment as a grassroots football coach: Seeing a team I coached go from losing their first game 8-0 and then beating the same team 2-1 in the a cup few weeks later
Have your say!
So, our first coach has laid their footballing cards on the table. Now we'd love you to get involved and provide feedback and debate some of the points raised in the comments section below. Tell us what you think!
If you'd like to be featured in 'Meet the Grassroots Coach', please email your name, contact number, location and details of your coaching qualifications to firstname.lastname@example.org.