Every month we give one grassroots football coach a platform to talk about their experience of the beautiful game & what drives them as a coach. This month, it's our pleasure to introduce...
Name: Wayne Smart
Location: Tamworth, Staffordshire
Clubs: Cottage Farm Rangers FC
Position: Coach / Manager of three under-10 teams
Coaching Qualifications: FA Level 2 & Youth Module 2
Number of Years Coaching: In my 4th year
Affiliated FA: Birmingham FA
Why did you want to become a football coach?
Since I stopped playing due to injury I always wanted to be involved and whilst never the best player I had a thirst for wanting to help others improve their game and realise their full potential. The combination of having a young child interested in playing and my desire to be involved meant that I found myself coaching at a club that met my ambitions of developing young players in the right environment while providing the necessary support in my learning journey.
How did you get into coaching?
I got involved primarily due to my children wanting to play the beautiful game and the fact that Tamworth as an area has a well established football structure enabling me to easily select an appropriate team. Cottage Farm have a passionate Development Officer who welcomes all into the club at an early age and his support and enthusiasm helped me decide that a volunteer role in coaching was for me.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
Let them play and enjoy their football through a philosophy of Long Term Player Development (LTPD), i.e. no short term fixes. We create the right environment in which they can realise their full potential by ensuring they play with confidence where mistakes are celebrated along with successful outcomes.
Who or what has most influenced you as a coach?
Being involved with passionate coaches within Cottage Farm has helped ignite original enthusiasm and the support offered from the new FA Skills Coaches has helped me develop as a coach passing on good practice. Surprisingly the internet and social media sites has also been an invaluable source of information that has helped to share drills and debate issues.
What skills does a grassroots football coach most require?
Empathy and excellent listening skills, as well as having a passion for continual improvement in ones self performance as a coach.
What are the most frequent challenges / hurdles you have to overcome as a grassroots coach?
1. Trying to convince parents that LTPD is the right way forward when opposition teams focus more on results and appear to be more successful.
2. Professional football scouts approaching players at a very early age and raising unrealistic expectations creates a challenge when that parent believes he needs to be playing for the ‘best’ team.
What is your favourite coaching drill and why?
My favourite drill is my 5-10min repetitive warm-up exercise where all players have a ball each and dribble within a confined area presenting continual challenges. We also use this warm up exercise to ensure players mater the ball with good technique i.e. step overs, toe taps etc., considering challenges that help with their ABC’s (Agility, Balance and Co-ordination).
What sort of environment do you create for your team and how do you create it?
Our philosophy is an all inclusive one where every child gets equal playing time and where each child learns importance of respect for others and teamwork. We continually drive this through by explaining to both players and parents what we intend to do at the start of the season and reinforcing through proving every match day and training session.
When judging a player, what are the top five attributes you look for?
1. Desire to learn
4. Confidence on ball
You have qualified for an FA Youth Award. How important is it that youth football coaches receive education geared specifically towards youth coaching?
Absolutely vital, having done the L2 and Youth Modules brings it home to me that coaching needs to be age appropriate to ensure we create the right environment that helps deliver the best coaching for the players. Understanding what motivates your players is so important especially at an early age as fun while learning is essential.
What do you think of the FA’s new approach to youth football as a result of the Youth Development Review?
It is great to see that the FA have listened to feedback and took best practice from other nationsin order to develop a structure that suits the needs of the individual player that will produce better technical players for the future.
Winning; Enjoyment; Development - As a grassroots coach, in what order do you prioritise these three aspects of football and why?
1. Enjoyment – Without it we have no players wanting to return and learn
2. Development – Combined with point one is the reason why we coach
3. Winning – part of life but not essential when still learning. The need to be able to be inventive and creative without fear of making a mistake will help players flourish and become better
With this in mind, should all young footballers get the same amount of game time regardless of their ability and why?
Yes all players should get the same time where possible as they all pay the same subscriptions to play and need game time in order to develop their technical abilities.
What is the best thing about being a grassroots football coach?
Pleasure in seeing a child develop and flourish whilst under your guidance and being the best they can possibly be while playing with a smile on their faces.
Any other business?
The game is awash with money yet at grassroots level there are so many clubs struggling to survive financially. There are not enough world class facilities that help clubs coach the players to their best abilities and more importantly there are not enough playing facilities for young kids to play outside of an organised club structure, so important as most kids only get to see their coaches for one hour a week outside of matchdays.
Five aside - a few quickfire question
Describe yourself as a coach in three words: Good listener. Understanding. Eager to learn.
Err... glad you're better at football coaching than counting Wayne! - CW Ed
What professional manager/coach are you most like: Karl Robinson, MK Dons – challenges the status quo and seen as a forward thinking coach who gives players enjoyable learning experiences.
If you could add any footballer (past or present) to your team: Lionel Messi – I love players to be creative & expressive who play without fear.
Describe your perfect team: My perfect team would have different but complimentary skill sets whereby they all understand their roles in working towards a successful team who play creative quick tempo football.
Your proudest moment as a grassroots football coach: Seeing a young lad who most clubs would never recruit score his 1st ever goal and seeing him celebrate with his dad.
Have your say!
What do you think of Wayne's thoughts on the game? If you're a grassroots coach - or even if you're not - we'd love to get your thoughts on the issues raised and foster some grassroots coaching debate, so please leave your feedback in the comments section below.
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.