Every month Club Website gets the lowdown on grassroots football from those at the heart of the game - the coaches! Get in touch and tell the world your philosophy on the beautiful game.
Name: Andy Marriott
Location: Southend, Essex
Club: Leigh Town FC
Position: Under-15s Coach
Coaching Qualifications: FA Level One & Youth Award Module One
Number of Years Coaching: Five
Affiliated FA: Essex FA
How did you become a football coach?
My son and a group of his friends (aged 9) wanted to play proper organised football and at the first meeting of dads, I stuck my hand up and said “I’ll have a go”.
I started out buying some books and reading everything I could before I was able to get onto the next available course. I felt it was important to think about it properly and not just turn up. I’m a season ticket holder at West Ham and all football fans think they know more than their team’s manager!
During the summer of the first year the boys were together I did my level One course with Essex FA and it was like a light being switched on for me.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
I believe in playing football. I know that sounds weird as that’s what we are here for, but I firmly believe in nurturing the real beauty of the game: passing, moving, creating space, close control. My team has always looked to the feet of a team mate rather than a long ball up in the air. I want to see flowing movement and possession football, both up and down the pitch.
Who or what has most influenced you as a coach?
Watching and reading about the truly great teams: Brazil from the 1970s, today’s Barcelona team and the skill levels of individuals that blends those teams together - Rivelino and Pele, Messi and Iniesta. From a coaching standpoint I would say people like Tony Carr at West Ham, bringing through a whole raft of talented youngsters and watching the tactical genius of managers like Roberto Martinez at Everton have been a big influence.
What skills does a grassroots football coach most require?
The ability to connect with your players and retain a level of mutual respect is important with youth players, especially teenagers. More than anything, you need to remember why they are playing.
What are their motivations? What makes them get up at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning for training? Make it fun and enjoyable and make it have a purpose. I always try to put my sessions into context with specific parts of the team’s game so that they see the bigger picture.
What are the most frequent challenges / hurdles you have to overcome as a grassroots coach?
The biggest challenges unfortunately come from a lack of facilities. We pay over £300 a year for the use of a muddy field with long grass and no facilities to change in or go to the loo! I am often one or two players short at the start of a game while they all dash off to a hedge or behind a tree!
What is your favourite coaching drill and why?
A great exercise to practice close control is The Spare Man. Three players with two balls between them face a fourth player about 20ms away.
One of the three players passes the ball to the fourth who must control the ball and send it back to a different player who doesn't already have a ball. This gets players to play with their heads up as they have to know before the ball comes to them who they are going to pass to.
What sort of environment do you create for your team and how do you create it?
In training I try to create an atmosphere of two way communication. I want players to challenge me on some things. I want them to ask me questions. That’s how I know they are taking it in. I always try to come across as a consultative coach; asking them their choice between two exercises and always asking their opinion of a session, what went well and what didn’t and how they felt it could be used in their game. I try to treat them as I would like to be treated.
When judging a player, what are the top five attributes you look for?
1. Social interaction – how well they ‘fit’ with your team.
2. Technical ability – knowing where your player is in terms of their technical development is important, not necessarily to exclude them if they are not as gifted as some of your other players, but so you know where to aim your sessions.
3. Attitude – some of the most gifted players come with the wrong attitude and this makes a massive difference.
4. Physical attributes – players have to be able to compete and perform to a standard.
5. Psychological – can they work out issues for themselves?
You have qualified for an FA Youth Award. How important is it that youth football coaches receive education geared specifically towards youth coaching?
I believe that youth coaching is totally different from working with older players and unique in its requirements of coaches and their approach - the language used, the level of expectation of the players, the need to be more consultative and to be totally aware of what drives them and what constraints or barriers they may have preventing them from progressing.
These are all important aspects of working with youth players. In addition there is the added pressure from a coaches’ perspective of parental expectation, which is a whole other kettle of fish.
What do you think of the FA’s new approach to youth football as a result of the Youth Development Review?
This has been the most radical and welcome change from the FA over the last 20 years. Treating young players as youngsters first and looking at the game from their perspective is the most obvious thing, but something that has been missing or not fully approached until now.
Young players are not just shorter versions of older players, but they are physiologically different, emotionally different, socially different and we are finally realising it. I think all levels of football will benefit from this as time goes on.
Should all young footballers get the same amount of game time regardless of their ability and why?
I try wherever possible to give every player at least half a match whatever their ability level. I don’t believe in having players in a squad who are there to make up the numbers or just fill in if someone else drops out or is injured.
Having roll-on, roll-off substitutions makes this a possibility at this level and is a fantastic way for us to make this happen. Without this the players would question their own ability, not have a chance to develop in a game situation and simply not feel worthwhile.
What is the best thing about being a grassroots coach?
The best part for me is training with my team. Spending hours working out a session plan and then putting it into place and having them enjoy themselves is the greatest reward. I enjoy the coaching aspect much more than managing the team when playing competitive matches.
Is there anything that you'd change about grassroots football coaching?
The crucial thing for me and something that is missing from all the coaching courses is football team management. We all learn how to coach our teams ,how to create dynamic sessions that the players all enjoy, but no one gives us any instruction on how to actually manage a team.
On any given Sunday, there are loads of examples of budding Alan Pardews having fights with parent linesmen or pretend Mourinhos instructing their team to ‘park the bus’ or ‘kick it long’ - all of whom seem to have forgotten that it is the players’ game and not theirs.
Five aside - a few quickfire questions
Describe yourself as a coach in three words: Consultative. Fun. Thoughtful.
What professional manager/coach are you most like: I would love to say Roberto Martinez – encouraging and thoughtful.
If you could add any footballer (past or present) to your team: Bobby Moore of course – the thinking man’s footballer and a genuine legend.
Describe your perfect team in one sentence: Flowing, skilful imaginative football with all players involved in moving up and back down the pitch.
Your proudest moment as a grassroots football coach: Winning promotion to the Premier Division of our local Sunday league on the last day of the 2011/2012 season.
Have your say on the coaching points raised!
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