We're mixing things up on the spotlight this week by turning our focus to a coach. Dan Ashby is the Bournemouth AFC Academy Analyst and Head Age Group Coach. Dan talked us through how he carries out his sessions, keeps his young players motivated, and also one of the pitfalls he avoids out on the training ground.
How do you go about planning your sessions each week?
We have a set syllabus at the club which we follow, which covers all the main areas we feel are important at that particular age group’s stage of development, it is also important to understand what individual players within the team need when planning. Myself and the other coach then discuss what practices to do and how they flow from one practice on to the next. Areas we consider when planning are: what challenges we can set for individual players and coaching points that are key for the session.
How do you keep young players engaged in a session?
Within the session we set challenges to players linked to what they are trying to develop at the time, and we constantly refer back to these throughout. These challenges might be for example can you play forward more than your centre midfield opponent, and the player keeps score. This challenge has two aspects: it is working on the midfielder’s marking and positioning to prevent his opponent playing forward but also working on his receiving and awareness skills to play forward. Within each practice we always ensure there is some sort of goal as this is what the players enjoy - scoring goals. We also prevent any lines or standing around of the players and make the practices competitive.
Do you have a particular session/drill that young players enjoy the most?
Players, especially young ones, just want to play games so we do a lot of games but set certain objectives for the players so it is also developing aspects which we feel are important. It is then the skill of the coach to then work with the players within this game. Importantly then it is how the coach works within this game, try not to constantly stop the flow of the game but you can use ways such as; fly by coaching to speak to individual players whilst the game is still going and we sometimes take out players one by one to go through points or show them video as the practices get filmed.
Do you use any particular coaching providers for session ideas?
Not particularly. The best way I find is just discussing with other coaches and working together to come up with practices. More often than not they come up with ideas or tweak your session to something you hadn’t even thought of.
What is the most satisfying element of youth coaching for you?
Working with players and helping them develop new skills or add areas to their play. It is then especially pleasing to see them do something in a game that you have been working on in the week.
What is the biggest pitfall to avoid when coaching youth?
Thinking you know everything and just commanding the players to do what you think they should do. Keep your coaching points short and tailor them so you are not just telling the player do this do that! It is important you get the players’ perspective because before I have thought ‘why didn’t he pass it there’ and when I spoke to the player he saw something else that I hadn’t.
Away from the training ground...
Who do you support?
Reading FC. Unfortunately I was made to support them growing up.
Who was your football idol growing up?
Alan Shearer. I don’t know why because I was a defender.
Who do you think will win the Premier League?
Hopefully not Liverpool otherwise I won’t hear the end of it from my mate. Man United with Mourinho will win it.
Who is your favourite current player and why?
It has to be a Bournemouth player in Harry Arter. He has come up the leagues with them and he just shows what hard work can do and plays every game to 100%.