Making good practice permanent

Good or bad practice permanently impacts players. It is one of the core principles of We Make Footballers and the print that we have on our shirts. And it underlines the difference that new WMF franchisees can make to children in their local area when setting up an academy.

When We Make Footballers arrives in a town, village or city, children have increased access to the sport. Increased access means the opportunity to play more which, based on the 10,000-hour rule, is only a good thing for their development as players.

The 10,000-hour rule is a concept that can be traced back to a 1993 University of Colorado paper written by Professor Anders Ericson. Titled ‘The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance’, the paper states that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. The definition of practice makes perfect if you like.

Professor Ericson based his findings on a study carried out on child violin players in Berlin. For three years between the ages of five and eight, a group of children in the German capital all practised the instrument for roughly the same amount of time.

At the age of eight, practice time between the children began to differ. Some continued playing the instrument regularly whilst the dedication of others dwindled. 

By the age of 20, the elite violin players amongst the group had amassed over 10,000 hours of practice each. The less able had less than 4,000 hours.

The ability of every violin player roughly corresponded to how much practice they had put in. There was no sign of any ‘natural ability; a child who had become an elite player after only 4,000 hours of practice. The study showed that the more you played the violin, the better at it you became.

But it is not merely enough to practice something – that practice needs to be overseen by a qualified expert, who can teach skills and pass on good habits which then become second nature. This is where We Make Footballers franchisees make a difference.

When humans learn a new skill, the muscles are trained to carry out the movements required until they become second nature. This takes time; our bodies and mind are often unsure and tentative at first.

After hours of practice though, we master the skill to the point where we do not even need to think about what we are doing. Think about learning to drive. At first, there is far too much going on at once to think about – changing gear, indicating, checking mirrors, braking.

By the time you come to your driving test, however, all these separate processes have become one activity that you can perform with ease through practice, practice, practice. 

You will not pass your test though if you have been taught bad practices along the way, like braking with the clutch down, not stopping at zebra crossings or honking your horn at other road users.

To put this into a football context, imagine a player going through one-on-one with a goalkeeper. A child who attends a We Make Footballers academy will have been taught and practised that when you get such an opportunity, you should prepare yourself for the shot by looking up and, if possible, getting the ball onto your stronger foot.

By embedding this as part of the shooting process, it becomes ingrained in the child’s muscle memory. Every time they get a sight of a goal, it becomes second nature to analyse what the ‘keeper is doing and make sure they are properly set.

A child whose sole football practice comes in the park with no guidance from a We Make Footballers coach will likely have a different approach. If they have never been taught what a difference looking up can make, they might end up keeping their head down when they go to shoot.

Years of doing this – or 10,000 hours – will mean that looking up never becomes a part of their muscle memory for the process of shooting. And once the brain has been taught and wired to perform a task in a certain way, it can be very hard to retrain.

Which of those two young players do you think has the better chance of scoring goals? The self-taught child with their head down or the player from We Make Footballers who are looking up, seeing where to shoot, and setting themselves to do so with their stronger foot?

This is what we mean by good or bad practice permanently impacts players. When a We Make Footballers franchise brings good practice to their area, it transforms the footballing ability of children by teaching them the skills and habits they need to become better players.

Thanks to the coaching of We Make Footballers franchisees, over 2000 children have already joined local grassroots teams. More than 160 players have signed with professional academies.

Those numbers will get even bigger over the coming year. Having already grown by 140 per cent in the past 12 months, We Make Footballers are looking to expand to 50 franchises in the United Kingdom and four internationally. This will help us deliver on our mission of contributing to England becoming the best footballing nation on Earth.

Good practice permanently impacts players. If you want to help ensure the next generation of players gets good practice at the same time as launching a career in football coaching, then you can find out more about becoming a We Make Footballers franchise on our website.

 

Why do football coaches coach?

Why do football coaches coach? Is it their desire to help football players realise their potential by coaching them in the ways of the sport?

Is it to learn more about the game and have a better understanding? Is it to shape the lives of children at a time when community projects have never been so important or vulnerable? Is it to inspire the next generation?

Is it out of love? Or an ambition to turn that love into something more, that many people involved at the grassroots level dream of – a full-time football career?

Turns out the answer to all those questions is yes. We spoke to some of our We Make Footballers franchisees to find out how their coaching journeys began, what motivates them to run their academies and where they see their careers in football going.

From their answers, here are some of the reasons why football coaches coach.

Helping players to realise their potential

The overriding aim of every football coach is to improve the players they work with. For some children, helping them to realise their potential will lead them into a grassroots team.

For others, it might take them all the way into a professional academy and set them on the path to a career in the sport. That could prove life-changing for both the child and their family.

Just ask Raheem Sterling, who went from skirting away from gangs in London to a full England international whose prospects were utterly transformed by the sport. Or Kyle Walker, who went from Sheffield Council Estate to champion of England at Manchester City. Or any of the other countless examples of players in the professional ranks whose lives might have gone down a very different path had football not come along.

Helping players realise their potential is the reason that Russell Lew set up We Make Footballers Milton Keynes. Russel says there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a player take something you have coached them in practice and use it in a game situation. “We play one-on-ones and two-on-twos during training and when you see somebody do a stepover, a Cruyff Turn or a piece of skill we have been practising in the earlier drills, that just makes me feel good. You feel as though you have made a difference.”

And that difference can take a young player far. We Make Footballers CarshaltonCoulsdon franchisee Simon Karrie speaks with pride of the opportunities that his academy offers players through its links with Crystal Palace and other clubs in the south London area. “It is all little bits of a jigsaw that helps create a pathway for our players,” says Simon. “Top players at our academy, we create pathways for them to get into pro football potentially.”

Marcelo Graca from We Make Footballers Chiswick & Southall speaks with pride of his “Galacticos” who have progressed to professional academies from under his watchful eye. “Matthew Dennis is at Arsenal, Lewis Richards is at Wolves, Richard Olise at Reading, and there are a few more at academies. We have been fortunate enough to work with such a
a talented bunch.”

Marcelo’s own journey into coaching happened almost by accident. “I was asked to referee an Under 7s game and it took me by surprise because of the talent I saw that day, I was gobsmacked. It made me want to enter the world of coaching and have my own impact.”

It is that prospect of having their own impact on the stars of tomorrow and helping them to reach their potential which is why many football coaches take up coaching.

Because football gives a buzz

When Russell talks about the rewarding feeling of seeing one of his players pull off that stepover or Cruyff Turn, you can tell the almighty buzz he gets from it.

That is common across football. For there is no better feeling than the height that comes from coaching. It is a bug that bites you and once you are bitten, it is hard to shake the addiction.

Many coaches stumble into it as Marcelo did, taking up roles because of a lack of volunteers and suddenly finding themselves discovering how much fun grassroots football can be.
We Make Footballers Essex franchisee David Pipe was pushed into coaching when he was only a teenager himself. There has been no looking back from there. “I have been coaching since I was about 15 years old myself,” David explains. “My dad just said ‘Do you fancy coaching?’ one day and I took him up on the offer. I was handed loads of five-year-olds, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I really enjoyed it and got the bug.” David has been coaching grassroots football ever since, including part-time roles at Millwall and Colchester United. The reason he does it is simple – that unbeatable buzz that coaching brings. And now he gets to experience it every day. Setting up his We Make Footballers academy in 2018 allowed David to go full time in football, achieving the dream of many coaches – to turn their love of the game into a career.

To turn their love of football into a career

The prospect of a football career is one of the biggest reasons why football coaches coach. With hard work, determination and the right opportunities, a role that starts as volunteering at a local grassroots club can eventually lead to a full-time career.

Getting into football at a professional level is not easy. For every academy coaching job advertised, clubs expect to receive a minimum of 150 applicants. Some applicants will have BTECs or degrees in sports science. Others might have a Masters or a PhD. The competition is hot.

We Make Footballers can help their franchisees and coaches get their foot in that door. Opportunities to work in coaching and scouting roles for professional clubs arise frequently thanks to the reputation We Make Footballers has across the game.

Simon combines running the Carshalton & Coulsdon Academy with his role as a firefighter. The dream though is to eventually go full time in football, something which he is moving towards.

“The fire brigade takes up 48 hours of my week, so I fit in my franchise basically in and around that. I have been in the firefighter bridage for 12 years and I love my job, it is a great job, however, if I could go full time in football then I would. That is an ambition and a desire of mine to get there.”

“Being involved with We Make Footballers has helped me take the first steps towards transitioning into full-time football, absolutely.”

“From the point of the franchise itself, you can grow and grow and grow and expand. I’ve gone to four classes a week and over 220 students or thereabouts. Obviously, that is endless and you can carry on growing.” 

Turning a We Make Footballers academy into a full-time occupation is one way to launch a career in football. Simon continues: “But there are also the opportunities that have opened up for me with professional football clubs.” 

“I work with Crystal Palace and that has come from We Make Footballers Carshalton & Coulsdon. That would not have happened if I didn’t have my area.”

“It is a good environment not just for my players but also for my coaches as there are pathways into Palace for them if they want to pursue it. And obviously, my own pathway has come from that.”

Marcelo meanwhile has already made the jump to working full time in football: “We Make Footballers and my experiences coaching have enabled me to start scouting, firstly at QPR and now at Tottenham. The two jobs (coaching We Make Footballers and scouting young players) go hand-in-hand.”

To increase knowledge, understanding and gain recognised qualifications

To become a football coach in England, there are a series of qualifications which have to be obtained via the Football Association. These ensure that individuals can give a high level of coaching to players under their tutelage.

Previously, a coach would earn their FA Level 1 and FA Level 2 badges before progressing to UEFA’s qualifications. Recent changes in response to the pandemic however mean that the Introduction to Football Coaching qualification replaced FA Level 1 in 2021. FA Level 2 is now no longer running; the UEFA C Licence will be introduced in 2022 in its place.

The new qualifications feature more independent, remote learning to make them accessible to potential coaches who may not have otherwise had the time to complete the old courses, where physical attendance has been deemed a necessity.

Becoming a coach means passing the qualifications. Passing the qualifications means increasing your knowledge of football. This is a reason for some coaches taking up the role. 

They want to better understand the theories and ideas behind what happens on the pitch and how they are put into practice on the training ground.

We Make Footballers provide franchisees and coaches with in-house, additional training and qualifications, building on their FA and UEFA qualifications and deepening their knowledge of what it takes to be a successful football coach.

David describes the coaching session training he regularly receives to help operate the Essex franchise as “amazing”. The training provided by We Make Footballers does not stop there – off the pitch, franchisees are given help and guidance understanding the business side too.

“Everything is very detailed, from the finance stuff to the admin behind the scenes,” says David. “We had a week or so of training and then great support from head office since then.”

“I can’t count the number of emails I have sent head office but they always respond straight back. It has just been a dream.”

Giving back to the local community and the sport

The role of football in the local community has never been more important. Lockdowns have adversely impacted the physical and mental health of children and budgets were being cut to the bone even before the pandemic.

Physical education in schools is no longer a priority and local councils cannot afford to provide services or maintain facilities. It is a perfect storm having a detrimental effect on the life chances of children.

Football coaching, therefore, gives back to the local community. It provides a means of keeping children fit, active and off the streets. Coaches become role models and mentors who can try and shape the lives of their young players.

Academies provide safe spaces for children to play, exercise and socialise with like-minded children. When football coaches provide such a service, it is not an exaggeration to say that it can be life-changing.

Coaching football does not just give back to local communities. Many coaches take up the role to give back to the sport they love, repaying the fun and enjoyment it has given them.

At some point in a coaches life, they were once the player benefiting from the knowledge and wisdom passed down to them by their own grassroots coach.

Football coaching is cyclical in that way; players become coaches, who coach players who become coaches. Often, the best way to give back to football is by helping to inspire a new generation to love it as much as you have.

To find out more about joining We Make Footballers and taking your own first steps into a rewarding career as a football coach, please see the WMF franchisee website for more details.

The role of a football coach

The role of a football coach is about much more than just football coaching. From session planning to analysis to giving feedback, it is a multi-faceted role with many responsibilities.
Being a We Make Football franchisee adds even more variety to the job. You become your own independent business owner, an entrepreneur changing the lives of children in the local community by off2ering them the chance to learn and grow as footballers and people.
In this article, we are going to look at the different aspects of being a football coach, what each role entails and the responsibilities that come with it.

The football coach

The most important role a football coach has is, well, being a football coach. The preparation starts before the players arrive for training with session planning to ensure that no minute of contact time is wasted.

No two sessions are ever the same, especially when it comes to plotting one-on-one training schedules for players. 

One-on-one training is the best way to improve and develop the skills of an individual as it allows them to work on areas of weakness identified by the coach. 

At the end of every session, a coach then offers feedback to the player on what went well, what did not go well and further guidance on how to improve.

Often, this is the most rewarding aspect of the job. When a training plan devised to improve a player’s ability with their weaker foot, their first touch or their timing of a run comes to fruition, it means the coach has fulfilled their primary responsibility – making a player better.

Every We Make Footballers coach is FA qualified and undergoes further in-house training with specialist WMF qualifications, offering the highest possible level of teaching for coaches to maximise both their own and their players’ potential.

The football analyst

To improve players on an individual level, the best football coaches are excellent analysts. They have a keen eye for detail and will watch each player closely, identifying areas in which an individual can improve. This then feeds into those individual training plans just mentioned. 

The analysis is not just important on a one-to-one level, either. When it comes to managing a team, spotting strengths and weaknesses in the opposition and being able to nullify or take advantage of them can dramatically improve the chances of victory. This brings us nicely onto..

The football manager

Team selection. Position of players. Tactics. All of those come under the role of the football manager, who is ultimately responsible for results. 

Whilst a We Make Footballers franchise may not have to worry too much about these areas at weekly training sessions, they are still developing players to go into teams at the grassroots or professional academy level.

Those players will have a better chance of success if they understand what a manager wants of them. Training is the first opportunity to impart the responsibilities of different roles on the pitch, what different tactical plans entail and to help players understand that everyone on the team has a part to play – even those not in the starting line-up.

The business owner

We Make Footballers franchisees are not just football coaches. They are entrepreneurs too, operating a sustainable business that provides a service to the local community in a growing market where there is always room for expansion.

After three years, a smaller WMF franchisee with over 240 students can turnover up to £96,000. A larger franchisee with more than 400 students has an expected yearly turnover of £149,000.

And what if the business is not a potential franchisee’s strong point? Well, that does not matter either. We Make Footballers provide a dedicated account manager. 

A franchisee gets all the help and advice they need in setting up and operating a business, learning how to become an entrepreneur who is in control of their own lives in the process.

The community leader

Football coaches are community leaders, providing an important service to the local area. And the role of football as a force for good has never been more important.

Lockdowns have deprived children of the chance to stay physically and socially active. Mental health problems in children increased from 10.8 per cent in 2017 to 16 per cent in 2020 according to England’s Mental Health of Children and Young People survey.

Budgets have been stretched by the pandemic, meaning that physical education in schools is not a priority. The local government is struggling to find the cash to provide services and maintain facilities.

Amongst all of this, We Make Footballers academies provide a safe space for playing football, exercising and meeting like-minded children. The benefits to physical and mental health are huge.

Franchisees become community leaders, offering an essential service and one which can genuinely change the lives of young people in their local area.

The inspiring mentor

How often do you hear about football coaches being inspiring mentors for young players? No one who watched Ian Wright’s Home Truths documentary could fail to be moved by the way the former England international striker spoke about his primary school football teacher, Sydney Pigden.

Mr Pigden was the man who helped Wright get into football. Without his coaching and mentorship, Wright would never have gone on to make it as a professional. He would never have become Arsenal’s record scorer. And he would never have represented his country.

That is the power and the role that a football coach has. They can change lives through sport. They provide the opportunity for children to do something they love once a week and who knows where that can lead? In Wright’s case, it was to pull on the Three Lions at Wembley.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a We Make Footballers franchise, inspiring the next generation of English football talent and making a real difference to your local community, then please see the WMF franchisee website for more details.