Forget fear – why failure is something our young English players should embrace and learn from

Fear of failure has hung heavy overall levels of English football for many years. Never was it more obvious than when England reached the knockout stages of a major tournament and some of the best players in the world become crippled by the pressure, unable to deliver the sorts of performances they regularly turned out for their club sides?

England’s Golden Generation could not get beyond the quarter-finals of Euro 2004 or the 2006 World Cup. They froze against Portugal both times, especially when confronted with the dreaded penalty shoot-out, which every Englishman feared above anything else.

At Euro 2016, the fear of failure meant that England was eliminated in the round of 16 without even making it as far as spot-kicks. The underdogs of Iceland played with freedom, knowing that nobody expected them to knock out England’s millionaires.

The moment that Iceland took their 2-1 lead, England became paralysed with fear. Nobody was willing to take the risks necessary to get the Three Lions back in the game, in case their risk-taking went wrong. At a time when England needed the inspiration to deal a blow to the plucky underdogs, nobody in white was able or willing to provide it.

Thankfully, a change in the way that English football approaches and deals with fear have been ongoing for some time at a grassroots level. Whereas in the past a mistake would result in punishment, mockery, and embarrassment, now it is encouraged as something to learn from.

Creating a generation of footballers who are willing to take risks and become better as a result will ultimately mean the crippling fear that England showed against Iceland becomes a thing of the past. 

We have already seen it beginning to disappear. England played with previously unseen freedom in reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and then the final of Euro 2020. Players like Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka were encouraged to take risks and express themselves on the biggest stage.

We Make Footballers want their franchisees to continue to produce a fearless nation of talent who view failure as an opportunity to bounce back. There should be no fear of making a mistake because mistakes are how we learn what works and what does not.

In all walks of life, failure is necessary for growth. Whether it be missing out on a promotion at work, being pipped on the line in a running race or failing an exam, when failure strikes, we should analyse why and learn from it. Failure is an opportunity rather than an ending.

Imagine you are coaching two young football players. One is fearless and willing to try anything. Shooting with their weaker foot, a Maradona Turn in a tight position, playing out from the back even when being pressed. 

They know that there is a chance that it might go wrong. But they know that if it does, it is an opportunity to learn. They might not hit the target but they will learn that next time, they should take a touch onto their stronger foot.

The Maradona Turn could prove to be the wrong option when there was an easier pass back up the line. And there are occasions when you need to put your foot through it rather than attempt to keep possession.

Failing in any of these given scenarios helps a player grow. Players who embrace the prospect of failure with a willingness to learn from their mistakes will ultimately benefit in the long run as they discover ways to achieve success.

Now imagine the other player. They are petrified of making a mistake. As a result, their body is tense whenever they play. They cannot relax through fear and are subsequently stifled.

In a game situation, they will only ever try things they know they are capable of. Nothing out of the ordinary, like a bicycle kick or a chest back to their goalkeeper under immense pressure, for fear of embarrassment or the reaction, if it goes wrong.

It is the same on the training pitch. They will not stretch themselves or do anything challenging because of the anxiety of it ending badly.

Out of those two players, the only one who is going to have a chance of fulfilling their potential is the one who is willing to fail, dust themselves down and try again.

The other will never progress because you cannot progress if you are too scared to try something new for fear of it not going your way.

We Make Footballers franchisees create an environment where there is no fear of failure. When there is a culture in place whereby failure is accepted as part of the process rather than a big deal, then fear evaporates. 

No child at a We Make Footballers academy will feel like that second player because mistakes are there to be learnt from, rather than punished. You can never get better unless you push yourself with challenges that might end in failure.

Take weightlifting for example. If a weightlifter just lifts the same weight over and over again, they are never going to get stronger and progress to lifting something heavier. 

To successfully lift the next weight, they have to practice at it – and more than likely, fail several times – before it becomes achievable.

A good football coach finds a way to stretch their players with achievable targets. As the weightlifter progresses, they would not suddenly quadruple the amount they were lifting.

Likewise, in football a certain amount of failure – but never so much as to make the player give up – will ultimately lead to success. We Make Footballers franchisees are taught how to get this balance right so that they can help their payers reach their potential.

Our stated mission at We Make Footballers is to contribute to England becoming the best footballing nation on the planet, creating a better football experience for all and resulting in a World Cup win.

Franchisees across the country helping remove the fear of failure from young players is one way to move towards that.

 

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.

 

Which Is the Best Country in the World to Play Football In?

Which Is the Best Country in the World to Play Football In?

As the most popular sport in the world, football unites people across countries, languages and cultures. And there is no shortage of countries producing players and teams at the very top of the game. But, if there were a league table of the best countries in the world to be a football player (or, indeed, coach!), which country would come out on top?

We decided to find out.

We’re not just talking about actual match performance here, although that’s obviously important! We know which countries tend to do well at the big tournaments. We’re talking about funding, climate, history and more. All of these things come into creating the right environment for football to thrive. 

Using data from a range of sources, including FIFA and the World Happiness Index, we looked at the following metrics:

  • Climate (sunshine hours per year)
  • FIFA ranking (men’s and women’s)
  • Stadium capacity
  • Number and age of clubs
  • Top-flight revenue
  • Salary
  • World Happiness Index score
  • Cost of living

We assigned each a value out of 10 and then compiled the results into our league tables. 

And the Winner Is…

It should come as no surprise to us that, taking all the above criteria into account, the winner is… England! 

Despite not having the best performance at the international level, or indeed the best climate (shocking, we know), England’s unsurpassed footballing heritage and culture, the capacity of its stadiums and the revenue of its top flight clubs all helped push it to the top of the table. With both the highest stadium capacity, and the highest number of domestic clubs, as well as being the home of the world’s oldest football club, England really is at the top of the beautiful game.

Germany comes in a close second, followed by Spain, France and Brazil. Here’s the top 10:

Image showing a league table ranking footballing countries by FIFA ranking, culture & heritage, climate & lifestyle. England is at the top.

Interesting Takeaways

When it comes to actual footballing performance (using FIFA’s ranking), our top 2 actually fall down the list. That said, Germany’s women’s ranking is excellent. The top-ranked countries here are Brazil (men’s) and USA (women’s). 

Topping our climate and lifestyle league table was Australia. With its hours and hours of sunshine and laid-back lifestyle, it’s perhaps not surprising. Denmark’s happiness index score and high average salary puts it at number 2, while Germany comes in at 3. 

Image showing a league table ranking footballing countries by climate & lifestyle. Australia is at the top.

England isn’t even in the top 10, however, this just goes to show that we don’t let a little thing like the great British weather stand in our way to footballing glory! 

Brazil is the richest footballing country, coming top for revenue, with England and Germany not far behind, while in terms of footballing history, England is miles ahead. With nine out of ten of the first football clubs in the world having been founded in England (Sheffield FC is the oldest, founded around 1857 for those wondering), it’s hardly surprising. The oldest non-British club is Kjøbenhavns Boldklubb, from Denmark, founded in 1876.

England also has the highest number of domestic clubs (a whopping 942), followed by France with 636, Germany with 366, Spain with 265 and Italy with 177. 

Image showing a league table ranking countries by footballing culture and heritage. England is at the top.

England vs Germany… Again

Paying homage to the decades-old footballing rivalry between England and Germany, we also took a tongue-in-cheek look at the top two, putting them head to head once again in a battle of the footballing greats. As you can see, it’s a close run thing, but, as in the Euros semi finals, England wins out. For once, this one didn’t have to go to penalties…

Visual showing comparison between England and Germany as footballing countries, in a vintage poster-style

Sources:

FIFA Men’s ranking

FIFA Women’s ranking

World Happiness Index

Cost of living

Sunshine hours

Oldest football clubs

Number of clubs

Salary info by country

Coaching kids vs coaching adults – What is the difference?

The sport might be football and the aim might still be to put the round thing in the back of the net, but there are some significant differences when it comes to coaching kids and coaching adults.

When coaching adults, you are dealing with people who have already had a football upbringing. Their approach and attitudes are already shaped, meaning that the adult football coach is either refining a player or trying to remould them.

Children are more of a blank canvas. The youth football coach can impart ideas and skills on impressionable young minds, setting them on their way to football passion and who knows, maybe even stardom?

We have taken a look at five ways differences between coaching adults and coaching kids.

 

Prioritising the love of football over learning about football

 

When working with adults, the priority is to improve those players you work with. Adults already have a love of the game and enjoy playing football, otherwise, they would not dedicate their spare time towards running around and kicking a ball.

Coaches working with children have a far bigger responsibility than just developing skills and abilities. Yes, creating good players is important. More important though is helping children fall in love with football. 

For many kids, their first experience of organised football will come during their coaching sessions. It is no exaggeration to say that their future relationship with the game can be shaped and formed within a few months by how much enjoyment they get from playing the game.

Those coaching youth football have the opportunity to leave a legacy by fostering a passion for football within their players which lasts for the rest of the child’s life. Conversely, if a coach gives them a bad experience then it could be enough to put a child off football. The responsibility is therefore huge.

Only a tiny proportion of children will go on to become professionals or make a career out of football. Any boy or girl no matter what their ability level can be encouraged to have a lifelong affinity to football, however.

A successful youth football coach is never judged on how many of his players make it into the Premier League, the EFL or the higher reaches of the Non-League scene.

The best contribution a coach can make is by encouraging hundreds of kids to have an interest in the sport – which is why prioritising love over learning is so important when it comes to coaching kids’ football.

Coaching youth football requires greater inclusivity

 

Coaching an adult club generally involves working with a group of players who have similar experiences and abilities, hence why they are on the same team. 

That can make session planning easier. There is not such a broad spectrum of individuals who need to be catered for, meaning that a coach can deploy a one size fits all approach to the players being worked with.

Youth football is very different and that means that coaches need to be more inclusive. There will often be a vast disparity in ability between the best players in the group and the less-able.

Some may have been kicking a ball around from the moment they could walk; others might be taking their first steps into a world of formal practice and training.

When coaching kids, attention must be paid to every individual child. Coaches have to cater for various levels of skill, knowledge and even motivation. 

And going back to the earlier point about prioritising love over learning, the best way to both improve and foster a child’s enjoyment of football is to give them the focus they need. 

That is the reason that We Make Footballers place so much importance on one-on-one training and the benefits it can bring to their academies.

Focussing on every individual can make coaching youth football harder work than coaching adults. It would be wrong to try and suggest otherwise.

But when a coach sees a player master the art of scoring goals with their weaker foot or Cruyff turning their way out of a tight spot because of the hours that coach has put in helping that child, the greater inclusivity required becomes all worth it.

Listen to feedback – from children and parents

Feedback is important whether you are coaching adults or kids. When working with adults, it can inform what has worked in a session and what has not. 

This can then be used to inform what happens in future so that a coach can make improvements and attempt to get the best out of their players.

When working with children, feedback becomes even more vital. The best youth football coaches are those who take the adult glasses off and see the world through the eyes of a child. That gives them a better idea of what will work when coaching the young players under their charge.

Of course, getting into the mindset of a child is easier said than done. Listening to what kids liked or did not like about their football training sessions is therefore the best way to bridge the generational divide and understand how to better work with players.

As well as children, youth football coaches have another invaluable source of feedback available to the parents. Some coaches might seem pushy, interfering with parents as an irritant or barrier to what the coach is trying to do with their players.

And whilst it is true that some parents can be difficult, at the end of the day they want the same as the coach – the best for their kids. 

Parents can pass on feedback in the form of what their child has said about recent sessions, as well as what they have been working on in the back garden or up the park away from coaching. 

If used correctly, parents provide eyes and ears for the coach beyond the limited access that a coach has with the child. This can help them better plan for the individual. 

Fostering a positive relationship with parents and seeking feedback from adults as well as children can benefit everyone involved with the coaching children process.

Competition is used in a developmental way

Competition has been a frequent source of controversy in youth football for many years now. In adult football, the need for it is fairly clear-cut – adults play football because they enjoy it, but also to experience that winning feeling that comes with success. You need competition for that.

In kid’s football, competition should be harnessed differently. It serves as a source of motivation to improve skill levels and can be a lot of fun, so long as too much emphasis is not placed on winning.

There is another important side to the competition which children benefit from experiencing – losing. A controlled amount of failure teaches kids as much as winning; both in the need to work hard to get better and avoid defeat next time and in terms of learning about fairness, respect and sportsmanship.

Nobody goes through football – or life for that matter – without experiencing setbacks. Whereas in adult football the aim is to avoid losing, in children’s football it is no bad thing for the long term benefits it brings. 

Competition is important for both adults and children, but very different reasons.

Youth coaches are helping make people as well as players

Playing football benefits children across all areas of life, not just sports. Children who attend We Make Footballers learn about the importance of exercise for their physical and mental health. 

They develop social skills and make friends through a shared common interest in football. Listening to and learning from a coach helps children become disciplined and respectful. Football helps children understand the progress that can be made and the value of hard work.

Coaches become mentors and inspirations. Weekly football coaching sessions keep kids occupied, off the street and out of trouble. That element of youth football is particularly important at a time when budgets are being cut and children are finding themselves left behind.

This is arguably the biggest difference between coaching adults and coaching kids. For adults, the football experience given to them by a coach is just that – a football experience.

For kids, football coaching can teach them lessons and instil in them attitudes and characteristics that last for life. A youth football coach is making people, not just footballers. 

Think you have what it to takes to coach youth football? To find out more about becoming a youth football coach with We Make Footballers, please see the We Make Footballers franchise website.

 

 

 

What makes a good football coaching session?

Every football coach knows that the key to a good coaching session is planning and organisation. Most of the work that goes into a successful hour of training is done in the days leading up to it. The best coaches will have already completed the session on paper and in their heads before they even set foot on the pitch.

But how do you go about planning a good football coaching session? When you sit down to begin putting practice together, ask yourself the five w’s – What, Who, Where, When and Why – and you will not go far wrong.

What?

The starting point for planning a good football coaching session is what the coach wants their players to achieve during their time with them.

Football coaching is ultimately all about improvements, so then what should always be based on areas that a coach has identified in which their players can be improved, either on an individual level or as a team.

Deciding the focus of the training session comes from observations and analysis of recent practices or games. A coach may have noticed that when their team wins back possession, they are often a little too slow when counter-attacking to take advantage.

Improving their abilities on the counter will therefore increase the chances of scoring goals and winning games. The coach subsequently dedicates that week’s training session to quick, incisive football designed to make their players more capable of exploiting counter-attacking opportunities.

On an individual level, the coach will identify weaknesses in their players’ games and look to work on them. Shooting with a weaker foot, long-range passing or standing up an opponent are all examples of areas in which a coach may feel an individual player can improve.

This then filters into tailored one-on-one practice drills for players. We Make Footballers believe that training individuals in a one-on-one environment accelerate their rate of improvement by focussing more on the needs of each child. 

That all stems from the what, making it one of the most important of the five w’s which make up a good football coaching session.

Who?

Once the coach has identified what they want to achieve from their training session, the next area to consider is who is central to this? As they will need to be given relevant roles in drills and practices.

To use the example of improving a team’s counter-attacking abilities again, this is what makes a good football coaching session when the coach would identify that the players who win back possession are vital in terms of starting the counter. 

The success of a break-in football comes from how quickly a team can get the ball into a dangerous position to punish opponents before they can reorganise and recover defensively.

In a coaching session designed to improve a team’s counter-attacking ability, ball winners would be coached to get their heads up as soon as possible to pick a forward pass. 

This may require the ability to play 20 or 30-yard passes that slice through opponents; a skill that the coach may ask their players to work on individually.

At the other end of the move, the centre forwards who are charged with putting the ball in the back of the net need to have specific finishing abilities.

The breakneck speed that a counterattack needs to succeed often means that the final action is a one-touch finish. Strikers who practice first time finishing will be more likely to put away the opportunity created by a counter.

After identifying the key players in what the coaching session is aiming to achieve, the coach can then work out how to fit the rest of the team around it. 

Midfield players or wingers too can benefit from being coached about counter-attacking football as it will require them to improve their speed of thought and their ability to play accurate passes quickly. 

Defenders can learn from attempting to stop the counter from being successful, better preparing them for when they face the tactic themselves in a match situation.

Every session put on by We Make Footballers aims to improve every child there. The who identifies exactly which skill or area an individual will focus on, enabling goals to be set for them accordingly.

Where?

Once the aim of the coaching session has been established and the roles of each player in it, the coach should ask themselves where on the pitch is the drill taking place and how can the location be used to improve performance? This then informs the layout of the practice.

Take playing out from the back for example. The coach may have identified that his team are not entirely comfortable passing the ball around the backline. 

To improve this, they can take their defensive players and put them into a drill whereby they are tasked with keeping possession between them, whilst being pressed by attackers.

There are then two elements to the wherein this coaching session. The first is where would such an action take place in a game? The answer to that is the defensive third, so the coach runs the drill there whilst explaining how players can use visual signposts like the frame of the goal and the penalty box to judge how much space they have and assess their options.

The second element is by implementing a where that is more difficult than the players would face in a game situation. Once more comfortable playing across the back in the defensive third, the coach can squeeze up the space and ask his players to keep possession inside their box.

Suddenly, the drill becomes more challenging and requires a higher level of skill. Once mastered through coaching and practice, the players will find it even easier playing out from the back in their defensive third a match situation.

The use of space and specific areas of the pitch helps build player technique and knowledge. The where reflects that, allowing the coach to improve individual ability and awareness.

When?

When in a match situation does the coaching session topic tend to occur? Different phases of the game are played out under different conditions and attempting to replicate those in training is important if drills are to be realistic and have an impact in-game situations.

More counter-attacking tends to be done towards the end of games as they become more open. Players might be fine breaking at pace, playing quick and accurate passes when they are fresh at the start of a session.

That though is not reminiscent of the tiredness and fatigue they would feel towards the end of a match. The coach would therefore want them practising under similar conditions, learning how to cope with playing effective counter-attacking football when energy reserves may be depleted.

Timing can also be used to impart a style of play on a team or show players the importance of a particular tactic.

To most, Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpress style which has brought so much success to Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund is characterised by relentless pressing. There is more to it than that though.

One of the most important elements is the way Klopp sides hunt for a second goal immediately after scoring a first. A lot of teams will score and then take their foot off the pedal for a period, either to bask in their glory or focus on “Let’s keep it tight now”, as one of the more frequent Sunday League shouts goes.

Klopp instead wants his side to kill the game off straight away. The intensity rises after the first goal as his players go looking to instantly add to their total, further demoralising opponents who are already reeling from having just conceded.

This style of football can be replicated in training. The coach could run an attack versus defence drill whereby the attack has five minutes to score as many goals as possible. 

Five minutes of relentless work to help drill into players that intensity and determination can take a match away from an opponent, even in such a small period. Focussing on the when can be the difference between winning and not winning.

Why?

Finally, the coach should ask themselves why are they doing all this? Whilst it is important for the coach to understand the purpose behind the session, it is even more so that it is communicated to the players.

When a coach explains before a session the areas to be worked on and the purpose of it, players understand what is expected of them. They know why they are working towards a set of objectives and they can analyse their roles and share in the process of improvement.

We Make Footballers view the why as a particularly important component of the coaching process. The best way to fulfilling their commitment to improving every child is by equipping each child with the knowledge of what it is they need to work on and how they can do so.

Players are ultimately responsible for what happens when they step onto the pitch. The coach’s responsibility is to best prepare their players for every eventuality, giving them the tools they need towards having the best possible chance of success.

That starts with a good coaching session. Follow the five w’s in the planning process and you will already be onto a winner.

To find out more about coaching with We Make Footballers and improving the footballing abilities and lives of children in your local area, please see the We Make Footballers franchise 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.