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Coaching at Grassroots level in the present day

Grassroots coaches are the unsung heroes of football - Diamond Football gained some insight into what it is like to coach at that level. This is what we found.

The lack of English players playing at top level clubs has been highlighted as a major concern by the professionals, fans and the FA. The UK's attitude towards the development of young players has been blamed.

But is there really any problem with the way we develop our youngsters? If so, who is to blame and what needs to change?

We spoke with a collection of football coaches at Grassroots level to gather some insight into the current state of football at that level. Our aim was to establish whether the FA does enough for lower-level clubs and understand the UK's coaching culture.

It seems there is a major difference between the support provided by local FAs and what the national FA gives our Grassroots clubs. Local institutions are extremely helpful; providing coaching courses and even organising open days for the clubs to recruit new players. On the other hand, coaches deem what the FA provides as insufficient; stating they provide little and grants such as "Grow the Game" barely cover basic start up costs.

Although the coaches that we interviewed view the FA Level 1 and 2 Coaching Courses in high regard, the price of these courses is off-putting. Con Moore, a youth football manager, believes if the FA  offered the courses (at the aformentioned levels only) for free it would offer a solution to the predicament of getting more "high level coaches coaching youngsters".

Its not only at Grassroots level that the FA falls short when developing young British players. Neil Cameron, an FA coach and founder of LV Football, believes that both the FA and top-level clubs are to blame for the lack of English players performing in the Premiership. He offers some interesting ideas on how this issue can be addressed. Firstly, a rule or cap on the amount of non-English players of a certain age coming through academies. Along with this, better links between top level and grassroots clubs with a representative put in place to "bridge the gap".

The FA and other thought-leaders in the English game have spoken out about the negative effect competitive games can have on young children. Although the coaches have different views on competitive matches, they all see the "win at all costs" mentality adopted by some coaches and parents as the most damaging ethos to player development.

In stark contrast to the "win at all costs" philosophy that has consumed English football at every level for the past 15 years, the coaching culture in England is transforming into one similar to what you find in other European countries and South America. The belief in "development over winning" means players are encouraged to have more of the ball and training is skill-focused.

This philosophy is being adopted all over the country but these things take time. Look at the successful development programs from other countries admired by our coaches such as Belgium, Spain and Germany - the groundwork began decades before their national sides started achieving success.

In conclusion, the FA need to look at ways of making their courses more cost-effective for coaches. On top of this, a new infrastructure needs to be implemented which ensures a better relationship between lower and top-level.

All in all, however, Grassroots football and the development of young English players does seem to be moving in the right direction. Patience is key as results will not happen overnight - but, at least, there is now evidence of a change in mentality in most coaches.

Like Scott from Valley Juniors FC says,"Lets be the judge in 10 years or so.".

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