Developing Excellent Youth Coaches

Written By John Allpress, FA National Player Development Coach and reproduced from TheFA.Com

Many comments or questions that I am asked by youth coaches are usually centred on problems they don’t understand or can’t solve.

The FA Youth Award Level 3 is designed to equip coaches of children and young players with those necessary understandings, and so it is important that more coaches are encouraged to take up the challenge of the award.

In order to do that, I have outlined the big messages from the FA Youth Award Level 3 in the hope it will highlight how it will help you to become the confident, organised, effective and successful youth coach you would like to be.

Module 1

Creating the right learning environment – patience is key.

What messages do you give out as a coach? Think about:

  • Behaviour
  • Body language
  • Verbal Language – using ‘I’ language such as “I understand if…I want you to try this…”
  • Praising effort – e.g. ‘trying your best’ is under the players’ control BUT ‘doing your best’ is not
  • Relaxed – ‘trial and error’ approach – not be fearful to experiment and have a go at new stuff

Module 2

Design the right game or practice to support players’ learning needs and get the returns you want.

Remember the three “R’s”– Relevance, Repetition, Realism

  • For learning how to play football – directional practices with offside or elements of offside are best
  • Players learning in an integrated way – blending the skills required into the decisions that have to be made in the game they are learning to play

Remember – ‘Live it to learn it!’

Module 3

  • Set the right challenge(s) or task(s) e.g. Try to let the ball run across your body and play forward
  • Ask the right question(s) to support the challenge e.g. how will the pass you receive help you? How many touches do you need? How will you see when to make the pass?
  • Give the players the opportunity to evaluate their performance either as part of the review process or in the MOVIE – encourage and promote curiosity with questions such as these:
  1. When does it work?
  2. Why does it work?
  3. What’s stopping you and how can you (we) solve it?
  4. How can it be better?
  5. What can I try next?
  6. What are the hard bits?


What distinguishes the best youth coaches from the rest? The best understand their players and their needs – technically, tactically, psychologically, socially and physically.

What young players want:

  • To take responsibility for their learning
  • To be treated with respect
  • To play the real game so they get real things to explore
  • To have choice in what, where, when and how they are learn
  • The challenge of getting their teeth into difficult but not demoralising things and to experience the satisfaction of making progress
  • To get together and collaborate
  • To discuss, copy, struggle and learn in others’ company

Changes within you as a coach and person take time and effort. On the whole they happen gradually and often come about unnoticed by you nor by, somewhat more significantly, others, especially your players.

Try not to get dismayed by setbacks and always remember when things go well. Remember you are in control of your behaviour and you have a choice as to how you deal with the players in your care.

So why not start today? Become the coach you want to be.

This article appears on The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club website. For information about accessing the site and becoming a Licensed Coach please visit: The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club Website

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