On a cold Wednesday morning at their New Eltham training ground, Charlton Athletic’s Apprentices spent the day helping each other get through the Final Assessment of their FA Level 2 Coaching Certificate.
Having spent the last few months coaching at the Club’s Academy and learning from PFA Coach Phil Church, the challenge was to now show that they too had acquired the skills to lead a variety of different sessions.
Once first-team veteran Jason Euell had been put through his paces taking charge of a finishing practice (which he passed) it was over to centre-back Harry Osbourne to lead the group through a defensive drill focussed on delaying and jockeying attackers.
Mark Newcombe, the assessor from Kent FA who also coaches at Crystal Palace Academy, was looking for Harry and the rest of the Charlton lads to stop their sessions and give information when it its needed as well as demonstrations to highlight what they want from their peers.
“It’s a challenge for the boys to coach their peer group and it can be a problem,” admitted Newcombe.
“We know these lads know the game and can play but they need to bring the information out. They need to paint a picture so the players know what they want from them in a task. At this age, shyness is a major challenge.”
Newcombe was happy with Harry’s efforts and passed him. Midfielder Bradley Jordan was up next and as he set his session up I asked Harry how he felt his had gone.
“It went okay – better than I thought it would. The hardest thing is controlling these kids!! It’s easier when I was coaching the young kids in the Academy they listen more and are more enthusiastic.”
Charlton Education and Welfare Officer Joe Francis has overseen the boys’ placements this season and sees the fruits of their labour.
“This year we got the lads paired up with an Academy coach each to deliver in the evenings at our Academy sessions. They’ve done six sessions with the kids and loved it. George Howard is working with goalkeepers in the Academy and is now going to do his Goalkeeping badges.”
PFA Regional Coach Phil Church was himself an Apprentice at Norwich City but did not make it as a professional and instead began a career in coaching that took him to West Ham United and now the players’ union:
“Different Clubs do the coaching award in different degrees but the ones that schedule sessions with their academies or centres of excellence get the most out of it.”
“About 90 per cent of the Apprentices pass first time – those that fail tend to fail because they haven’t gained enough coaching experience. They haven’t done the hours.”
“Apprentices already have the knowledge and I give them enough information to pass the final assessment but they have to go out there and coach.”
“If they don’t get a professional career as a player, coaching is an option. They won’t all be good at it but they will have a lot more skills to do that than be a postman or a milkman.”
Francis has seen the benefits at first-hand with several of Charlton’s former Apprentices now working as coaches:
“Four out of the last seven Apprentices we released are now coaching for a living. There are more Charlton Athletic products coaching football now than doing any other job – Alex Stavrinou is playing at Ebbsfleet but coaching in the daytime, Ben Davisson is coaching on Friday nights at a Coerver centre at Tunbridge, and Sam Long has his own coaching business.”
“That’s how important it is that these lads not only pass their award but learn about how to coach and hopefully love it. They haven’t often got the social skills needed to be a good coach at 17 but by the time they’re 19 or 20 we can see if they’ve matured enough to do it. We’re creating a legacy from the coaching certificate.”
Church, who runs coaching courses through London and the South East, also works with first team players like Euell.
“We run courses for pro players throughout the year. We’ve got three or four Level 2 courses for pro players with about 20 on each one – for example, there are three or four senior pros at Gillingham doing it.”
“A lot of the courses run in the summer, between seasons. That’s when we do the UEFA B courses. The numbers of pros wanting to get their coaching badges is going up and up – not just because you have to have them now but also because coaching is seen as sexy now, it’s all about Mourinho, AVB and all that!”
So back to Harry Osbourne: he has already got a professional contract at The Valley but can see himself coaching at some stage.
“I think I will coach in future, either after my career or if I’m playing part-time. It fits in really well with playing semi-pro and I quite enjoy it!”