Coaching football is a complex activity, requiring a wide array of different skills. But there are several simple measures that all coaches — new and experienced — can take in order to improve. Below, PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright examines some of the most important aspects of football coaching, and offers practical advice for coaches seeking to improve the way they work with their players.


In This Article

Understanding Coaching

A key step to becoming a better coach is understanding what coaching football entails. “I think of it, first and foremost, as helping to develop humans,” says Wright. “This is a human activity, with human complexity — and we’re trying to help people improve at whatever they’re doing.

“Our job is to create learning environments where there’s trust and openness, and where people can take risks, fail, and succeed while learning.”

Ultimately, our effectiveness as coaches depends upon our ability to build relationships, which, in turn, helps us to know our players, identify their needs, and construct training programmes that meet those needs.

Building Relationships

In order to build trust with people and help them develop, we must form positive relationships with them. “It comes down to knowing individuals and understanding the dynamics around the players,” explains Wright. “In coaching, it’s easy to fixate on the tactical side, but we’re increasingly appreciating that the soft skills — for instance, being able to build relationships with players — are more important.

“To act on this, we have to invest time, constantly have conversations away from the field (about things besides football), learn as much as possible about the people we’re working with, and make them feel valued.”

A central tenet of this approach is the appreciation that coaching is about the players, not us; our role is not simply to instruct, but to empower our players and support them on their learning journey.

“Like many other areas of coaching, this requires us to remove our own ego,” says Wright. “Similarly, we should be prepared to accept when we don’t know something — then, we’re on a shared learning journey with our players, and we’re all improving as people.

“I believe it’s vital that coaches have that absolute curiosity and desire to learn. You must always want to improve — which is a message we consistently promote at PDP.”

Embracing Education

To optimise our learning, we must first understand our own strengths and weaknesses, and then target our improvement at specific areas. “You have to know what you’re good at, and continually stretch yourself and your strengths, but also understand that you have weaknesses, and that that’s okay,” says Wright. “Then, by understanding your strengths, you can strive to be the best at what you do well.”

Further to this, Wright encourages coaches to actively seek different experiences and learning opportunities: “Informal learning is the main part of the journey. Try to put yourself in different scenarios; work with different age groups and colleagues, and at different clubs.

“Players need exposure to different opportunities and experiences, and coaches do too. In fact, I think it’s a critical part of coach development.”

In Summary: The Keys to Coaching Football

  • Coaching football is a human activity, centred upon developing people.
  • To be an effective coach, we must build relationships with our players and make them feel valued.
  • We should strive to put our egos aside and focus on the needs of the players we coach.
  • To develop as coaches, we must understand our strengths and weaknesses, and constantly endeavour to learn and improve.

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