Every month Club Website features one grassroots football coach and gives them a platform to wax lyrical about the beautiful game. Drop us a line and you could be next! In the spotlight this month…
Name: Francis Charles
Club: BAC/EE Preston Junior Football Club
Position: 2013/14 U10s Assistant Manager
Coaching Qualifications: FA Level One
Number of Years Coaching: Two
Affiliated FA: Lancashire FA
Why did you want to become a football coach?
My brothers were successful football coaches at amateur level, and also coaches to their sons. The youngest of my brothers son has made a name for himself, having appeared for Northern Ireland u19s and most recently the under 20s in the 2013 Milk Cup. He Also plays for Blackpool, currently at the time of writing, their No. 34 Dion Charles.
How did you get into coaching?
I started coaching as most do, my son plays for the team I am now a coach for. For the first Season, I was merely a spectator. But for the second season, and in the absence of the assistant one day, I began warming up the boys when they was u8’s, and my involvement just continued from there, it wasn’t long before The teams manager and parents alike noticed how comfortable I was, and how much I enjoyed it, therefore they approached me about carrying on, before eventually the manager invited me to come on board as his assistant.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
I like a constantly balanced and controlled game, As I believe true skill and quality comes from those that know exactly what and when they are doing something, and play football like they are guarding their life.
Who or what has most influenced you as a coach?
I’ve had numerous interests as a coach, as explained earlier, my brothers love of the game rubbed off on me. But the most recent influence is Pep Guardiola. He demands a very similar type of football that I do myself. Only his game is too overly balanced on possession and being an all-out attacking/defensive unit.
What skills does a grassroots football coach most require?
In my opinion, a grassroots coach’s main skill must be that of a family man/woman. These are children we are dealing with. Therefore, he/she must also remember that not only is he/she to be a mentor showing them the world of football, But he/she must also be a fantastic role model, and be able to identify outside issues that may affect a child’s development.
What are the most frequent challenges / hurdles you have to overcome as a grassroots coach?
For me, Players Parents/Family play a big role. They may not always see your intention, and in some cases, the only way to open their eyes to what it is you are trying to achieve, is to show them.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get the time and backing to do so.
It is also their behaviour in relation to football that plays a huge role in the development of the children.
What is your favourite coaching drill and why?
My favourite drill is a game we like to call chasers, two teams of 5 going round a square in the same direction decided at the start of each round, completing 1-touch 1-2-3 passes before dribbling along to the next corner where their awaiting team mate continues the 1-2-3 touch passing sequence. The round ends when one team catches up to the other team.
It’s my favourite drill because it’s not just about on the ball co-ordination, as their off the ball duties are just as important, as it mentally prepares them for in match situations.
What sort of environment do you create for your team and how do you create it?
I like to take a balanced approach, focusing on any holes that have been exposed during our last game whilst at the same time maintaining a fun atmosphere so the boys enjoy what it is we are trying to achieve. At the same time I like to keep them sharp where every player is involved as near to 100% as possible, as I feel not touching the ball at least once per minute is more of an attendance than an achievement!”
When judging a player, what are the top five attributes you look for?
Balance. Control. Vision. Strength. Speed. In exactly that order. Because the latter will also develop in time with the previous attribute.
You have qualified for an FA Youth Award. How important is it that youth football coaches receive education geared specifically towards youth coaching?
Very important of course, but I also feel an insight into the psychological aspects of youths in specific age groups would go a very long way into developing youth football in England. If you know how they think, that’s half the battle won for you.
What do you think of the FA’s new approach to youth football as a result of the Youth Development Review?
Personally I’m all for it. I was a late starter with football, I think I was about 12 when I first played for a school team, then my abilities just exploded into light from there. Until then even whilst starting, I thought it was a lot to take in!
Winning; Enjoyment; Development – As a grassroots coach, in what order do you prioritise these three aspects of football and why?
Development; Enjoyment; Winning.
I’d just like to add, each child loves something different than the last about football. Therefore it would be impossible to develop a child on enjoyment alone. Some things need to be taught that at times some children don’t like!
With this in mind, should all young footballers get the same amount of game time regardless of their ability and why?
I’m 50/50 on this one, because playing a child to make them feel comfortable could also have adverse effect, and ruin their confidence completely. Again, not all children are the same.
What did you think of Lancashire FA’s recent Silent Weekend and did it change how you think about coaching during matches?
I thought it went really well. The opposition we encountered on the day had not enrolled on the Silent weekend, so we only got 50% of the experience. But for what we saw from our side, it was difficult but beneficial. I feel it is an absolute necessity that we trust in our players and allow them to express themselves A LOT MORE!
Let’s face it, how can you develop a player to the best of his ability when the player is not being allowed to be himself because we are more caught up in the heat of the competition?
It has changed my views to a degree in that I allow my players to express themselves a lot more than before, and as a result they are starting to shine that little bit brighter. But at the same time I also learned that these are children and still need the correct guidance, therefore we have to find a fine balance!
What is the best thing about being a grassroots coach?
I missed my chance when I was younger through injury, and I do believe I had a psychological edge with speed and ability and a great social background to back it up. Unfortunately, a late introduction for me spurred few chances. So the best thing for me is knowing that there is a chance that any one of the children I teach could achieve what I could not!
I hope my son is one of them.
Five aside – a few quickfire questions
Describe yourself as a coach in three words: Firm. Fair. Funny.
What professional manager/coach are you most like: Pep Guardiola, I prefer balanced & controlled football.
If you could add any footballer (past or present) to your team: Jay-Jay Okocha – everything I look for in a player! He’s sharp, keeps the ball moving, maintains 100% control and he’s not afraid to try new things.
Describe your perfect team in one sentence: Confident in the abilities of their team mates, happy to and able to play one touch football, forming triangles of play between them but who also stay on their feet and are aware of their duties to stop the opposition from playing in their comfort zone.
Your proudest moment as a grassroots football coach: Being promoted as under-9s Championship runners-up in my first season and winning the under-10s Premier Division this season (my second season), plus reaching the cup finals.
Your say – what do you think of Francis’ approach?
We know what makes Francis tick as a coach, but now we’d love to hear from you! Leave your comments below with feedback, questions or just to further the debate. Agree or disagree, let’s be having you!
If you’d like to be featured in a future Meet the Coach column, please email your name, contact number, location and details of your coaching qualifications to firstname.lastname@example.org.