As mentioned in my introductory post, I manage a local grassroots football team in my home city of Coventry. In this post, I will talk about the team’s pre-season and discuss the changes that have occurred from last season.
The team that I manage are Coventrians. I managed their U14s team last season and have continued with that team and this season they play in the U15s Coventry Youth League. Last season was a season of settling for myself and my trusted assistant. I took over the team not long after I had come back from Norway following a short coaching stint with Bjerkreim IL.
In terms of measuring success for last season, if I a random person was to look at the league table they would question what I did as a manager. The team came bottom of the league with a total of zero points. We did, however, get three points taken off us because one of the teams in the league folded towards the end of the season. Luckily, I did not judge the season on a number of points that we got in the league table. I judge the success based on individual player progression.
I can happily say that from when I took over, throughout the season I saw the team’s players progress not only as footballers but as people of the world. When it comes to coaching, regardless of the age group one has to consider the four corner model of development. Coaches should aim to develop players technically, physically, socially and psychologically.
Over the course of the season, certain players left the team which by the end of the season left me with a few spaces to fill in the squad. This then led me to plan for next season. Even at this level of football, the team has to be balanced. The players that decided to leave played in certain positions and I knew that I would need to get those positioned filled. Whether that be via retraining players in those positions or by signing new players.
Before and during pre season, I made sure that the club put out an advertisement for players inviting them to train with the team. This resulted in a number people attending training. Some of the people that attended decided not to return after a few sessions. It is during the summer months when preparing for the new season that you see who is committed to the team.
My main aim for pre season was to improve the player’s fitness and game sense. In the previous season, the team lacked fitness towards the end of games. This lack of fitness resulted in the team conceding goals towards the end of games.
To start, I had planned that the team would train twice a week. Wednesday between 18:00 – 19:30 and Friday between 18:00 – 19:00. The Wednesday session was targeted towards the development of the style of football that I wanted to play in the upcoming season. The Friday session, I entitled Fitness Friday with various fitness drills being used to increase the player’s fitness.
Many teams enter tournaments during pre season. But, I did not see the point in entering tournaments that would see the team playing with less than 11 players. I wanted to increase the cohesion of the team and that to me meant that the team needed to play on the same team. There was also the factor of playing teams of a much higher quality.
On the final week players being in school, I injured myself at work whilst coaching trampolining. I ended up tearing both ligaments and tendons in my left foot which saw me using crutches and using a specialised boot for my foot. Luckily, I was off the crutches quickly and able to walk after a short period of time. I was still attending training whilst on my crutches and in the boot to show players that I was committed to them.
It was during the school summer holiday that my working life got busy. During the days that my team has training, I had staff training for work which meant that I would be unable to attend training. Luckily, I have a much-trusted assistant that was able to keep the training sessions going in my absence. I have to confess though, missing weeks of training hasn’t really helped me as the team’s manager. In the past, I have stressed the importance of commitment to the team. Me not being a training for weeks gave the players every right to question my own commitment.
In the final weeks of pre season, my team was able to play in a few pre season friendlies against some of the other Coventrians age group. The first friendly against the other Coventrians U15s team. That game was a spectacle that changed as the game progressed.
The first friendly against the other Coventrians U15s team. That game was a spectacle that changed as the game progressed. The game was played in four 20 minute halves. After the first 20 minutes, no team had scored a goal and I was very impressed with the team. The new players showed their worth and the team looked a cohesive unit. It was after the first 20 minutes that the game changed in a way that annoyed my players, their parents and other people involved in the club. The game ended in defeat for my team, but I wanted to make them aware that although the game was a friendly. The game was not played in a friendly manner.
The second game of pre season, the team played against the Coventrians U14s team. Last season, the Coventrians U14s (then the U13s) won their league. I knew that the this would be a testing game. With both teams playing different total times for their games, the U14s playing a total of 70 minutes and my team playing a total of 80 minutes. We decided that the game would be played in three 25 minute halves. This game was much better than the game against the other U15s team. It is during pre season friendlies that my assistant and I are able to see the team play in the style that we have coached during the training sessions. What immediately stood out to me during both this game and the previous game was the improvement of team fitness. This improved team fitness saw a better level of overall team performance throughout the game. The game ended 10-6 to my team. The game was very much back and forth throughout the game with the U14s giving us a very good game.
Throughout the two games, I have been able to assess the team ready for the upcoming season. Whilst I am not expecting a miracle in this upcoming season, I have a feeling that this season will see a great improvement for both the team and all the players compared to last season.
As I am writing this, the club has been in the process of completing the player registration for the upcoming season. As a manager, this is the first time that I have been through the whole process of player registration. To say that the process is stressful would be an understatement. After having a high number of 25 people turn up to training sessions having to dwindle that down to 16 has been somewhat difficult for my assistant and me. At the moment, we have 15 players registered with a total of 16 allowed. We feel that the players that we have registered are committed to the team and will give their best.
The season starts next week. I am apprehensive and will not make predictions for my team. All I can ask for is that the players enjoy playing, give their best and play the game with respect.