When to start the Coaching Path?


There comes a time when playing soccer that the injuries become more frequent, your mind is asking yourself to do things but your body doesn’t comply and it takes a lot longer to recover from a match than it used to. You begin to question yourself – I love the game and want to still be involved, how can I do this without my physical health deteriorating any further? This is the point most players’ turn to coaching, but the question is – why wait until this point to take the plunge?

Tony Pulis, the current Stoke City manager, began his coaching path at the age of 19 by achieving his FA Coaching badge whilst still playing. He went on to obtain his UEFA ‘A’ License at the age of 21, one of the youngest to acquire this qualification at the time. Starting at young age like he did would have given him an insight and understanding into what coaches and managers were instructing to him on the training ground daily, which can only be positive thing.

At the age of 17, Andre Villas-Boas gained his UEFA ‘C’ coaching license in Scotland. Now aged 33 he is manager of one of the biggest clubs in the Europe – Chelsea. He never played at a professional level but had the desire to achieve, learn and develop himself to be respected as one of the best coaches in Europe. Last season he took Porto through the domestic season unbeaten en-route to a league and cup double, topped off by also winning the Europa League.

Having the drive and motivation to start the coaching path as early as possible like Villas-Boas did isn’t always there for the modern day top-flight professional player. Coaching, you would think, is a natural career progression for a professional player. The exposure they have has throughout their career with different management styles and training methods can only be a positive thing when stepping into the role themselves.

In the past, a player had to look at a career after football due to the fact they had not earned much money throughout their career. Now with the sky-high wages that are paid at the top level there isn’t the necessity to continue and pass on the knowledge they have learnt, as financially they are secure and do not need to.

The PFA (Professional Footballers Association) in England do encourage players to actively gain their coaching badges and offer coaching courses during the close season. Hopefully with this opportunity available we will see more and more ex-pros enter the realms of coaching and management rather than taking the ‘easy’ option such as punditry or media work.

If not involved at a professional level there are no barriers for anybody seeking to gain F.A. coaching qualifications in the UK from a young age. There are infinite resources online, including free courses on the F.A. website (www.thefa.com/GetIntoFootball/Coaches).

If you are lucky enough to be still playing without hesitation I recommend you to embark on the pathway as soon as you can. Coaching not only gives you a better understanding of the game, but can also make you a better player as skills and techniques you may have learnt can be transferred to the pitch.

An advantage you have if still playing is the ability to analyze and build your own coaching style based on the coaches you work with. Also, you have the chance to ‘network’ within the game so when the time we all dread creeps closer of hanging up your boots, you can start making inroads to ensuring you are considered for future coaching roles.

Good luck with your coaching path whichever age you decide to take the plunge!

Chris Stygal, FA Level 2 Coach

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