Monday, 7 February 2011

FA Level 2: 10 General Points Sitting on a Wall

This is the start of a collection of posts where I run through the FA Level 2 topics. I will detail a sample of how you might want to approach such a session and the key coaching points. I will only post those I have tried and had success with in practice.

For those coaches who aren't sitting a course, this is the format:

Technique (unopposed drill)
Skill (opposed drill)
(combined 15 minutes)
Small sided game
(15 minutes)

The small sided game is currently a 4 by 4 game although you can include add-ons such as goalkeepers, floaters (players off the touchline who play for one or both teams but can't enter the field of play), or a golden player (a player who plays for whichever team has the ball).

You must pick a side to coach and coach these 4 players and only these four players.

For those who are doing a coaching course or coach themselves, this is the best website I've come across. It is simply fantastic.

General Tips

1) It seems obvious, but you need to have a team you are coaching. This is easy as there are hundreds of grass roots positions available up and down the country. If you are struggling in London then ask.

2) The first time you put on a session it will suck. That's just the way it is. To maximise the benefit from this first session plan meticulously, then put it on. Organisation is key. Ask yourself how clearly the session is targeting the topic it is meant to cover. Ask yourself whether health and safety has been respected. Ask yourself whether you have all the equipment you need, especially colour coded bibs and cones. Ask yourself whether the technique, skill and small sided game move smoothly into each other.

3) Once you have the session organised well (and this will get easier with time), you can focus on technical content. You have to be able to see what is going on. Write down a list of all the things you expect to see. My final topic was 'forward runs without the ball' and I knew I could count on over laps, underlaps, runs from behind the ball, runs in front of the ball to create space, runs in front of the ball to exploit space, combinations of these, counter attacks... so I got used to seeing these. I asked myself which teams were good at forward runs off the ball. Teams you might want to consider include Germany, Barcelona and Arsenal. Watch matches and ISOLATE THE TOPIC.

To become a good coach you have to be able to switch off 'fan' mode and see what's really going on.

Having watched games for your topic(s), use this knowledge to make the session relevant to the session. For my final topic I used MESSI as an example from a recent Classico. Not only did it show I had understood the topic as practiced in the real world, it made the topic come alive to those participating. Further, everyone tried super hard and had fun trying to emulate Messi's sharp runs.

4) Ask yourself whether you can make your session MORE REALISTIC or MORE FUN.

5) Practice it at least 3/4 times in total. More if you can.

6) Can you introduce a rule to isolate a particular topic? I knew an important part of forward runs without the ball was counter attacking so for just a couple of minutes I introduced a rule whereby a team had to make three passes with all their players in their own half before moving forward. This would encourage the defending team to press up high and leave space in behind to exploit, which I could then coach.

Once I had coached this I took the rule away to increase the realism once more.

There is an element of box ticking during your final exam (and time pressure) that might not be present in a real coaching session.

7) Demos must follow the STOP - Demo - Recreate - Live forumla. Stop the drill AS SOON AS YOU SEE THE ERROR. This is where you must show your HIGH STANDARDS as a coach. Do not accept substandard performance. STOP can be a whistle or a command. I use "STOP, STAND STILL". "Freeze", "PAUSE", or any similar command as good as long as it is loud, clear and has the desired effect. Consistency is important so they recognise how they should behave immediately. Step in, verbalise what you're doing: "I'm going to take your place, Pete" and show them what they should have done. Then get them to show you what they should have done. Then have the game go live. Recreate the scenario AS IT WAS, not as you wish it was. If needs be, move players around to recreate it. A simple "everyone rewind 5 seconds" can often do the trick.

8) Communication style is massively important. Use a combination of telling, Q&A, checking for feedback, closed questions, open questions and suggestion. It is particularly useful to ask questions as this requires an active approach to learning from the players. They have to consider the various possibilities and then select one.

It is also important to make your instructions as clear as possible. This means SIMPLICITY. Do not try to do too much. As the FA encourage: let the game be the teacher.

This isn't given much time on coaching courses, but a good manner is the difference between a good session and an excellent one. Style should never replace substance, but it can definitely amplify it.

9) Football is competitive and competition can be fun. Add it in at opportune moments. At the end of my technique to skill segment I gave them a challenge to be the first player to score three points. This was well received and added further to the enjoyment of the session.

An academy coach last week improved small sided games by only allowing goals if the players celebrated afterwards!

10) I am not a big fan of visualisation normally, but it can really help. First up, here's what I think it does not do:
- It does not replace practice
- It does not improve your technical knowledge
- It does not make you a hippy

What it does do is make you more relaxed and confident. Let's say you put on your session 4 times in the real world such that you know you have put on a good session. An excellent way to increase your confidence in putting on the session in the future is to create more reference points in your head by running through your session FROM START TO FINISH in your head. You can do this in bed before you drift off to sleep. It cements organisation and by imagining your A game performance you reinforce the idea that you can do very well.

This all works because imagination and memory share the same neurological circuits.

I was given the highest praise on my course and I put this down to feeling relaxed and confident, partly from being well prepared and partly through visualisation.


These points will really help you pass the course but more importantly become a better coach. Everything comes down to points two and four: good organisation and MORE FUN, MORE REALISM.

Enjoy coaching!


  1. Thank you for this excellent insight into how to prepare and be succesful, I have the same final session as you for my level 2 tomorrow, and this has really helped me focus on the key points. Many thanks and keep up the good work!

  2. Wonderful post, really catch the essence of coaching

  3. Hi,

    I am in the Process of taking my FA Level 2. If anyone has any drills/session plans on ‘creating space as a unit’ I could look at.

    Would be much appreciated.

    Kind Regards.