Coach positive over skilful youngsters

Suffolk Football Association coach Jamie Godbold believes the new FA ethos of trying to produce more skilful young players is already starting to take spread in this county.

Stuart Watson

Suffolk Football Association coach Jamie Godbold believes the new FA ethos of trying to produce more skilful young players is already starting to take spread in this county.

FA Skills, run in conjunction with Tescos, is the brainchild of the FA's Football Development Director Sir Trevor Brooking and is a new initiative that aims to raise the level of coaching across grassroots football in England.

Launched four months ago, Suffolk was selected as one of 12 counties to initially roll out the new program of skill centres and coaches.

In Suffolk there have been five skills centres - based in Lowestoft, Haverhill, Bury St Edmunds, Kesgrave and Chantry - the latter of which has recently changed to Felixstowe.

Three of the centres, Bury, Haverhill and Kesgrave, have been set aside for making sure that the county's 'gifted and talented' players are continually stretched, while the other two continue to be open to any young player.

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Godbold heads up a team of four that also includes Dan Pilcher, Matt Potter and Spencer Thorpe. In addition to their work at the skills centres, the quartet also guest coach at training session for local clubs.

Godbold, an ex-Stoke City professional who now plays for Lowestoft Town, said: “Everything that comes out of our mouths is positive.

“What that means is that players are more likely to try new things with the ball. If their tricks don't come off we don't make a big deal about it, we are trying to take away that culture where children are too scared to try things on the football pitch.

“This is just as much an education for the coaches out there as it is for the children. Coaches always do things the way they have been taught.

“During the sessions we run at clubs we always supply a running commentary throughout explaining why we are doing certain things. There is also a period afterwards where the coaches can ask us any questions.

“We then come back a few months later and observe some of the coaches to see if they are putting into practise some of the things we have shown them.

“At the end of the day there are only four of these skills coaches in Suffolk, so the only way we are going to make a big difference is if we can teach this way of thinking to other like minded coaches.”

The innovative sessions are based around providing a balance of four key skill areas - technique, physical, psychological and social.

Godbold said: “We always start the warm-ups that involve the fundamental movements of agility, balance and co-ordination. This is a really big section that coaches often over look.

“If you look at the likes of Arsenal, all their players are athletic and strong, the technique of their game is then built from there.

“There is no point continually working on a players technique if they can't run or are too slow to react.

“After the warm-up, sessions then move on to technical work and then we end with a different type of game that makes the players think. For example we might play a match on an L shaped pitch.”

Godbold added that the emergence of an increasing number of skilful players into the Premier League was also making his session a lot easier to deliver. He said: “You only need to look at players like Ronaldo that are not afraid to try tricks in games.

“They are great role models for the children at these centres. Rather than tell them to try some step overs, we tell them to go out and be their favourite players, it really captures their imagination.”

Pilcher, head coach for the new Felixstowe centre, said: “The centre has got off to a great start, the players are of a good standard with a great attitude, so hopefully we can help their development throughout the course of the programme and add to the great work already going on in this area.”

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