Harry Watling is an inspiring young UEFA B Licensed coach from South London who has made great strides in the game in a relatively short space of time. Harry has worked in top pro club academies as well as playing a part in setting up, and running, Advanced Player Development. A coaching academy where young players are given expert academy coaching and pushed towards achieving their potential with regular games against top professional academies. Here, Harry gives us an insight into his journey, APD and his thoughts on the national game. Make sure you check out http://www.advanceplayerdevelopment.com especially if you are a coach based in South London.
Firstly Harry, tell us a bit about you and your background in coaching young footballers. How did you get to where you are today?
I started relatively young (14). I was still aspiring to make it as a player but knew I had more talent in “Teaching “ rather than playing. I managed to identify a real top coach who delivered clubs in my local area. I would run from school down to his sessions and sit and watch and take notes every day. If he wanted cones picked up or anything , no problem I was learning so much. At 15 he offered me a PT Job assisting him. After going on my work experience and being exposed to the pro club environment, I knew what I wanted to do ! At 16 I passed my Level 1 in coaching and began to deliver after school clubs and team training by myself. I took over all the clubs I used to sit and watch and ran the small business myself. At 17 I passed my level 2 and was coaching a lot, getting as many hours in as I could. At 18 I passed my UEFA B License and then things really started to lift off from there. I was hired by A top Premier league club to work in one of their satellite centres once a week. For me this was unbelievable as I was so proud to have my kit and be a part of a huge brand at such a young age. At 19 I was invited into the academy for one session a week assisting the u10s . I was asked to help look after the pre academy U8s group also which was a huge learning curve for me as they are such a key age group! From their I didn’t look back and was asked to work with various age groups as cover etc . At 22 I was working for the club 5 sessions a week with the 9-11s and head coaching the satellite centre I started off in. Moving on I was given an age group which was a wonderful experience for me, playing week in week out and seeing my group develop with each experience.
What drives you as a coach, what makes you do what you do?
I feel I have something to offer. So if I can help I will. Regardless of age and or ability, if I can pass on something worthwhile to a person then I will try as best I can to do so with the correct manner and best delivery possible varied to their age.
You co-own APD (Advanced Player Development) in South East London, give us an idea of what APD is all about and what you are trying to achieve?
At APD we would like to try and bridge the gap between Grassroots football and Academy football. We want to try and offer the Grassroots players the same exposure to the best coaching, equipment and drills that the academy boys receive. We train on a Friday and try not to clash with any team training nights so we can give the players an extra edge in their week of learning.
Grassroots clubs are really seeing the benefits of what we are doing as we also try and filter players into their clubs to give them the best opportunity to field as many teams on a game day as possible.
What types of activities do your sessions at APD involve, how are your sessions structured?
We feel that we are unique in how we deliver our style of learning. The sessions are structured in stations; we have 1 coach per station and 6/7 running at once. We see the players for around 8 minutes per station and really try and keep within their attention span and where their enthusiasm for the drill is at its peak.
As you mentioned, you play against pro clubs academies regularly. How many of your boys at APD have been scouted to go for trials at a club?
Up to this stage we have funded so many players who were without a GR club into many reliable local GR set ups. On the Pro club front we have now had 20 + players go in on a 6 week trial basis and have had 12 players signed.
This for us shows that we are helping children find their level as best we can.
Away from APD, how do you view the state of the national game? Are we that far behind the Dutch, Germans and Spanish players?
Listen! I have had the pleasure of going on numerous European tours and tournaments with top top players from our academy system. We are NOT behind at all. This is a myth that the media have created. In fact the boys I have had the privilege of taking over the years have been 9/10 technical superior and tactically more adaptable than most foreign opposition. We played with a high tempo , quality and style. The problem is between 18-21.
There simply is not enough opportunity. Its as simple as that , the games programmes dry up , they are not real, they lack an edge and when it comes to first team opportunity’s we seem to lack belief in fuelling out first teams with our youthful talent. The Europeans over take us because they get a chance earlier , and from 18-21 they will harness their skills in a faster more physical environment and become matured in this a lot easier as they exposed earlier.
How would you improve the standard of coaching young players receive in this country?
I feel their has to be a clearer understanding from all in “What they need “ and “When they need it”. You bypass the key lessons and mistakes they MUST make as a younger player. The Barcelona model (First team) is an end product to what was a long journey of mastering the 1v1, attacking and defending, then using team mates and sharing the ball , lending it , making clever runs to disguise team mates deliberate intentions of skill. You cannot simply turn up and ask a 9 year old to play off of 2 touch like Iniesta and expect him to develop his all-round footballing brain and game. The right things at the right times are key. Don’t produce SAFE players who don’t take risks . Instil a fearless attitude by viewing mistakes as a learning tool.
How do you keep yourself educated as a coach?
I never stop listening; football in England has some outstanding people working within it. The internet is a wonderful recourse , but don’t stop going out there and watching. I travel to Holland a fair bit and like some of their stuff, but at the same time there are smaller nations who have some fantastic people working within, Malta for example !
I try to get to games early and watch arrival activity’s , sit near dugouts and listen to messages from staff, take notes during games now and then.
Finally, What tips would you give coaches who are just starting out on their coaching journey?
Never ever think you know enough! You don’t know what you don’t know. Get out there and listen watch and participate in as many good , bad and ugly sessions as you can. Sometimes a poor session can leave you with a valuable message or lesson in How not to do something.
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