COACHING INTERVIEW – Harry Watling, APD football co-founder

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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.

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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.

 

Be sure to follow @APDfootball on Twitter

Take charge of your own Coach Education (CPD)

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If you are a member of the FA Licensed Coaches Club (FALCC), you will know that to maintain your licence as a coach you need to do a certain amount of FA CPD hours each year. FA Level 1 coaches need to complete a minimum of 3 hours while FA Level 2 and above need to complete 5 hours minimum, this can be achieved through attending FA coaching courses or specific CPD events such as the FA Licensed Coaches Club Conference.

The FA and The FALCC must be commended on what they have achieved in their aim to professionalise coaching in England. The FALCC website is an outstanding resource for youth football coaches, however – does all CPD need to be completed as logged hours through the FA?

Absolutely not, is the simple answer.

Coaches in the modern game need to be proactive, we need to look after ourselves and push ourselves to develop and educate each other. We believe that coaches, no matter what level you work at, should be exploring as many different types of CPD as possible in order to help expand on the fantastic knowledge and guidance the FA provide on their CPD and coaching courses.

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So, how do you take charge of your CPD? What exactly can you do?

Many coaches believe that CPD is expensive and difficult to fit into their hectic schedule. But, Have you been out to watch other coaches at your club (or another club) work? Have you organised a coaches get together to share ideas and good practice within your club? Have you looked through YouTube at all the examples of coaching and coach education on there? These are all inexpensive examples of taking charge of your CPD while also working around your busy day or week.

There are of course other ways of educating yourself as a coach that require a little investment. For example, using coaching websites like The Coaching Manual or Inside Soccer. These websites provide high quality video of top coaches working with their players. The Coaching Manual also offer podcasts with relevant well known names in youth development, they offer session plans, nutritional advice and a coaching forum. All very useful for a small fee paid yearly. There are free options, many coaches run their own blog or website, Dan Wright, Michael Worthington, Hugo Langton and Ben Bartlett, to name a few. All sites include fantastic content, some downloadable information and great insights into how they all work.

Reading books and coaching publications is a very effective way of educating yourself on various coaching and related topics. There are several fantastic coaching books available at very affordable prices by coaches that use Twitter, We featured Ray Power’s “Making the ball roll”, others include books by Gary Curneen “The modern soccer coach 2014″ or “The way forward” by Matt Whitehouse. There are many, many books available on Amazon that will help you develop as a coach. Away from the game, there are several topics you can read up on such as leadership, the acquisition of skill and working with different learning styles to help you improve as a coach. As well as football/soccer related books it is also worth reading into other sports such as Rugby, Basketball or American Football.

Look out for information on coaching conferences too. Inspire Football Events are now running coach education conferences nationally which involve guest speakers talking on various coaching topics from tactical periodization to football psychology. Don’t forget the FALCC, if you are a licensed coaches club member you can get discounted tickets for the three day event at St Georges Park just before Christmas.

Sometimes, simply engaging in conversation on Twitter (@CoachingFamily) can provide useful CPD for coaches. We share a lot of fantastic content sent to us by coaches on a daily basis. It is your choice whether what is shared is useful to you or not.

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It is a general perception that many professional football club academies are very closed door organisations. This is not necessarily the case, we must understand that professional academies only have a certain amount of staff and organising visits for grassroots coaches can be difficult as the coaches are very busy people with the increase in paperwork they need to do off the coaching pitches now due to the EPPP. I have been lucky enough to have met with some very open coaches at different clubs across England myself, and learned a great deal from each club I have been to. It is always worth asking the question, otherwise the answer will always be no. I know many clubs in the UK are now running grassroots coach education evenings/weekends which are normally free (some do charge a fee). Examples of clubs experimenting in this type of coach education include Wolves, Swansea, Chelsea, Manchester United, Celtic, and Cardiff. Liam attended an event at Wolves academy last season and came back with some brilliant insights into the great work Dan Bolas and his team do at the academy there. (Resources from that trip are available on this site).

We hope this piece will inspire you as youth coaches to get out there and avoid simply relying on the FA for coach education. Take charge, get out there, watch and speak to other coaches, research, read and never stop learning. We are key people, as coaches, in helping to develop better technical and tactically aware players in this country. Educate yourself so you can better understand and educate the players you work with.

Have Fun!

Coming soon on CoachingFamily.com

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It’s been a quiet few months for our website since we released the interview with Ray Power in May. The summer has been a busy one and has flown by, we hope you all had a great break (if you managed to fit one in) and are ready for the new youth football season to start.

We wanted to let you know that throughout the coming season we can promise you a LOT more from our website in terms of content. We will have regular features on the site including interviews with top grassroots and academy coaches from across the globe. We will also be writing blog posts on relevant topics related to coaching and the game.

To add to this we are also collecting your session ideas on “Transitions in possession” (or reacting to a changeover in possession) to be shared in our latest session sharing book which you will be able to download from this site free of charge. If you would like to have your session featured please email a session plan to coachingfamily@hotmail.co.uk. The deadline to get your session in is Sunday 14th September so act now and get your session seen by thousands of coaches worldwide.

This season promises to be an exciting one for all of us, we hope it’s an enjoyable and successful season for you and your players. Have fun!

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COACHING INTERVIEW – Ray Power, author of ‘Making the ball roll’

MTBRA Licence coach, and now author, Ray Power takes some time out to answer a few questions about his coaching journey and his brilliant new book ‘Making The Ball Roll’. We would like to thank Ray for taking the time to answer our questions.

 

Q – Ray, before we talk about the book, just give us a brief idea of your experiences as a football/soccer coach. Where did it all start, and how have you progressed to what you are doing today?

I came to England in 2007 to pursue a career in coaching football/soccer, having dabbled in grassroots coaching in Ireland and Switzerland, and having spent three years as a school teacher. I suppose it was a bit of a risk.

Once in England I immersed myself in the game, progressing through my coaching badges to achieve my UEFA A Licence in 2012. I have worked with various age-groups across Academy football and in college football. I am lucky enough now to be on the grass working with good players on a daily basis, and am able to implement my visions on developing youth players.

 

Q – You have previous experience in a teaching role. How has that aided your development as a coach, and more recently as a coach educator?

It has been invaluable. Although you are ‘teaching’ in a different environment, many of the essential traits remain the same – although on the training pitch your ‘learners’ are highly motivated and engaged for the most part. I refer a lot to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which says you need to cater for a young person’s basic needs before expecting to be able to teach them anything. Coaching styles for example, whether ‘Command’ or ‘Guided Discovery’, are used on pitches and in classrooms. There is a whole chapter of Making the Ball Roll dedicated to teaching and learning in soccer.

In terms of coach education, I get to mix the two things I love most – mentoring coaches in both a classroom environment and on the pitch.

Whether most will admit it or not, coaching is teaching. For me, both terms can be interchanged, something we speak about extensively in the book, which I think the readers will enjoy.

 

Q – So, we are here to talk about your new book, “Making the Ball Roll”. When is the book available for people to buy? Will it be available in different formats? E.g Kindle.

The book is available now! It is available on Amazon in print. We are working through some kinks with the Kindle version due to the diagrams throughout the book, but hopefully it will be out as an e-book soon also. It can also be purchased at www.bennionkearny.com/power

 

Q – Who is the book aimed at?

Myself and James at Bennion Kearny put a lot of thought into who exactly would be the main target audience would be. We settled on the word “aspiring” in the sub-title as it seemed just about right. It is aimed at those who want to be better coaches – whether you are an Academy coach at Liverpool, or an unqualified coach with a local, grassroots team. The book is designed to be thought-provoking, supporting theory with lots of examples from the professional game all over the world – it will challenge all levels of coaches, although maybe in different ways.

 

Q – Without giving too much away, can you give our followers an idea of what sorts of topics the book covers?

Aside from Introduction and Concluding chapters, there are 14 chapters in all, each dealing with a specific theme – from technical and tactical work with youth players, to communication methods and leadership. Other chapters include soccer psychology, age-appropriate coaching, developing syllabi and physically developing youth players. I have attempted to make Making the Ball Roll a one-stop shop for coaches – hence why its come in at over 350 pages!

To help with dealing with lots of topics, I reference lots of examples from the professional youth game and also consult lots of my fellow coaches who have provided their story on how they have worked with players around certain topics. I would like to again take this opportunity to thank those who have contributed to the book. There are quite a few, and others that preferred to remain anonymous, but I am grateful to them all! They know who they are.

 

Q – Give us an idea of the ideas and aims behind “Making the Ball Roll”?

The ultimate aim is to give youth coaches lots of new ideas when they are working with players, and also to dispel some common myths that are prevalent in youth soccer. The central theme is about helping coaches to help players achieve peak performance – and the optimum ways of doing this. The youth player is central to everything in the book – improving them by improving the coaches.

 

Q – We have read a few snippets from the book, it’s a fantastic read. What inspired you to put all your ideas together?

The inspiration comes from my own reading and development as a coach. I have spent lots of time (and lots of money!) reading and gathering resources, plus formal and informal coach education and study visits to clubs. I found myself having to go to literally hundreds of different places to seek the information and learning that I was looking for. I have books on technical practices, others about communication, tactics, physical development, psychology, handling parents and so on. For those who use Twitter as a coaching tool for example, they can download dozens of documents, articles and session plans on a daily basis, but may not have the time or energy to dissect them all.

I always wanted a book that dealt with everything. If readers want to learn more about specific aspects, then I have sign-posted resources and books along the way.

 

Q – We hope the book is a huge success, your experiences and views are sure to help and improve coaches at all levels of the game. What are your coaching aims for the future? Is this the start of a writing career?

When I arrived in England, I never could have foreseen what was to come. I passed my FA Level 2 on arrival and got a job in community football development. Now, seven years later, I am tutoring Level 2 courses, have achieved my A Licence and work full-time in football – and am a published author! Those were all targets of mine when I made the decision to leave teaching for football.

I am always keen to learn, develop and leave my comfort zone, so I am hoping to progress and challenge myself. Ultimately I want to work in a position where I can influence both youth players and coaches, whether that is with a national association or a major Academy. Working abroad also appeals to me. I guess I am open-minded!

COACHING INTERVIEW – Ben Smith

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Q – Ben, Having played for clubs like Arsenal, Reading, Yeovil Town and Crawley Town among others, You played the game at a higher standard than most grassroots coaches. What drove your decision to get into coaching?

Whilst playing I did not harbour any ambitions to go into coaching. I was always interested in the tactical side of the game and, no doubt, a lot of the managers and coaches I worked for would have said I was an obvious candidate to become a coach, but I was not keen. I was adamant that I was going to do something totally different when I stopped playing. However, as I got into my early 30′s and I could feel my career coming to an end I realised that I loved football and wanted to stay involved in some capacity. As I got older I also got more opinionated and started to think about what I would do if I was a manager and started to really mould my own thoughts on how I thought the game should be played. This was when I started taking my coaching qualifications.

Q – How do you think playing the game professionally has helped you develop yourself as a coach?

Being a player has given me a really deep knowledge of how the game is played both individually and part of a team. I have been involved in 1000′s of sessions as a player and had the opportunity to learn from great coaches such as Pat Rice, Alan Pardew and, my favourite coach of all, Richard O’Kelly who have all coached at the highest level. One of the greatest advantages it gives me is that I have been in the situation that a lot of the players I am working with have been in. I was told, on numerous occasions, I was not good enough and had terrible games and had to bounce back. This background has also given me a really good insight of how football works and how to deal with ‘football’ people.

Q – We’ve got to ask you, what was it like as a young player learning the game at Arsenal? You must have picked up so much from training around players like Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Ian Wright and Tony Adams?

As a spotty 16 year old I did not have much to do with those guys but just being involved at a top club was a great experience. It might seem like a stupid thing to say but at the time I did not realise what an opportunity I had. I’d been involved with Arsenal from the age of 11 so it seemed like a natural progression to be offered an apprenticeship. I thought this meant I had made it, but I was sadly mistaken and I was just at the very bottom of the ladder. Within a few months it became clear that athletically, especially, I was going to struggle to play at the very top level but I did realise I was good enough to carve out a career for myself as a professional footballer.

Q – Who has been the biggest influence on you throughout your career, and why?

At the start it was my parents and my dad especially who would take me over the park and work on my technique with me. As my career progressed Andy McDirmid who was my academy coach at Arsenal really made me fall in love with football. Even when training at a top Premier League club he made every session fun and I loved everything about him. His sessions were brilliant and he had the most important attribute for a youth coach, a great personality. As I moved on to become an older player both Pat Rice and Richard O’Kelly taught me a lot.

Q – Do you have a coaching role model or a mentor? What do you feel are the benefits of coaches working with a mentor?

I do not specifically base myself on anyone. I try to take the best stuff from the coaches I worked with but the person who has had the most effect on me from a coaching capacity was Richard O’Kelly who is now working at Walsall. He was assistant manager when I played for Hereford United and brought so much energy and enthusiasm to his sessions that you could not help but be swept along by him. It could be cold, wet and windy on the training pitch but he would come bouncing on to the pitch like there was nowhere else he would rather be. This enthusiasm was infectious and his positivity rubbed off on us all. He also shared my purist view on the way football should be played.

I think a mentor is a must for any coach. In my current job I work with a coach called Wayne Lowry who coached in a professional academy for many years. I have picked up lots of bits from watching his sessions and he is a great sounding board for me especially after a session has not gone the way I wanted it to. He will often give me little tips which, after the event, seem so obvious but really help me for when I do something similar in the future.

Q – You are now combining teaching and coaching at Braintree Town FC’s youth academy? Tell us a bit about what a typical day involves for you?

I am always in to the football club for 9am so I can prepare my lesson which starts at 10am. I then take a 2 hour lesson with the boys as they work towards their VRQ diploma in sport. The lads then have a 1hr lunch break and I then take them for a football session from 1-3pm. This role has been great for me as I have to be so adaptable in my coaching. From one day to the next I won’t know how many players I have or how much area I have for them so whatever I plan has to be flexible enough to be tweaked or even totally changed at a moments notice. The days all take this format other than Wednesday which is game day when we go and play other football academies.

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Q – You are a great example of an ex professional who has worked hard to improve and develop as a coach, taking time to learn, network and practice. What are your views on ex players who appear to be fast tracked through their coaching qualifications and jump straight into high profile roles?

I know this is a very contentious area especially within the Coaching Family fraternity. Ultimately there are no shortcuts to being a great coach. Yes being a former player gives you certain advantages but the key to being a good coach is being able to break down and simplify what you are trying to get across to your players and being a good players does not always help you to do that. A lot of players won’t know how they do something as it has just become automatic.

I am a firm believer that just like as a player when you become a coach you have to do your apprenticeship. When I stopped playing professionally I was offered the job as head of youth at a football league club but turned it down. At that time I did not feel like I was ready for such a role and needed to gain more experience. Over the last couple of years I have done that and improved immeasurably as a coach. Sometimes I regret turning it down but I did it for the right reasons and hope that in the future it will prove to be the correct decision.

In saying all that there are a lot of studious former players who deserve to be working with professional players so it is unfair to say across the board what should happen but I do not believe that players should be fast tracked especially through the B and A licenses as you pick up loads of valuable information on these courses.

Q – How would you describe yourself as a coach, what’s your style and how do you like the game to be played?

I am an absolute football purist. I want my teams to be comfortable on the ball and really fluid in their movement. I like my team to play with style and express themselves but I also want them to win and lose with class. The more I coach the more I see my style evolving. I have become more demanding especially if I see players not concentrating. I have no issue if players make errors because their technique is not good enough as that is my job to improve it but I do if they are not focused. In saying that I try to be as positive as possible with my players but most importantly I want to share with them my love for football.

Q – You have your UEFA B Licence and we did our Youth Module 3 together last year. Which course, FA or other, do you feel has had the most influence on your development as a coach so far?

The course I enjoyed most was the first youth module. I thought it was a really relaxed and enjoyable course and I loved the practices that were all based around fun games. In general I have enjoyed doing the youth modules as I think they are more suited to my style of coaching. I like to coach in between the practice and within natural breaks in the play rather than stopping and starting the game or practice as that used to bore me senseless as a player.

I have just been accepted for my A-License which I am due to start in the summer. I am hoping this course will help me take my coaching to the next level.

Q – How do you keep yourself moving forward and progressing as a coach away from coaching courses?

I read non-stop. Twitter is a brilliant resource for practices and coaching documents. I am continually favouriting all the best stuff and go through it whenever I get the time and add the information I like to my own coaching library. I coach every day of the week and use this to experiment with the new practices I have found or developed myself. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I do not know until I give it a try.

Q – We hear you are a budding author, how’s your book coming along? Tell us a bit about the concept and what we can expect?

The book is going great. It is pretty much written now and it is in the final part of the editing. If I get permission to use the name it will be called ‘From Arsenal to Obscurity’ and is about my football career which started at Arsenal and follows my life as a lower league journeyman and will hopefully give people an insight into that sort of life. I was also a secondary school teacher in my first year after playing professionally so I also talk about my struggles as I adapt to that new career.

Q – And finally, what’s your coaching dream? What do you see yourself doing in 10 years time?

I would like to be working in a Premier League club with top young players. I have very specific views on how I believe football should be played and I am not sure that would be suited to the win at all costs mentality in senior football. As my next progression I want to start working as a part-time coach at a professional club so if there are any clubs within the London or Essex area who are looking for a young coach who is willing to work with any age group and is really keen to learn and improve please get in touch!

Please follow Ben on Twitter @bsmudger7

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Right click on the picture below, then Save As. Thankyou for your continued support!

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Some possible solutions for our Winter problems

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As we are now into the cold, wet and windy weather junior footballs clubs see lot’s of their training sessions cancelled and matches postponed.  Last year from November right through to February.

This happens across the UK year in year out and as adults responsible for creating a safe and fun environment for our player’s, we should maybe be more proactive instead of reactive to this impending problem.

Please find below some ideas to consider;

  • Contact local Leisure Centres and inquire about prices/availability (block booking may bring discount).
  • Contact local FA about possible venues.
  • Either your club or council should have a Football Development Officer, contact them.
  • Talk to other grassroots clubs in your area, they will probably be facing the same problems as you, you can work together.
  • Lot’s more 3G/4G pitches (though we know not enough!) have been built and it may surprise you how many have been built on the proviso that it has to be used by the community.
  • Local Futsal clubs have junior sections that would be grateful for some opposition to play.
  • Some fantastic coaches out there delivering Street Soccer courses all over the UK, get in touch with them.
  • Junior Futsal leagues are gaining momentum nationwide, search locally for details.

Again these are just a few ideas, anymore are welcome and the guys will retweet if you include @CoachingFamily on your tweets and use the hashtag #playthroughwinter

This should also include clubs/development centres/leisure centres who want to promote their facilities for use.

Positive, proactive and change for the better.

Pete Bradshaw @FutsalPete