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The FA’s new Advanced Youth Award aims to develop specialist coaches adept at working with young players.
The course, launched in December, is the latest addition to The FA’s suite of dedicated youth coaching courses and is the equivalent of the UEFA A Licence in the youth domain.
Fundamental to the course content is social development and how young players learn.
“If we can give coaches an understanding of how learning happens and how behaviour is managed, I think we will get more out of the technical corner,” explained Merfyn Roberts, The FA’s consultant and tutor for the social corner.
The social corner makes up one part of The FA’s four-corner player development model, from which the course is structured.
Traditionally, coaching courses have focused on the technical and physical aspects of player development, whereas The FA Advanced Youth Award gives equal weighting to all four corners.
The importance of the social and psychological corners is stressed throughout.
Roberts has two specific messages which arise from the social corner:
He said: “One is about learning and one is about behaviour.
"If we can give coaches a deeper understanding about how the learning works in their sessions they will be more productive in the technical side.”
The social corner, which has a four-day dedicated programme in February, examines the many varied social interactions which occur in the coaching environment.
Coaches will learn the ingredients of a secure coaching environment, as well as how to model the behaviours they seek to develop with their players.
Developing a more holistic understanding of young players is central to the 165 guided learning hours which make up the course.
Understanding behaviour, and not just that of the children, but of parents, is another core focus.
“[If we can] give coaches an understanding of how they manage behaviour, then I think they will be more prepared to take some risks with their coaching and really push the boundaries with their learning,” added Roberts.
Each aspect of the course does not operate in isolation but integrates to support the practical football (technical) element of player development. Roberts also provides a reminder that the social development of young players is not a new concept.
“I have worked with professional clubs and people in the professional game for a number of years now, and I think there are a number of clubs out there who have already taken this on board and have come up with some really innovative styles of working.
“There are a lot of coaches out there who do it intuitively. The aim of the course is to try and help them understand what it is they do and once you have an understanding of what it is and why it works then you are going to be even better at it,” he added.
The FA Advanced course runs over an 18-month period combining practical sessions, distance learning and individualised support.
Listen to thoughts of FA Coach Education Manager and Course Director, Steve Rutter, here.