Ashvir Johal, Leicester City academy coach, tells The Boot Room about the hours of dedication, observation and volunteering that have helped him on his coaching journey.

Ashvir Johal knew he wanted to become a coach when he was a teenager and was determined to make it happen.
In 2011, aged 16, he completed The FA Level 1 course, and now, after eight years of dedication, has a full-time role at a category one academy.

It’s a story born from a determination to gain as much coaching experience as possible, whilst always being motivated by his ultimate goal: helping to develop players.

“I knew so early that I wanted to be a coach and to work with players to help them improve - so I needed to get hours on the grass,” explains Johal.

“First, I worked in grassroots on a park where you're lifting metal poles to set up the goals and doing lots of other tasks. Then I gained experience working with 32 children in PE lessons when you’ve got 10 footballs and you’re the only coach there. I think you’ve got to do all that because that’s what helps you to build your coaching knowledge.

“In my very early years of coaching, being on the grass most evenings really helped me as that’s where you can try new ideas and find out things: how can I speak to players? What is it like to coach 6 year olds compared to working with 16 year olds? So it helps you build your coaching experience.

“As a coach your job is to help players improve and you’ve got to get a lot of hours under your belt working with different ages and abilities, because that will help you understand what kind of coach you are and what impact you can have with the players.”

I came to the training ground three to four evenings a week just to watch sessions 
Leicester City academy coach, Ashvir Johal, stands on the training pitch with a ball underneath his foot.
Johal gained experience coaching players from U5s to open age, before going on to work with U12s-U16s for Leicester City.

For most of his coaching journey, Ashvir has had the added pressure of balancing his time on the grass with his educational studies. It’s a challenge he has embraced and one which helped lead to his current role at Leicester City.

“During my first year of A-Levels I was going to sixth form from 9am-4pm, at 6pm I’d be on a park or in the sports hall coaching, then I’d get back home and do my revision - but I’m happy I did that.

“Then I did a lot of shadowing at Leicester City’s academy and their development centres. I spoke to one of the lead development centre coaches and our head of academy recruitment and said ‘I want to learn about coaching, I want to try and be a coach - can I shadow you?’ I came to the training ground three to four times a week in the evenings just to watch sessions.

“From watching sessions it led to me picking up the cones and then an opportunity to work with our Football in the Community team. After that, I got to work with the development centres. So I just tried to immerse myself in this environment as much as I could.”

“In my first year at university, I got a role as a casual development centre and football in the community coach. That was great because I’d be at university then I’d go to a school to do a PE lesson and an after school club, before going to the training ground to coach one of the development centres. After that I’d finish the day coaching at grassroots level.

“So that was a really enjoyable part because the whole day was doing what I wanted to do – university and then football.”

We can’t forget that the reason we’re working here is to help young players develop 

After more than eight years of dedicating day and night to learning the game, Ashvir finds himself coaching at Leicester City’s academy, but his outlook has always been the same: help people to improve

“We can’t forget that the reason we’re working at the academy is to help young players develop and everything we do has got to be towards that. That’s got to be our key focus every single day - how are we going to help these players become better?

“Every session I coach I ask: ‘do the players go away from the session having enjoyed it? Have they got the same passion and love for the game? So when they leave my session do they have the same love for the game as they did when they came in?’

“And no matter which players I work with, I want to help them improve and get better. That for me is a massive drive.”

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