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Sturgess on raising profile of working with young players

Sunday 06 Apr 2014
Peter Sturgess says the future is bright for England's young players

England's keen young footballers have a bright future ahead of them according to The FA's National Development Coach Peter Sturgess.

Sturgess's work for the governing body focuses on the five to eleven-year-old age range, which he believes is a 'magical period' in a child's life when players are really open to learning and creativity.

Speaking on the Kick Off show on talkSPORT this week, Sturgess, who is also head coach for England's Futsal team, talked about The FA Youth Award qualifications aimed at developing coaches for our younger generation.

“Children have a massive capacity to both think and behave creatively.”

Peter Sturgess 

"Part of my brief was to raise the profile and raise the kudos of actually working with those young players so that it wasn’t seen as a stepping stone to working with older players later on," explained Sturgess.

"For me it’s just the most magical period of a child’s life, never mind a young footballer’s life, and the imprint we can make on them during those early, formative years, is just massive.

"I don’t see the difficulty, I just see the challenge and the excitement of working with that age group."

He continued: "One of the most powerful initiatives that The FA started is having a real push towards age appropriate qualifications.

"We are well ahead of the rest of Europe in actually saying ‘if you’re committed to coaching younger players in particular, then you can become highly qualified, knowledgeable and skilled at working with those young players'.

FA Tesco Skills at St. George

The FA Tesco Skills programme is aimed at kids aged five to eleven

"I think between the ages of five and eleven, because the children are like sponges, they have a massive capacity to both think and behave creatively, they don’t look to be inhibited.

"We need a generation of coaches to understand the child to a much deeper level so that all of that creativity and innovation can come to the fore, and for us that will be in on a football field," said Sturgess.

"Whatever we create for young players, whether it allows them to go on to have the kind of career Steven Gerrard has had, or whether it just inspires them to stay within football as a fan or as a referee or whatever, I think it starts with those young experiences.

"We have to grow their love of the game. If we can manage that experience, then we are setting up our young players for a bright future however it turns out."

Sturgess also highlighted The FA's recent appointment of 59 mentors to support the grassroots game.

He also says the work has not stopped there, with plans to recruit even more mentors in the future to help all grassroots Charter Standard Clubs up and down the country. 

England Futsal head coach Peter Sturgess instructs his side from the sidelines.

Peter Sturgess says between five and eleven is a magical time

"These mentors will actually work with Charter Standard Clubs, with the coaches who coach the young players and work with them on a regular basis giving regular support," he said.

"Sometimes initiatives like that get missed in the big headline banners and The FA is committed to growing this to almost 300 mentors.

"They will be supporting 600 Charter Standard Clubs, which is  massive investment both in time and manpower, but also we are working really hard to make sure these mentors are highly skilled, highly qualified and exceptionally good at that mentoring role."

"It's a really exciting project."

You can listen to the full debate on talkSPORT's Kick Off programme here. Peter Sturgess was on the show between 8pm and 9pm on Thursday 3 April.

By Jamie Bradbury FA Editor