A football coach is a sports improvement specialist who works with people who are trying to develop their skills as a footballer, either professionally, semi-professionally or for leisure.
Football is generally considered to be the world’s most universally popular sport, both in terms of participation numbers and viewing figures for professionally-held events. Enthusiasts who wish to participate in the sport can do so for a number of reasons: they may want to play professionally, they may view it as an effective means of increasing their fitness level, or they may simply wish to play for the sake of enjoyment. A rudimentary part of participating in the sport is the desire to improve. It is the football coach who enables and promotes this footballing development.
At its most basic level, a football team will need at least one coach, and in a small organisation, there will be just one individual performing this task. In a semi-pro team, there may be several, whereas FA-registered professional teams may have a coaching staff of up to 9 people. Regardless of playing level, the coach will work with the football players to bring about their development and improve the collective playing ability of the team as a whole.
Coach salaries vary to an incredible degree depending on the level they are working at. A coach working as part of a small back-room staff at a lower league club may be expected to receive around £50-£65 per week on a part-time basis. Coaches of significant reputation working for English Premier League clubs can receive anything up to the current upper average limit, which is around £2500 per week. Note that the coach’s salary is paid weekly in most cases. This is because football operates during a standard season (August to May in most European countries), and contracts are distinctly short-term; they are renewed on a 12-month basis.
Coaches who work with junior or amateur club sides can expect much lower salaries. Some candidates will coach teams as part of a wider responsibility, for example, a fitness or personal trainer who may work part-time in building and developing a new team for local competition. Others work for free in order to build their professional coaching experience before seeking a paying role.
- Commit to the training schedule, whether it be on a weeknight, weekend or daily basis
- Develop a coaching programme of relevance to the individuals being trained
- Understand the fitness and injury issues associated with intensive sports training
- Be able to adapt coaching patterns to bring about the betterment of footballers
- Assist the manager with tactical decisions, new player scouting or fitness recommendations
There are no formal qualifications for coaches who wish to enter the grass-roots gateway to the sport in a part-time or voluntary role. This is because it is usually a hobby at this level. Coaches looking to join semi-professional clubs or organisations will need to exhibit their ability to bestow knowledge to others; for ex-pro footballers, this is not usually an issue, but for coaches who have not played professionally themselves, it means a coaching qualification.
In the late nineties, sports science as a university subject began to gain popularity; this triggered an explosion of diversification, and now there exists a bewildering array of potential graduate, undergraduate, college and part-time courses available in exercise science, sports development coaching, fitness and sports management qualifications. Candidates are advised to check with their local education centre for details of the courses they have available.
- Improvisation and adaptation, in being able to adapt a coaching programme quickly
- An excellent level of personal fitness is required to keep up physical momentum in training
- An excellent analytical ability, for when the manager requests information on player recommendation
- Very strong motivational character and a desire to get the best out of others
- A sound understanding of sports fitness and first aid
Regardless of the level of coaching, most of the work takes place outdoors. This subjects the candidate to much adverse weather, although active and enthusiastic coaches do not care. To those who love the sport, it is about getting out there, getting dirty and getting the best out of people. Candidates should note that coaches are subjected to the possibility of personal injury whilst playing sports, but the coach’s participation in the actual game is limited, so the risk slight.
The ultimate goal for a coach who is progressing professionally is to climb the ranks to a backroom position in a large professional club. Competition is incredibly fierce and the demands entail a long and thorough history of coaching (with success) at lower league levels. The entry point may well be unpaid grass-roots coaching, so the path from new entrant to recognised expert is often a life’s work, and demands full commitment by the candidate.
Career ProgressionThere exists in football a predefined path of professional promotion, purely on the basis that the FA league structure works on progressively improving football team quality. As the candidate progresses through the professional leagues, the quality of the footballers being coached increases, as does the coach’s salary and reputation.
In the case of coaches looking for success with big name clubs, those major employers could be any reputable professional football team around the world. Typically though, the largest employer collectively is the world of unremunerated or part time hobbyist clubs, which remain popular in virtually every country around the globe.
Stuart Welham is the owner of Brazilian Soccer Schools in Bangkok, Thailand. His organisation has an excellent reputation for encouraging young people to enjoy football in Asia.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
I have always loved playing and watching football, and my education and working background is in leisure marketing. I was then fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to combine the two at a relatively early age.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise'?
Not at all. But the overall ethos of our Brazilian Soccer Schools training is repetition. So whatever our session aim may be, players can be sure of practising that particular technique or aim A LOT within the session, whether it be individually or in pairs. We then ensure the student gets a lot of time to practise the technique in small sided ‘game related play’ or small games of football at the end of sessions. These small sided games coupled with our unique weighted size 2 ball (that originates from Brazil) ensure that children get put into lots of ‘real’ game situations to further practise these techniques.
What do you like most about the job?
Working with children and watching children’s love and understanding of the game of soccer grow and develop as they progress and get older.
What do you like least about the job?
Not much, although one thing that I am always working towards is educating parents so that they understand we are educators, not football managers trying to win all the time (although the win is nice!).
What are the key responsibilities?
As the owner of the company, I am making sure that our high standards of coaching are consistent throughout all our sessions, and to make sure all aspects of the company are running as professionally as possible. When I am coaching a session, I must ensure that children get the most from each class by having well planned sessions that help them improve and have a challenging time. Most of all though, I believe that my job as coach is to promote the game of football. If a child has fun and is learning, then they will WANT to come back. My job at the younger “beginners” level is to make sure they have fun and fall in love with the game.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands, eg A Levels?
Whilst I do not demand any formal academic requirements, I am fortunate to say that all our current staff are educated to University level. I will not consider a coach that does not have a coaching qualification. I also think very long and hard about employing ‘ex professionals’ as in my experience there is a whole world of difference between having played the game and being able to develop children from a coaching standpoint. Most ex-professionals try and train children as they were trained as adults, which is completely wrong for the child’s development.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Be prepared to give up weekends and work hard. But seeing children improve or simply start to love football makes it all worth the effort.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
They must care about being a coach and want to be a coach. If you care then you will always make sure that you are doing your best for the children, to help them achieve whatever level they are striving to achieve, whether it be to have a chance to play professionally, get a scholarship at a university, to make their school team or just get to a standard so that they can join their friends in the playground and have fun. Too many people get into coaching because they think it is easy, fun or they can simply play football or let children play football. That couldn’t be further from the truth for professional coaches.
Any closing questions, comments or additional advice?
For potential coaches, I would advise them only to get involved if they are going to take things seriously. Educating children in any subject should always be taken seriously. For children – practise hard and have fun!