A game of Football basically, involves players, coaches, referee and spectators. Each category on its own is important, but woven together, the game necessarily, becomes richer in quality. While the game has developed from humble beginnings to that of a major national sport, we have not produced coaches in proportion to this growth. Only quality [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

In search of quality Football coaches


How does a coach think, is a clue to many

A game of Football basically, involves players, coaches, referee and spectators. Each category on its own is important, but woven together, the game necessarily, becomes richer in quality. While the game has developed from humble beginnings to that of a major national sport, we have not produced coaches in proportion to this growth. Only quality coaches could produce quality players. The ideal situation is for each school, club to have a trained coach, be it in the highest division or the lowest. Then only, will technical excellence in the game reach high standards. Therefore, it is the paramount duty of the controlling body to draw a sensible plan to produce quality coaches.

In this age of rapid development of technical equipment and improvement of techniques, it is natural that officials and administration of the controlling body and leagues should examine the organisation within their schools and clubs, the scope and quality of facilities and equipment, and the training and coaching arrangements to see what further progress is possible. The scale of improvement in facilities and methods abroad is a constant reminder that we too, must strive for higher standards, if the game is to meet the challenges of the future, for the old order changes the fielding place to the new.

Football at our National, League, Club or school level is so old fashioned and outdated, compared with Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to name a few that, I honestly feel ashamed and disgusted to watch it. The recently concluded Super Bowl Tournament and the FA Cup tournament which local clubs participated, we witnessed that, players themselves are, to a very great extent, spoil the game, and to this day, no attempt has been made to correct their play, be it technique or skill.

I also felt, deep within me, the immediate need to help our players play Football, not merely as a sport or recreation, but within a planned scheme, with meaning and purpose, so that, not only the players, but the thousands of spectators may enjoy quality football. What the spectators have hitherto seen now in our play, is nothing but plain Football demonstrated in the crudest form and, in styles and methods suited to the individual, without the slightest regard to any planned purpose executed as a team, in general.

This indeed, is a sad picture of our Football administrators. I believe it is not too late for those in authority, to bring Football to its proper and meaningful place. It is the duty and responsibility of the officials of the controlling body and the Football Leagues to produce quality coaches, to help the cause rather than issue Football licences to those who have not played at least school Football at senior level. Certificates and licences are the cheapest commodity now available in our country. Don’t expect to produce skillful and quality players from a factory machine or, from the top hat of a magician. Talented players could be produced only by knowledgeable and experienced coaches, who themselves have played Football at a high level at school, club, or national. If you expect a ‘fresher’ under your charge to perform what you want him to perform, then perform it yourself in front of him, please. Learning is based on demonstration. Only demonstrations that increase the interest of the student can help him to improve in technique and other skills. Technique will only be correctly understood and mastered if, in addition to being explained, it is demonstrated. If the coach is unable to demonstrate it by himself, he must get it demonstrated by an experienced player. The student must be made to understand the aims and purpose of the exercise, skill, technique, tactics etc, and, unless a conscious approach to training is demanded, very little purpose will be served.

The coach should asses the ability of every player. He should understand the psychological makeup of the individual player and, within a short space of time, should know how much his student can absorb into his memory bank. There are some students who may attentively listen for long lengths of time but, at the end, have absorbed nothing. There are those who may listen, question and study but, in practice, do the wrong thing. These are then, some of the peculiar problems facing a coach. Technical and human problems both arise and, a good coach must meet these two divergent problems with kindness and understanding, combining the players mind and body with perfect coordination and precision, which is nearly 50% of mastering Football. A good coach will avoid harsh speech and severe admonishment. This does not mean that the coach should be too passive and too lenient with his charges. A serious and stern command, now and then, serves as a tonic for the drooping spirits. But this must not be overdone. A kindly advice with a certain force is the best form of address. In teaching technical and tactical skills of Football, the coach should explain first, the purpose of the particular exercise, then demonstrate it, and finally, let the players try it out for themselves.

The coach must watch with careful eyes, which of his pupils practice and correct their faults on the spot, rather than remedy it later. The coach must also avoid overdoing practices and exercises, which might result in muscle strain. Mistakes can often happen due to over-strain from exercise, and it is the careful duty of a coach to arrange his lessons to avoid fatigue. There are many causes of mistakes and many methods of correcting them. The main thing is not to neglect any incorrect execution of exercises by the players, not to demonstrate wrong movements, but to explain and demonstrate the correct way by the coach himself. The greatest asset to a team is a good coach and he could make wonderful team out of moderates or, if he is a bad coach, can make a weak team out of good players. It is foresight, wisdom and human understanding of the varied problems that go to make a top coach. Merely being a former international or a reputed star does not mean being a good coach. The correct diagnosis of the sickness and the right prescription are a few of salient characteristics of a top class coach.

Players who think they could coach as well, are only speaking off the top of their heads. Coaching is a science and should be learned in that way. Having played Football and then having coached a team here, and a team there, is no good at all, either for the team being coached or, for the game in general. A coach should be able to find out the root cause of the problems, either individual or collective, in his team.

Amidst constraints and other impediments such as lack of grounds, limited funds and aids, limited hours of training, inadequate nourishment and training facilities, our coaches in the past, have performed creditably. D.S. Abraham V. Nadarajah, Albert Fernando, Neville Abeygunawardena and Lawrence Fernando from the Senior Mentors, have given their services for the betterment of the sport, for quite a long time, from the 1950s to 1970s, followed by P.D. Sirisena, Edward Wickramasuriya and A. Zainulabdeen to name a few. What is the position now?

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