Posted: December 01st 2014
A few weeks back, I went to the Swansea Schools Football Association Centenary Dinner at the Liberty Stadium with family, friends and colleagues from TCSA. It was a great night out. Three course meal, the works.
'Swansea Schoolboys' have a wonderful tradition of producing top players. Some of the worlds best over those 100 years.
Double-winning Spurs and Swansea City winger, Cliff Jones, Leeds United and Juventus player the Gentle Giant John Charles, Chris Coleman and many many more.
I played for Swansea Schoolboys myself at Under 14 and Under 15 level (the same team as Swans saviour James Thomas) and they were 2 of the best years I had in Football. I knew a lot about the great schoolboys teams of the past thanks to my uncle Michael. The 20,000 crowds they attracted and the stylish and winning players that came through. Pulling on that white shirt inspired me.
That's why I do all I can to support Swansea Schoolboys today. To give something back. Cheesy but true.
Anyway, back to the Centenary Dinner...
Current Wales Manager Chris Coleman was Guest Speaker.
Like a lot of people who meet him and hear him speak, I find him an impressive character.
I remember being at the National Coaches Conference a few years back and he was delivering a technical session. He made it quite clear that he stole the session from Jean Tigana the Frenchman who transformed him and his Fulham teammates into proper ball-players. As he set up the practice and the players had a go at it, there was confusion amongst us (I was one of the Guniea Pigs) as to what we were supposed to be doing.
He immediately apologised and said 'Sorry boys, my fault. I didn't explain it properly'
I've heard other coaches when doing demo sessions make excuses about the quality of players they have at their disposal, leaving me thinking 'well ok, show us how you'd adapt'.
So he comes across as a real humble bloke but strong too. I'm sure this is playing a part in Wales' resurgence under him
I enjoyed Chris' talk, and made a few notes on the points he made (Chris' comments highlighted):
1. 'When asked why they want to be a Footballer, too many kids give the WRONG answer - money, fame cars etc. All I ever wanted to do was play for the Swans and play for Wales!'
Beckham said that Alex Ferguson always told him and the 'Class of 92' to 'focus on your Football, you'll get plenty of money later'.
Alan Tate praised Ben Davies when he broke into the first team at Swansea for “not thinking he’s made it before he has.” Someone said Ben was the only player in Swansea's first team who had to use a handle to wind up the windows in his car!
2. 'You have to NEED it (becoming Pro), wanting it is not enough'
This points toward the importance of what success philosopher, Napoleon Hill, called a 'Definite Chief Aim' at the exclusion of anything else that could come between you and achieving that Chief Aim. This means you can't always 'have it all' At least not at the same time. Young players cannot have a 'sleep over' (you know the ones where not a lot of sleeping happens) the night before a game AND expect to do well.
It's about choices. Chris' behaviour was in line with his clear goal.
I always say if there's something else you'd rather be doing with your life, go and do it because life is too short.
"Wherever you go, go with all your heart." - Confucius
3. 'You need good people around you. People who know what they are talking about in your ear'
Chris said he had his Dad, Paddy, giving him sound advice all the time.
Interestingly, Chris played for the same team throughout his childhood and had the same Coach, who was at the Centenary Dinner. I am in no doubt this consistency helped him. Today, we see players jumping ship every 5 minutes to join a more 'successful' local team.
Teams may win more games with a superior pool of talent but, indivdually, players often stop developing because they are not being challenged and their flaws are not being exposed.
'A win hides a multitude of sins' Anonymous
The people who spend most time around young players are generally their parents. And the things they say and do to effect their children's thinking, behaviour and decisions can make or break them. More than anyone else.
4. 'To improve Grassroots....'
a) 'Better and more facilities - a big investment is needed'
We would ALL agree with this.
b) 'Better coaching - Coaches are afraid of looking silly and asking questions'
Great point and another indication of the importance Chris places on humility.
5. 'I still can't get my head round players being in Academies at 9 and 10 years old'
An interesting comment from a bloke who is so well respected in the game.
In Germany and Belgium they do not take players into Academies until they are 12 or 13. Why? Because they believe it is very hard to predict how good players will be before that age.
There are counter-examples to this. Both Ben Davies and Joe Allen came through at Swansea from the age of around 8 or 9 and stayed there all the way through to the first team.
From a Pro Club point of view, the advantages of having young age-group teams are obvious - they get to keep old of the ones they want...
Either way, what gets missed too often is that the best age to go into an Academy is often later. Around the age of 14. This year's Swansea Academy Under 16 team has just 4 or 5 players left from the team I coached at Under 11.
So if you have a child who is an aspiring player is that there is more than one way to 'make it'.
When they go in to an Academy they need to be READY to make an IMPACT. As Chris Coleman said himself, it is 'sink or swim' and you need to be ready to swim. Nobody is going to teach you when you are there because if someone is a stronger 'swimmer' than you, they are in and you are out. Its as simple as that.
So the best time to get 'scouted' is...WHEN YOU ARE READY.
The good news is that there is a place you can go to ensure you become a 'stronger swimmer' EARN the right to be 'Scouted' and get READY for Academy Football.
You can also learn to enjoy the game while you pursue your dream and become a more confident, happier and successful person on and off the pitch.
3 years ago, I left Swansea City Football Club's youth Department to set up the Champion's Soccer Academy. I believed I could be more useful outside the Pro system, briding the gap. In that time, I assembled a team of top class coaches who have helped develop no fewer than 14 players who have gone onto Academy Football.
We get to know ALL our players personally, and take great care to learn what makes them tick and how to get the best out of them.
It all begins with the Fast Start Orientation - a 2 Week Period of FREE Training - so we can see if you are a good fit for the Academy and just importantly if we are a good fit for you - CLICK HERE for more info.
The next level up is our ground-breaking 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 Accelerated Skills Programme. For those who want to push on to a higher level - CLICK HERE for more info - like others have with TCSA, or just a head-start with 6 years worth of practice in 6 months.