Danny Barrett: My name is Danny Barrett and I am currently a coach with Arsenal Boys Club 2007-2010. I began coaching when I was 15 years old. I was given the opportunity to help primary School in my local area and this is where I would say I got the coaching bug.
Gillen Reid: Arsenal Boys Club? Tell us more.
DB: Back in 2012 I entered into the world of grassroots football in the name of Arsenal Juniors. It began with an introduction to someone who I now regard as football's nicest man, Davie Currie. He had the idea of running a singular fun fours 2007 team, which I nervously agreed to be part of. I had never coached five year old footballers before and in all honesty didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.
The concept began with six players, most from the Ruchill area of Glasgow. We both entered into this project without a relative involved in the team, which later I found out was a rare occurrence at this level of football. Over time we developed a particular club philosophy, whilst focusing on trying to keep costs as low as possible for parents. Always attempt to keep parents involved and informed, working towards providing player feedback as often as possible.
Overall the objective was to create a safe, enjoyable and encouraging environment for all our players.
Four years later we’ve had a name change, Arsenal Boys Club, and expanded our age group to include 2008s, 2009s and now 2010s. We now compete in the Glasgow League every Sunday morning. The rapid expansion of the club has taken us by surprise. We pride ourselves in being a club that’s always evolving, trying to improve which aims to provide the best footballing experience for our young people.
GR: Any success stories you can tell us about?
DB: We now boast over 40 children across those age groups. We are also proud to say we’ve managed to retain the core group of players from our 2007s age group.
Watching all the players’ progress is one of the best feelings that you can get as a coach. Scores do not matter at any point. It’s all about the overall engagement and enjoyment. What I would regard as our biggest success story is that the children seem to enjoy their football. We have a group of children who understand they must first enjoy themselves and secondly work hard. This is a real club ethos that we have implemented across all our age groups that the players have really excelled at.
I would also state we have successfully managed to bring together children and their relatives to create a really positive club enviorment. Everyone involved brings something beneficial to our project and it has helped us grow stronger.
GR: What are your thoughts on coaching in terms of my own approach?
DB: I believe grassroots football is extremely difficult. There are many key traits needed to be an effective grassroots football coach, but I believe patience to be the key. Young people need simple, clear and direct instructions re-explained many times. When you fail, and it does happen, chaos breaks out.
You are asked ten times a minute if they can go to the toilet, which I believe is a nice marker to measure their engagement with your session. The less they ask, the more engaging and enjoyable the session. You will eventually have to deal with negative behaviour during games or training sessions. From angry outbursts because they did not score a goal to just waking up on the wrong side of the bed.
From all of these situations you require an abundance of patience.
One of the major factors that is sometimes missed at grassroots football is these children are beginning their footballing journey. Therefore, if you ask any player in one of our teams “what are you going to do today?” one of the two responses you will hear is ‘enjoy ourselves’. I honestly feel no matter what level you coach at if you cannot make training sessions enjoyable you are failing your players.
This does not mean you have to do fun games all the time, but I have found if you can create a challenging lesson and deliver it enthusiastically you will get a positive response, hopefully leading to players enjoying football.
Preparation is vital no matter what team you train. If you fail to plan effectively then you will never provide the opportunity for your players to achieve. I have also found that good preparation creates smoothly run training sessions, which leads to players getting more out of the session.
Setting good ground rules allows players to know what is expected of them. We have rules for behaviour during training but also expectations. Again, if you asked our players “what are you going to do today?” the second response will be ‘work hard’. Having strong expectations allows gives our players good guidelines that they can strive for. In our experiences so far this has been really positive as we see the players really buying into our ideas and it leads to them enjoying their football.
Finally, but by no means least, I believe at grassroots level touch is one of the most important things to be worked on. We dedicate at least half our training time to allow every player to be on a ball completing some form of touch exercise. From my experience if a player has a good touch, everything else falls into place.
We can easily inform players on positional play and match tactics. But if they do not have a good touch everything breaks down. Strong passing and dribbling skills all come from having a good touch and being comfortable on the ball. We didn’t start out with this way of thinking but since we have adjusted we have found huge success in our players development.
GR: Thanks again to Danny for joining us today, and we hope you have found this interesting reading for you today, perhaps you could use some of the ideas?