This, however, isn’t for want of knowledgeable people. Take Victor Satei, for instance. The author of the very insightful blog Satei on Soccer, over the past twelve years he has been deeply involved in coaching and the study of player development in football. Along with an ongoing study of sports psychology, he is the holder of a UEFA 'A' license and the USSF 'Youth' diploma.
Recently, he had the opportunity to go to Coverciano to experience how youth football is handled in Italy, a visit that will inevitably shape his blueprint.
Blueprint for Football: Let's start with the basics: what got you into coaching and how long was that?
Victor Satei: I was 18 years of age at the time when I had returned from playing overseas in Italy, school had not gone well for me while I was away and I was forced into making a return to Canada. It wasn't a happy time for me, the love of playing football had been drained out of me and even though I played a couple of years with a CPSL side here in Canada it just wasn't as enjoyable anymore. My uncle was coaching an under 12 side at the time, and he asked me if I'd be interested in helping him coach the team, I agreed and immediately gained a passion for working with young players.
BfF: Have you had any mentors in your career?
VS: Yes, as I began to get more deeply involved with coaching I was hired to do part-time work with a soccer school here in Toronto. The schools owner, Liam Power, would take me with him to coach various groups of players and he spent a lot of time mentoring me on his style of coaching and his philosophy which was very ahead of its time here in Canada. His entire method was based on the use of small sided play and teaching within the game, I became very interested in this method and now it is a huge part of everything I do.
I would also consider Bobby Lennox as one of my mentors. I remember as a young coach watching Bobby as he ran sessions which were creative and fun and brought the best out of young players. His philosophy allowed me to realize the importance of using enjoyment as a major learning tool in everything I do.
BfF: What is your coaching philosophy?
VS: First and foremost I believe football needs to be fun. Fun is the reason why every child starts to play football, and a lack of fun is often why a child drops out. I like to keep things positive and I strive to set a positive tone in everything I do. I don't mind a bit of banter and messing about and I think players like that as well. Young players don't want to be in environments where things are too strict or serious, they want to enjoy themselves.
Of course there is a big difference between having fun and fooling around, you can have fun while putting forth maximum effort in training. Players that train with me realize that, they know they can enjoy themselves but understand that the enjoyment comes through the effort and work they put into training. My training is made up mainly of small sided play, everything we do in training contains an objective and players strive to obtain a positive outcome. I believe learning happens through this struggle, the struggle to achieve a goal, all decisions are made by players and the result of their decisions will lead to either positive or negative outcomes dependent on the decisions they have made. I always keep an open mind and my philosophy has changed and continues to be modified with further education and experience.
The game is always changing and I believe as coaches it's important to keep up with these changes.
BfF: How important is having a playing philosophy or style? Why?
VS: It's very important. You need to have your beliefs in the style of play that you aim to achieve. If you don't have a genuine belief in your playing philosophy your players will sense this and there will be difficulty in transmitting your philosophy to them. You need a very thorough understanding of the style of play you look to obtain in the long term, so that you can plan and set your training criteria accordingly.
BfF: Does football in Canada have an identity? If not, how would you suggest going about building it?
VS: I believe Canada is going through a time of change right now. The footballing identity is a bit blurred at the moment but there are people who are looking at ways to clarify our path and structure. It is always an uphill battle when you are trying to make change happen, but I believe with time, patience, and continued effort we will make forward progress that will shape our countries footballing identity and allow us to achieve success at the international level.
BfF: You've been to Italy's Coverciano to follow their coaching courses. Why Italy?
VS: I actually was lucky enough to stumble upon the opportunity. I was due to return to Belfast to renew my UEFA A license and initially I was planning on doing club visits but the timing was not right and most clubs were shut down for their summer break. As I was mentioning this to a friend of mine who had previously coached in Italy for over 20 years, he asked me if I'd be interested in going to Italy to observe the youth national finals instead.
I was delighted and jumped at the opportunity. He put me in contact with members of the Italian football federation and they sorted everything for me, including my visit to Coverciano.
BfF: What were the main take-aways from the way that they do things vis-a-vis youth football?
VS: The first thing that struck me while I was there was the amount of organization they put into everything. Italians, like myself, tend to be quite laid back, but when it comes to football there is a level of professionalism and attention to detail that is extremely high. The way they analyze players and teams is extraordinary, they put great thought into everything they do and everything is done with good reason.
There is change happening in Italian youth football as well however, and they are looking at restructuring the way they develop players, with a main focus on de-emphasizing the win at all costs mentality that exists at the youngest of ages.
BfF: If you could change one thing about football in Canada, what would that be?
VS: Well there would be a few things that I'd like to change, however if I could only choose one I would look to bring unity in a footballing country that is quite fragmented at the moment. Change happens starting from the top, our National Association needs to be in charge of calling the shots and at the moment that doesn't seem to be the case.
We are living in a football environment where people, clubs, and even teams work independently and follow their own agendas. Instead, we need to look at football nations like Japan, Spain, Australia and Germany and how they have changed their structure with clear direction coming from their national associations.
We desperately need a national curriculum that will help put everyone on the same page, we need to be unified in how we do things and we need to be put on the same track if we want to develop football players capable of playing at the highest level.
BfF: What do you want to achieve to be satisfied with what you have done in your coaching career?
VS: That's a tough question as a career in coaching never really goes down a set path. I think you just try to be the best you can be and as you move along you approach new opportunities which lead you down different roads.
My main objective as a coach I would say is to be successful while going down any path my career leads me to. I feel to be a good coach you have to be able to work with players of any age and any level and as I continue through my coaching career my aim will simply remain to be as successful as possible wherever I end up.
Victor writes on Satei on Soccer and can also be found on Twitter.
The Blueprint According To... forms part of Blueprint for Football Extra.