Google+ Blueprint for Football: January 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Uncovering Potential: Looking Beyond the Obvious

by Stephen Fraser
When talking about identifying players with potential, Sir Alex Ferguson once commented that he 'observed young players to see how they reacted when faced with adversity'. He listed this particular quality as the second attribute he looked for in young players. The first, being footballing ability.....which is a fairly obvious starting point. The other two listed were related to the brain and the body, they were speed of thought and speed of movements. 

This covers the technical, tactical, physiological and psychological aspects of identifying young players with potential. Many clubs within the United Kingdom still view the technical and physical aspects as the most important criteria to identify players with potential. They see the immediate performance of a player and incorrectly believe this to signify a potential determinant of future ability and performance. 

It is very easy to notice players who stand out in a game. Often the reasons for their early success are physical and psychological maturity. These allow them to develop skills and techniques quicker than others whilst their bodies are better coordinated and more advanced physiologically. They are also able to process information quicker and more efficiently due earlier psychological maturity. 

Ferguson looked beyond these initial obvious characteristics of young players and observed to see how they coped when things were not going their own way. You can tell a lot about the potential of a young player by observing how they react when faced with setbacks in games, training and in life in general. 

It is important to observe players reaction to losing the ball, to miss-placing a pass and generally when they perform poorly. This provides a very clear indication of the determination and mental toughness they possess. 

Naturally, analyzing a young player based on these criteria is far more complex than simply viewing players and judging them on their footballing ability. Their movements and mannerisms must be studied meticulously to gauge how they cope with adversity. This requires the observer to study the player when they are out of possession. 

Given that during the majority of a football match players are required to move without the ball, this should be a key criterion. Unfortunately, off the ball movement and mannerisms are rarely analyzed when uncovering potential stars of the future. 

Jose Mourinho is often said to be very focused on the transitions in matches. They are considered by many to be a key and determining factor in the outcome of games. Observing young players in key moments in games is another important indicator of future potential. 

There are four key moments or situations which arise in games; when your team has possession, when your opponents have possession, when you switch from attacking to defending and when you switch from defending to attacking. 

In these key moments it is important to view player’s movement in relation to the ball and their teammates. Their level of intelligence and game awareness can be gauged in these instances. One can also gain an understanding of their willingness to help out their teammates by fillings gaps which arise and which can potentially be exploited by the opposition. Observing traits such as these takes account of the psychological element of uncovering potential. 

Again, this area is often overlooked when clubs attempt to uncover potential players of the future. As previously stated, clubs within the United Kingdom often focus predominantly on the technical and physical aspects of the performance matrix. 

It is important young players are viewed and assessed in a training environment before any decision can be made regarding players’ potential. This allows coaches to view the mentality of the young player and how they deal with the learning process. 

If a player is focused on learning and developing their skills and abilities then they will have a far greater chance of progressing as a player. You can observe the focus and determination exhibited by a player when they are undertaking specific practices in training. Their body language and mannerisms reveal a lot about whether they possess a growth mindset. 

It is crucial that they focus on the small details and are constantly self-analyzing and correcting their execution of skills and techniques. They need to view mistakes as an opportunity learn and grow as a player and a person. 

Many young players view failure or making mistakes as a weakness and something to be feared. This is a worrying belief and should be discouraged at every opportunity. Making mistakes is the only way young players will grow and develop. 

Therefore, when identifying players with potential it is crucial the observer's view the player’s reaction to mistakes. Players with a growth focused mindset are far more likely to develop and improve as they progress as a young footballer. It is crucial they embrace challenges and show the courage to continue to develop their game.

Uncovering potential is a complex and demanding process. It requires the observer to focus on the player’s capacity to progress and develop as a young footballer. Simply viewing the players who make the biggest impact on games at a young age only tells part of the story and it is often the wrong part. 

Players who make the biggest impact at the younger ages tend to be the most psychologically and physiologically advanced children. These traits take the observers attention away from the crucial characteristics required to progress and develop as a footballer. These being the player’s capacity to learn and their determination to succeed. Both qualities stem from the brain and the brains ability to process information and to deal with challenges. 

If we are to uncover young players with future potential it is crucial we look beyond the obvious and focus on the hidden traits underneath the surface. We need to develop a framework in which children can be viewed taking account of all aspects of the performance matrix with particular focus on the psychological characteristics. 

The challenge for those involved in football is to appraise young players holistically with a view to future potential and not to simply select players based on their initial performance.

Stephen Fraser is an academy coach and football analyst who was interviewed by Blueprint for Football here and who can be found on Twitter here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Homegrown Saints

Success in football, in particular the definition of success, can be difficult to measure because it largely depends on the angle from which you approach it.

For outsiders it is hard to identify any form of success at St Mirren.  The club has struggled to stay afloat in the Premier League whilst a win in the Scottish League Cup in 2012-13 offered a rare moment of glory.  Success isn’t something that you typically associate with the Paisley club.

Look closer, however, and you will start to see a different picture.  Their first team regularly features six players – Mark McAusland, Sean Kelly, Kenny McLean, Thomas Reilly, John McGinn and Jason Naismith – who started their careers in the club’s youth teams.  Of that group, four have represented Scotland at Under 21 level.  Many more have either already had a taste of first team football or else are on the periphery of the first team squad.

By any measure, then, that which St Mirren have in place is a hugely successful youth system.

The man who has overseen much of the development of this system is David Longwell who began working for the club as Assistant SFA Development Officer and rose through the ranks until he was given the role of Head of Youth Development in 2005.  From that position he has helped shape St Mirren’s approach to the development of players with the result being a constant stream of talented players who are ready to step into the first team.

And the emphasis truly has to fall on that word: talented.  

“First and foremost we look for technique,” he says resolutely as he explains what matters most for St. Mirren when they’re looking at a young player.   “There are still too many clubs who go for the bigger players.  We don’t believe in that.  Look at the likes of Suarez and Aguero who certainly aren’t big but they’re among the best players in the world because of what they can do with the ball.”

“So we guard ourselves and are careful not to go for the big strong players who typically stand out in youth games.  We focus a lot on technique and regardless keep on working to improve it.”

“Other than that, we look to see if they have game intelligence, whether they are scouring to see what is around them and if they have good movement.  If you get kids who have also got pace and got strength then it is even better.”  

“There is a fine balance that you have to try and get to.  There are players who are stronger at a younger age whilst others develop later on and you have to guide them properly.”

Having been at the club for so long, Longwell can trace the club’s upturn in fortunes - as far as the club’s youth structure is concerned – to a specific moment in time: when the club decided to sell their old stadium, Love Street.

“The biggest change came when the board of directors sold the old stadium to finance the building of a new stadium with the money left over being invested in a training centre,” he confirms.  “We have our own training facility with 3rd generation pitches, academy centre as well as three grass pitches.”  

“On top of that, managers who have come in have been encouraged to look within for new players.”

This latter point is of particular importance to Longwell.  “When I was younger and worked as a community coach I got to appreciate the importance of having strong local links.  We’ve had players like Stevie Mallan who was picked up from our community coaching and is now in our first team.  I’ve always believed that these players have a stronger affinity with the club.”

“St. Mirren is very much a community club that is in touch with the area.”

You would imagine that a club with such a track record for giving its own players an opportunity would have little difficulty convincing young players to join them.  However, it isn’t always the case.

“Scotland is dominated by Celtic and Rangers so you will get parents who are swayed by the Old Firm.  We’ve sat down with players to explain that with us they will get more of an opportunity.  We compare our first team with those of the Old Firm, showing that we have more home grown players. We explain that there are more foreign players involved at the top end.  Still, a lot of them support the Old Firm and you still get a lot of players who go for the bigger club.”

Not that there are many bigger clubs – youth wise – in Scotland.  Indeed the Scottish FA has awarded them a five star rating after evaluating their facilities, level of coaching as well as curriculum.  Only Rangers and Celtic have a higher rating. 

“There are far bigger clubs who have got a lower status.  We just have a standard of working hard in order to keep improving and the rating signifies that we have everything in place to develop players.”

Longwell can talk with such authority because, as the club’s Head of Youth Development, he is the one who has to map out what happens at the club.

“I oversee what takes place at each level and develop our coaching strategy.  We focus on the technical aspect which, at top end, I do not think has been done enough in Scotland lately.”  

“A massive part our work goes into ensuring that they are comfortable with both feet whilst we also work on their football intelligence.   The way we coach ensures that there is a lot of discovery learning which means that the children work things out for themselves and find solutions to problems themselves rather than relying on the coach to tell them what to do.”

“On matchday there is a big shift as we always look to play from the back.  The goalkeeper must always be looking how best to pass the ball, for instance.  As teams lock on to you in order to stifle you we coach them so that there is always someone free.  Therefor we teach the kids to try and look at their position as well as that of those around them.   In general, we do try to develop a style that is attractive and exciting.”

Those, however, are the major brush strokes of the St Mirren painting; the philosophy with which the players are schooled.  True, you need to have that vision if you want to develop players, but you also need to look at what each and every player needs in order to fulfil his potential.

Once again, St. Mirren execute this to perfection.  “I do a lot of one on one chats with the player to make them understand what they have to work on.  They all have individual programmes to try to advance them and we speak to sport science people to determine where they are physically.”

This is particularly the case when there are players who are coming towards the end of their youth career and looking to advance among the professionals.  “We are ready to let players go on loan but only if it is the right club,” Longwell explains.  “For instance we would not send a player to a club that only look to launch the ball.  It must have the right coaches and the right style for our players to develop.”  

“We’re quite lucky in that teams playing in the Under 20 League are allowed to play five
overage players.  We don't play one player like that whereas other clubs play them week in, week out.   “As a result, our kids are playing older and stronger players.”

“That said we realise that there are players who progress quickly but with others you have to be patient.  Some kids ready at 18 whilst with others you have to keep on working.  We let them develop at their own pace.”

Throughout the interview, Longwell had come across as someone who not only was extremely knowledgeable – something that you would expect in a Head of Youth Development (even if it isn’t always there) – but who also as someone with the rare talent of developing strategies seen elsewhere to fit into his own template.

It comes of little surprise that he has done every coaching course possible, including the UEFA Pro Licence.  It is even less surprising that he used such courses not only to learn off the official material but also to see what those around him were doing.

“You look at what the likes of Guardiola and Mourinho who are always trying to evolve the game.  You dilute it down and see what you can learn off them.  There are also many aspects that you can learn from people at your own club.  We’ve had some very experienced managers but also younger people can come up with fresh ideas.”  

“It is important that you keep learning over time, watching loads of football, be it on TV or live.  You watch tactics always trying to learn.”

That desire to learn is embodied throughout the whole academy structure at St. Mirren and is one of the main reasons for their growing status.  Ultimately, however, it is largely down to how they treat their players at all levels.

“Kids need opportunity and we're giving them that here at St Mirren."

If you haven't yet seen our book, you should head over to Amazon to check it out.  Look for Blueprint for Football Volume 1 (US edition) and Volume 2 (US edition), where you'll find interviews with coaches who share their ideas, beliefs and blueprint for coaching the game.  More interviews can be found on Blueprint for Football Extra, our (free) newsletter.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Blueprint for Football Weekly Digest [Issue 5]

Every Saturday morning, subscribers to Blueprint for Football Extra, this site's free newsletter, receive an e-mail with the best coaching related articles we've come across during the week.  These are the articles included in the e-mail sent on the 3rd of January.  If you too want to receive the links straight in your in-box, all you have to do is subscribe to the newsletter.

Juego de Posición under Pep Guardiola 
It would seem that no weekly digest can go by without mentioning Pep Guardiola.  Believe me, this is not intentional.  Yet such is his brilliance as a coach that barely a week goes by without people finding something else about his systems to analyse and it would be remiss not to point it out.

This one is particularly brilliant, looking at the positional play of his team’s and Guardiola’s ideas for them.  If you’re going to read just one article from this list, make sure that it is this one.

"We Offer the Best Coaching, Best Staff and Best Way to Develop Players"
Brentford are doing really well in the Championship having gained promotion from League 1 last season.  It isn’t just the first team, however, that is doing well as the whole club is being structured in a way to excel.  Indeed they've set up an impressive youth system as Ose Aibangee, their Head of Youth, explained to me last January.

Tactical review of 2014: Part 1 and Part 2
It is my personally held belief that there are few better writers out there than Jonathan Wilson.  His book Inverting the Pyramid is one of those that any coach should read in order to get an appreciation of the evolution of tactics (as is his under-appreciated book on goalkeepers The Outsider).

Every year, Wilson takes a look back at football tactics and this year’s – which is split into two part - is as always a highly insightful read.

Why Defending Wins Championships
Games with a high number of goals might be entertaining to those watching from a neutral perspective but they’re also symptomatic of a culture that prizes the entertainment value more than effectiveness.   The reality, however, is that such big scores are the product of an era where defensive solidity isn’t appreciated, where even defenders have to be fanciful in order to be noticed.  It is why this piece, whilst written a while back, should serve a reminder that without good defending, success is virtually impossible.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Power of the Brain

When he was born in 1933 in Pau Grande, a district of Magé in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Manuel Francisco dos Santos becoming a footballer seemed to be the least probable of his future career prospects.  His family was poor and his father an alcoholic yet that wasn’t the main problem; many great Brazilian players came from a similar background so the environment in which he was raised wasn’t that big of an issue.

The physical defects with which he was born, however, were a completely different matter.  His spine was deformed, his right leg bent outwards whilst his left leg was six centimeters shorter and curved inwards.  Even his growth was stunted, which is what led his sister to come up with the nickname with which he would be known for the rest of his life: Garrincha, the little bird.  Football was out of the question.

Only that it wasn’t.  As with most Brazilian boys, Garrincha grew up playing the game.  And rather than letting his physique hinder him, with practice he came to use it as an advantage to dribble around bigger, stronger players.  Eventually, this ability would be developed to the extent that he became considered a genius of the game.

Garrincha managed to achieve all that he did during his career not because of his physique but because of his brain or, rather, the in-built ability that we all have to shape our co-ordination around out unique physical peculiarities.

This is what brain plasticity - the term used to describe the human brain's ability to change and adapt as a result of experience – is all about.  Although humans are all roughly the same (two feet, two hands, a head etc.) everyone is different in one way or another.  Some are short whilst others are tall; some are heavy boned whilst others nimble and so on.

Therefore, in order for to brain to allow each person to achieve an objective like walking, it has to have a little flexibility in its coding so that the function of putting one foot in front of the other can handle that individual’s unique build.

Once it is calibrated to that individual, the brain keeps on learning and the more that it repeats a movement the better it becomes at that executing that movement.  Run through a rough field once and you’re likely to stumble more than a couple of times.  Run through the same field a second time and you’ll fare better.   Go over the same path a hundred times and you’ll be breezing over those patches that previously gave you such a hard time.  This is because the brain learns and tunes the body accordingly.

Practise does indeed make perfect.

This has many implications.  The first, obvious, one is the confirmation that it provides that the road to excellence does lie in practice.  The mind can be moulded provided an action is repeated enough times.  Admittedly, this is a simplistic way at looking at the relationship between body and mind but it also explain why behind every athlete (or, indeed, any endeavour like playing a musical instrument or a simple computer game) there are hours of practise.

There is, however, a flip side.  If the mind is trained to do the same thing over and over, it will tune to body to being good at that but the monotony will limit the ability to do other tasks.  To keep with the previous analogy, if you’re running in the same field day after day as soon as you try to run in a different field you will once again start faltering.  It is why coaches introduce variations in their training sessions; to ensure that different aspects of one’s ability are enhanced.

From a coaching perspective, the implications of brain plasticity are immense but the main one is this: limiting one’s opinion of a young player’s ability on his physique would be a serious blunder.

This is the first instalment in a two part series.  The second feature will look at how brain plasticity changes over time and the implications that there exist for coaches.  

Any feedback - or questions - can be directed either on Twitter or else on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Blueprint for Football Weekly Digest [Issue 4]

Every Saturday morning, subscribers to Blueprint for Football Extra, this site's free newsletter, receive an e-mail with the best coaching related articles we've come across during the week.  These are the articles included in the e-mail sent on the 27th of December.  If you too want to receive the links straight in your in-box, all you have to do is subscribe to the newsletter.

Tyrone Mings Makes His Mark At Ipswich On And Off The Pitch 
On the weekend when Sunderland once again beat Newcastle thanks to a goal by Adam Johnson – who had grown up supporting Newcastle and had been in their youth system before being let go when he was twelve – this piece about Tyrone Mings was particularly poignant.

Mings was let go by Southampton as a 16 year-old because of “lack of physical development” but refused to give up on his dream.  Good for him because he’s now one of the hottest properties in the Championship having joined Ipswich after a spell in non-league.

Whilst his rise to prominence might make for a good story, its true value, coaching wise, lies in the care that needs to be taken when judging players on their physical development. 

Manufacturing Goal-Scoring Opportunities 
This is one that will largely interest coaches who work with older age groups.  As the title suggest, this session by Gavin MacLeod involves a number of drills through which one can coach the creating of goal-scoring opportunities.

More Important Than Talent
The more that I read and talk to people about the development of players, the more convinced I become of the need of mental strength as much talent.  This article reflects that view.  Far too many athletes have ability but are unable to make the sacrifices that are needed in order to ensure that their potential is maximised.

La Liga Power Balance Shifts: Has Barcelona Lost Its Soul? 
On the pages of Blueprint for Football there is a lot of talk on establishing a philosophy of how you want to play.  Typically, when people hear that phrase they immediately think about Barcelona and how they managed to achieve phenomenal success with a team largely made up of home grown players along with a unique way of playing.

That image, however, isn’t in synch with what close followers of the club are seeing at the moment.  With the core of the dominant team growing older and a desire to look outside of the club to get new players – with limited success - there is a distinct feeling that its philosophy needs revisiting.

Managing the Welfare of the Elite Athlete 
Close observers of this weekly digest will notice that every week I try to include at least one article from another sport.  This time round it is something from British cycling – a sport whose success has given me (and many others) so much food for thought – and in particular from Sir Dave Brailsford.  This fairly lengthy piece provides an overview of the core elements that resulted in the sports’ success and strengthens the belief that success isn’t down to one thing but a combination of factors.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Blueprint According To...Joe Smith

There are a lot of people who get into coaching because their own playing career came to an end.  For many, however, that end was forced either through injury or else through age.  Few actually stop playing because they are disillusioned with the game only to see in coaching a possibility of a kind of redemption.

Joe Smith falls into that latter group.  A creative player, he admits that from a young age he had that creative aspect ‘coached’ out of him to the extent that he eventually decided to stop playing.  However, he eventually took up coaching seeing this as an opportunity to avoid having other suffer the same experiences as him, making creativity very much at the core of his football blueprint.

Blueprint for Football: Let's start with the basics: at what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to coach and what led you to take that decision?
Joe Smith: It is funny as myself and my cousin were talking about this only a little while back.  I'm relatively late into coaching having taken my first coaching session at 24 and I never envisaged myself going into coaching.  All I wanted to do was play but my cousin would always say “you'll love it when you start”.
I stopped playing when I was about 23 years old as I became a bit disillusioned with the game and almost fell into coaching and got the bug straight away.

BfF: What has been the biggest difference you've found between your perception as a coach and the realities of the role?
JS: Growing up, my perception was that if a coach was commenting and constantly stepping in to make a point then they must be knowledgeable; they must be right.

What I have in fact found out is that is the ego part of coaching and the skill in coaching is nothing to do with what you know, it is the relationships you foster with the players you coach.  I was asked at MK Dons is “talking coaching?”  And when I sat back and had a think about that statement I discovered in fact no it isn't.  

Of course there are times when you need to enhance a player’s knowledge but I assumed before going into coaching that was the main role as a coach and it certainly isn't.  

BfF: Have you had any mentors in your career?
JS: I've not had any mentors as such but a range of people I will talk in depth about my role as a coach and best practice.  For me the moment I met Dan Micciche at MK Dons was a turning point.  Before meeting him all I knew of the coaching world was drills, structure and what I had experienced as a player.

I was a creative player but from the moment I could kick a ball it was coached out of me.  So, when I saw Dan's passion for creativity it certainly fired something up in me where I thought I could actually make a genuine impact in player development if I followed what I believed in.

BfF: What is your coaching philosophy?
JS: I believe in complete player freedom and creativity; I try and create an environment where creative thinking and decision making are prevalent.  Every exercise I decide with the players, after all it is their game.  People forget that every game we know now was invented by children it is adults who ruin it for them.  I have a lot of player interaction and if I do enforce anything it is that training is conducted in chaos.  I think it is important to be relevant to the game but, more than that, relevant to what they actually want.  Of course, if you give a young player an option they will ask for a match and I don't find that a problem but as a coach you set appropriate challenges and conditions that keep them engaged to create a learning environment.

BfF: Is winning important for you?
JS: I have received some criticism for this but genuinely I don't count scores anything below U21 football.  If my own niece and nephews play I don't ask what the score was, I ask whether they enjoyed themselves and what they learned.  

Now, of course, we all like to win but for me it goes back to the adult ego and it doesn't sit comfortably at all with me.  I have sat through games where the team I was taking were losing 10-0 and I could see the disgruntled look on the parents faces but winning doesn't mean success.  In that particular game I would say the losing team developed more simply because they were challenged.  Winning is great but ask the boys/girls ten minutes after the game about it and all they are thinking about is what was for dinner or playing on their computers.

Of course, as always, a balance is required.  Young players can lose motivation if they always lose but I think it is the environment you set around that and if you can get both the players and parents to buy into it you genuinely will have a special thing.

BfF: What are the most important attributes of players in your teams?
JS: For me attributes I would hope to see in my teams would be respect and the ability to try anything at any time on the pitch.  That mentality is vital for me! Respect is everything for me.  I think is paramount we, as coaches, enforce that.  I consider it our moral obligation to educate these young people not just in the game but in society. 

Now, I think it is easy to say “I want the players to try anything at any time” but that for me is fundamental in the teams I coach.  I want them to feel comfortable enough to know that I will embrace the idea.  The execution is of no interest to me as that is something that can be enhanced over time but the idea is crucial.  

BfF: You focus a lot on the creative side of players.  First of all, what do you understand by a creative player?
JS: For me a creative player is someone who goes against the grain.  I think every child has that capacity but I think by creative most people think you are demanding step overs.  That's part of it but it is more than that: it is even the way they process information and rely it.  Even coming up against an obstacle and finding a solution in a game is being creative.

BfF: Children are, by their nature creative.  What are things that coaches do - perhaps unconsciously - to diminish that creativity?
JS: I've seen a lot of coaches of late and I never judge.  We are all students of the game and I have so much to learn and I'm looking forward to that journey.  One thing I notice is the decisions coaches make for players.  I've seen young players face a 1v1 situation and a coach say “pass, pass”.  But why? Again, is it ego? Is it because they see Bayern doing that do they want their teams to look atheistically pleasing?  I feel all they are doing there is stumping creativity.  I don't think they mean to but they see it in adult football and try to replicate it.  

Also the amount of sessions I witness which look great and everything is measured and nothing left to chance.  Is that the best for development and creativity?  I'm not sure.  Football is untidy and can be scrappy so training in that environment should surely be the priority.

BF: What can be done to enhance their creativity on the football pitch?
JS: I think environment is crucial.  If you set the correct environment young people naturally flourish! If a young player makes a mistake they know they won’t receive telling off.  After all, professional footballers make mistakes all the time.  If you are looking to enhance creativity, train on different surfaces, car parks, sports halls anywhere it doesn't have to be pretty by exposing them to different challenges their creativity will increase.

Other sports as well! Playing an instrument, something that isn't the norm, but it gets the creative juices flowing.

BfF: Similarly, how can that creativity and freedom in their play then be moulded to ensure that they work in a team?
JS: Again, I think the danger with the word creativity is the common mis-conception that it only promotes individualism.  There is that element but creativity is so much more!  Around the corner one touch pass is creative and getting players to lend the football is just as creative as dribbling but at the right times.  

Coaches should be encouraging dribbling everywhere and anywhere for me.  Even goalkeepers if you can master a dribble then the ability to pass will increase.

This is where being a coach comes in the ability to break down that information for a 9 year old to say “look at what you are doing, it is fantastic, keep doing it but what else can you do?” They see the game better than us a lot of the time they have better answers as well!

BfF: Do you give the physique (their strength) of players any importance?
JS: For me no, none what so ever.  Yet it is part of our game, even talent identification will say that.  It is common knowledge the best players that the world has ever produced are normally smaller than average people.  Physicality dominates the English landscape and I think it is something that has been passed down.  Being athletic is important and the modern game demands it but players develop at different rates.  I look at hips to toes and that's all that interests me.  Being physically dominating at a young age means nothing, being technically superior means far more.

BfF: To what extent can every player be creative?
JS: Every player has the capacity.  I have been to grassroots games and heard parents say “you're a centre back just clear it.” But why? I don't blame parents they have been passed that information and they believe it is right for their child.  Every child, when encouraged, will flourish in a creative environment! Sometimes you will even be surprised at the start of a session say to your players for 10 minutes show me something I haven't seen before! They can't wait for you to see it, their faces light up and you see then that every child has that capability.

BfF: Finally, what do you want to achieve in the future to feel that you've fulfilled your ambitions ad a coach?
JS: That is a great question and I often change my mind! I think the key is to keep learning and see where the journey takes me! I want to inspire as many young people as possible and really change the mindset of what English coaches are regarded as, as I do think it is unfair.  

Coach education interests me and maybe management but I'm a long way from that and I look forward to enjoying the process of evolving and learning every day.

Joe Smith is on Twitter and an excellent resource for coaches to follow.  If you enjoyed reading this interview then you'll probably like Blueprint According To...Volume 2, a collection of seven interviews with football coaches from all over the world.