5 Tips for parents when choosing a Football Academy

5 tips for parents when choosing football academyWhen your child asks to join a Football Academy there are many aspects to consider what is the best football academy to consider . Parents want the best for their kids, and they want them to be happy as well as they want to find a convenient club that is well set in the right way to be safe, enjoyable and is to take their child skills to the following level . Here are five tips when parents are choosing a football academy for your child

Coaches Qualifiaction at football academy

The most important aspect of a Football Academy in Dubai or anywhere in the world is the qualifications of the coaches and staff. Being a professional player in an earlier career does not necessarily mean they would be a professional coach. For example, Diego Maradona is one of the greatest players in history, however, was unsuccessful in his coaching career. Exactly like a teacher a coach needs qualifications to support the development of youth football training right up to adult coaching of an A team. A 3 years old players needs are vastly different to the coaching needs for 16 year olds. Basic qualifications to look for should include:

  • First Aid Course
  • Child Protection Certificate
  • Certificate of level 1,2 or 3 from the European Football Association that is an intensive coaching course with practical assessment and tests coaches deep knowledge and understanding.
  • A coach needs a considerable amount of professional development to continue their coaching license with the FA. These qualifications should be on display or should be available to view.

In youth coaching, it is necessary for the coach to be a good teacher with a good knowledge and passion to learn and try new and different ways of teaching.

Training program for football academy

A quality training program comes from coach qualification and experience and their knowledge and understanding in children’s development needs. The program must accommodate the player’s needs at their developmental stage, age and abilities and pace skills to challenge the player to reach the next stage of skills. Often academies have youth training programs that are set in a specific structure for the whole year for example: two weeks of dribbling, 2 weeks of passing or shooting etc. This does not allow for any flexibility for the student and a set program is not a very good environment for a child to learn in. A knowledgeable and good coach would know you don’t need to teach passing until the player is very confident with the ball so the training program should be very flexible. Friendly games are also a very important part of the program as coaches can reflect and see the strengths and weakness to work on for the team and then reviews the training program to consistently adapt to improve the team performance. A great coach understands the different ways young children learn and should understand how to incorporate these aspects into their youth football training program:

  • Technical Skills – Ball Mastery, Practice and Group Play
  • Psychological – Understanding player development, Decision Making, Building Confidence
  • Social – Communication, Self-esteem, Teamwork
  • Physical – Co-ordination, agility, Conditioning, Challenging skills

Sessions Sturcture at Football academy

The pace and environment of coaching kids is about having fun and enjoying the session with activities planned appropriately for the age and ability group. The coach needs to have a good relationship with the students and set clear session rules, expectations and guidelines for the players to follow and of course all good coaches use positive reinforcement. This helps the session flow smoothly and gives the team a good balance. A skilled coach should use many different teaching strategies of:

  • Visual cues – using demonstration, using color cones, hand signals to name a few.
  • Practical activities where students are getting as much practice on the skills as possible.
  • Correcting mistakes is vital as it gives students feedback and helps them understand how they can achieve a skill.
  • Questioning – During the session look and see if the coach stops the play and asks the players open-ended questions. This type of questioning supports problem solving skills that help in their understanding of the skills and game. Unfortunately, some coaches form bad coaching habits where they only direct kids to pass, shoot or follow the drill. This does not help students to learn and can lower the confidence of the child. Too many closed questions are also not recommended as they only allow players to have a right or wrong answer that can also lower confidence. Coaches need to have good communication skills with players and ask questions that help the student to learn and think through their answers.  For example, a coach should be in communication with all players asking him/her where to move if his friend received the ball or where a better position may be for a player to go.  A good coach should help the players to understand why they should move to this position or part of the field and when they should pass etc.
  • Decision making – The coach needs to let the students learn how to make decisions. The most important part of football is to let the player learn to make the right decision and let the player understand why it’s the best option. Let the player think about different situations and solutions.
  • Session Pace – The pace going throughout the lesson, the coach needs to change the drills to teach new skills for example if starting with dribbling, then the drill moves onto shooting then the skills are practiced in an end of session football game. The session should be built up in three stages of technical, tactical and game related or small sided games

Facilities of Football academy

Living in the heat of the UAE the facilities are very important as there is normally 6 to 8 months of hot weather as well as the many sandstorms we have. A football academy in Dubai and Sharjah needs to have indoor and outdoor facilities where sessions can be run depending on the weather. We are lucky at the Star Football Academy as we have a big indoor Gym, and we have 3 outdoor football fields. Equipment is also important such as different types of balls, co-ordination and agility equipment and bathroom facilities close by.

Equity in freindly games at football academy

Friendly games allow players to use their problem solving and football skills with their team. Every player should be given the opportunity to participate not just the best players on the team.  Every child that enrolls in the Star Football Academy is given the chance to play in every friendly game as it supports the development of the student. Many youth academies advertise their successes and their achievements; however, this can be very unethical as when they participate in games they choose the best players to represent their academies in tournaments and have even been known to bring other great players to play with their academies in the big tournament so they can win. This does not give the child self-worth and equality in the team or a chance to develop their skills and confidence.  Winning should never be the scale of a good academy or a good coach. When I was working four years ago with Mr. Albert, the legendary coach that developed all the Barcelona generation he told players and coaches at the Al Wasel club in Dubai that he wasn’t interested in results and that he was more interested in the players that learned progressively and that after five years from the youth academy are playing in the first team. Interestingly in most European countries, there are no league tables the only way to know the score of a game of a team that an academy will play against the following week is to call the team yourself as there are no league tables. The pressure of performance and winning has shown players dropping football. At the Star Football Academy it is simple for us we encourage all players to participate in every game. If we win then it’s great if the other team wins we congratulate them. We focus more on team performance and how as a team we played a good system and worked together rather than focusing on an individual player to shine in the team.

C0nclusion when choosing football academy for your child .

After all these things have been considered you will have a more confidence in choosing a football academy in Dubai and Sharjah or wherever you may live in the future that best suits your child. Finally, the best Football Academy cares about the whole child that is outside the game of football. At the Star Football Academy, we want your children to look back many years later and have fond memories of their experiences in our academy and to learn lifelong skills that they take with them to their future lives and throughout their achievements.