Coach Development

Q+A – Wayne Clarke

Wayne is currently working in Australia and has shared his excellent career journey as well as his key points that his career has allowed him to face. Enjoy!

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I think I have done the hard yards in my football journey! I started out coaching when I was around 14/15 coaching a girls team at the club I played at myself. I obtained my Level 1 Coaching Football Qualification when I was 16, I then started to gain more experience volunteering with a variety of local grassroots clubs working with players of all ages.

Through all of this, I became involved with a community football club that delivered community programmes aimed to increase participation in football and sport. I volunteered during my spare time which really inspired me to create a career in sports development – I became passionate about this and coaching so researched and spoke to people to see how I could mix the two together. I went to University of Wolverhampton when I was 23 to study a Sports Development Degree. During my time at university I still volunteered at local grassroots clubs delivering sessions as and when I could alongside doing some voluntary work within the Community departments at Walsall FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

I then undertook a once in a lifetime opportunity to fly out to America during my summer break in 2015 to coach football (soccer) camps. This came about from just seeing someone I went to college with done it a year before and I wanted to do the same. I travelled across the West Coast living and working in amazing cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Albuquerque and Seattle and many others. During my final year of university, I completed my FA Level 2 Coaching Football Qualification which really helped me develop further by delving deeper into the HOW, WHAT, WHERE and WHY?

I then gained my first paid role within coaching at West Midland Foxes Development Centre for 4 years working with the Foundation and Youth Development Phase – this experience helped me to develop working with a set group of players on a regular basis and seeing their development year on year, some of whom have signed for professional academies in England. I was fortunate to complete my UEFA B Licence and gained a great role working at Birmingham City Women’s RTC. This experience helped me learn so much being around great people!

My partner and I moved to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia in February 2023, my current role is a Football Coach at a school helping to develop their players alongside recently gaining a role as Participation Officer at Football Australia. Im still settling into life in Australia but really looking forward to working within football and developing the game out further.

What is it about your role that you love?

  1. People first – Relationships with people are so important! “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. This is often under looked by coaches, get to know what each person enjoys both in football and outside of football, their parents name (they often are the biggest influences on a child’s life off the field so get to know them too as they can help with their development). Personally, I think this helps to get buy in when giving information to individuals or groups. 
  2. Be yourself – don’t take yourself too seriously! Sometimes in football, you believe you need to be an authoritarian when coaching, players no matter what age can often see through this and probably won’t take much notice.  
  3. Having an impact – having coached players at various levels of the game, I hope I have been able to spark a passion for the game in some way. It’s the best feeling seeing someone you coached still enjoying the game in any capacity.

What have you found different from coaching in the UK? Are there any challenges that you currently face or have previously faced from coaching abroad?

Terminology – In the UK, often most players are used to certain terminology especially when working within a RTC where best practice regarding the consistency of information and terminology can sometimes be seamless throughout the Phases right through to u21’s and First-Team if the terminology is discussed and used by all the coaching staff.

Currently in my role in Australia, I have had to gauge what terminology they have been used to whilst trying to drip feed in and incorporate basic terminology referring to in possession, out of possession and transition. This is a big challenge for me as I am currently using a lot of Q&A, Tactics Board and videos to clearly get across what we are trying to achieve whilst developing the players technical ability through ball mastery and technical passing practices, all while trying to have some sort of realism throughout the session.

Previously, the language I have used has been a challenge as when I coached in America, I was coaching on the evening in a club and asked a player “to tackle another player” within the practice. They then proceeded to NFL style tackle another player! This taught me that I need to be very careful exactly what I am asking players to do and how they may interpret this.

Currently, I also face the challenge of engaging in Coach Education. I am keen to complete the UEFA A Licence as the next step on my coaching career but would struggle not living in or coaching in the UK so I am interested in finding out more about the Australian Football Association (AFA) A Licence.

Are there any countries that you would love to coach in? If so, why?

I would love to be able to coach in Asia as I find the culture there fascinating, I would also like to coach comfortably in a different language. I’d love the opportunity to coach in Spain at some point just based off enjoying watching Barcelona and Real Madrid play when I was younger, even more so now as I appreciate the methodology and differing playing styles across the country.

Do you have a preferred style to coaching?

Im generally quite a quiet person so I don’t have an autocratic style to coaching as such, I am very much a relationship type coach using a democratic style and Q&A alongside using drive by interventions whilst the practice is still ongoing. I much prefer to stop 1/2 players out for 30 seconds to check their understanding, pose questions or challenges and give some relevant information than stop the group of players.

Ultimately though, my ‘style’ is very much dependent on the culture, context and needs of the players. Some players may just want to be told to do XYZ so understanding your players learning style and needs helps to inform the best approach to aid their development.

I lend to the holistic approach to coaching as this approach leads to development as individual players, human beings and the collective group. Coaching for me is about creating an atmosphere or feeling for the players you are working with – Football is meant to be enjoyable so always have this at the forefront of your mind when designing practices/sessions as I have realised that players of any levels or ability just want to play the game, they don’t want you stopping it every 2 minutes and talking for 5 minutes about something which probably isn’t even relevant or directed at them!

What is your next step? What is your long term aim?

My next step is to go to coach in a u18/23’s or first team set up here in Australia. I really want to challenge myself working in the higher levels of the Australian football pyramid. I want to be able to work with players helping them develop by creating a framework and principles they can play within whilst still getting 3 points on game day.

I am also keen to mentor and support coaches to help them develop further, I have gained some relevant experiences over 16/17 years of coaching which I think would be of some benefit to other coaches.

I am passionate about football development and coaching so finding a full-time role in a ‘Head of Football’ for example is my long-term aim in Australia, this will allow me to develop and implement a Football Development programme which works collaboratively with partners/stakeholders and develops coaches and players whilst still being able to get out on the grass and coach a little myself!

Any tips for other coaches out there in regards to coaching? What about tips for coaching abroad?

  1. Connect and create relationships with people – use Twitter/LinkedIn. That’s an unbelievable opportunity to network and create relationships with coaches, Technical Directors all over the world at your fingertips!
  2. Do your research! Ask questions about the club’s pathway, what their player development programme looks like (if they have one) and what the environment/culture is like! Find the environment that will stretch and challenge you to develop yourself further too, development isn’t only for the players!
  3. Document your work – plan and deliver sessions, analyse properly after each session be honest with yourself, don’t be afraid to repeat sessions after making improvements.
  4. Get a mentor- Ask more experienced and qualified coaches to mentor you, watch your session delivery and give feedback, ask to volunteer and learn off more experienced and qualified coaches by picking up cones etc, connect with your local Academies and ask if you can go in and observe coaches – you never know where this may lead if any vacancies come up and they have got to know you on a personal level!
  5. Get out of your comfort zone – if you are comfortable doing the u10/11’s, try working with the u15/16’s for a while to help build your experience. Take risks by going to coach abroad for 6 months if possible and see what happens – you’ll be better off for the experience.

Twitter: @WayneClarke_91


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