I’m the Head Coach for the Under-9s and Under-10s, and I’m also the Assistant Foundation Phase Lead. That’s from 7-11/12 year olds, so I lead on the two middle age groups which allows me to check on our players progress through the phase at a key stage. Our sessions with Under-7s and Under-8s are more talent identification, where our aim is to find the best players to then eventually sign at Under-9 age group. With the Under-9s it is the first year of signed academy football so the programme is all about introducing and setting expectations. I do a bit of work with the younger ones, mainly supporting the 7s and 8s coaches deliver sessions and designing the programme that those coaches will follow. I go out and monitor what some of our development centre coaches are delivering also, but primarily my role is about coaching the Under-9s and Under-10s and delivering our full programme to them.
The full programme involves the delivery of weekly coaching sessions which are split into two categories. One is squad sessions which are for every player within the age group and focus on one of the key academy playing philosophy areas. The other is individual training programme (ITP) which is led by the players based on what they have targeted to improve for that period of the season. These can be technical areas of their game, or something to do with movement, psychology or tactics. I have three assistant coaches that help me deliver this to our players. I also lead on weekly football analysis sessions where we watch either videos of our own games back to highlight positives things we want to do again, or identify things that we could have done better. We tend to use a lot of clips of elite professionals as our youngest players love to replicate things they have seen the top pro’s do on TV. We also have strength and conditioning sessions and a winning mentality programme which focuses on psychology that I support the delivery of.
Then there’s fixtures as well. Our fixtures programme is quite big so we have weekly fixtures on a Sunday for which we have to organise squads, which players are playing, which players are rested, the positions they are going to play for each of the 4 periods of the game and how this relates to their individual needs. There’s a range of festivals and tournaments that the Premier League or other clubs around Europe organise that we take the boys to, so it’s making decisions about which ones we go to and which players we’re going to take, and what are our objectives when we are there. This is all guided by our tournament strategy which is reviewed each season.
We collect school reports on all our players and we have a member of our team visiting schools to speak to head teachers and class teachers about how the boys are getting on in school and to see if there’s anything that Fulham can do to support with their wider education. So we’re involved in that quite a bit and put quite a big emphasis on it, especially the 9-11 year olds at primary school because it’s such an important time for them. We also try to limit late training sessions so their football doesn’t affect their performance at school. Our Under-7s and Under-8s all finish training by 6.30pm.
I worked at the Club’s Foundation department since 2006. I worked there as a Sports Development Officer initially, then a Quality Assurance Manager for a few years, and then as Operations Manager overseeing a range of different football and sport programmes that were run in the community. There I managed a team of coaches and officers and would deliver CPD (continuing professional development) events to the staff. My background was initially in school sport at primary level and I am qualified to deliver Physical Education training to primary school teachers. I have a Sports and Exercise Science degree from Portsmouth University and I’m currently qualified to UEFA B level and FA Youth Award Module 3.