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Guest Blog: The Suffolk FA Coaches Academy

About the author: Michael Cornall is the Senior Football Development Officer for Suffolk FA and is responsible for the Suffolk FA Development Strategy. He also is an academy coach at Colchester United FC and works as an FA Coach Mentor. Previously, Michael held coaching roles in New Jersey and Seattle respectively. Michael holds an FA UEFA B License and FA Youth Award.

About the blog: The Suffolk FA Coaches Academy is a development project implemented by Suffolk FA. The four year programme, initiated in July 2015, looks to develop 80 coaches; working and delivering football within Suffolk. The Academy delivers bespoke CPD, practical support and unique opportunities.

'Supporting Your Passion through Excellence' is the mantra of the Suffolk FA Coaches Academy and as I look back on what has been a rewarding, positive and fulfilling 24 months since the programme’s inception, it can be said that this is the case. Those who work in the world of sports development will know that when a new funding cycle is released, there is an opportunity to relook at our strategy and review what we can do differently to support our workforce.

In the summer of 2015, Suffolk FA released its new four year development strategy, which focused on creating great football experiences for the Suffolk community; and one of the key areas was coaching. With the theory that 70% of what we learn is through the actual implementation of our work, we wanted to create a programme that would practically support coaching both on and off the pitch, and went beyond the traditional FA coaching courses.

Through consultation and review, the Suffolk FA Coaches Academy was born. The programme, which enrols 20 coaches a season, is a bespoke development initiative, which gives specific support to individuals. A wide array of coaches were recruited: from Level 1 to Level 3; male and female; professional to grassroots; one year of experience to over 20; but all with one commonality – a thirst to develop their coaching. In the first year, 20 coaches were selected, identifying their needs, areas for development and how they want to be supported on their coaching journey.

This provided the Academy to experience a whole host of CPD events during the first year, across a spectrum of age groups. Coaches attended a match analysis event, FA Youth Module 3 support and a lesson in sports psychology from experienced professionals within each sector. In addition, the importance of networking was present throughout, with the coaches being assigned cluster groups, a network through social media platforms and individual coaching support.

As the 2015/16 season drew to a close, the theme of networking continued with the coaches attending the FA Mentoring Adults qualification to support the year two recruits.

With year two launched in September 2016, the programme developed. Coaches were put into ‘buddy’s’ and were required to support each other both during and outside of the programme. The FA Coach Mentor programme provided an additional 50 hours of support and new events were organised such as technology within coaching, professional academy visits and a visit to a sports science laboratory at the University of Suffolk. As well as this, new partnerships were formed with Halliday Lighting to support the programme and a link with Suffolk Sports Topcoach Academy provided more impact across a greater range of sports.

As the second year comes to a close, it can be said that we are at a critical juncture for the Suffolk FA Coaches Academy. What is the legacy for the coaches that are coming to the end of their tenure as coach undergraduates? Plans are already in place for a legacy support programme so the coaches can go back to their environment and create a positive impact, creating a cascade effect within Suffolk. With eight coaches moving into part-time work, one in full-time education, six with new roles at their local grassroots clubs and four into full-time opportunities, it is apparent that the Suffolk FA Coaches Academy has been a significant success.

Michael Cornall, Senior Football Development Officer, Suffolk FA

Follow:  @coachingsfa @suffolkfa