One of the FA’s requirements for the development of coaches is Continuous Professional Development (CPD). A coach who wants to retain their official coaches licence, has to complete a certain number of hours of CPD each year, the amount depending on the level they coach at. For example, a Level I coach is required to do three hours, with Levels I to IV required to complete five hours. For a coach serious about improvement, this should be an absolute minimum. With the completion of St George’s Park, the FA are able to put on a number of sessions and seminars to enable coaches to complete their hours. In addition, county FAs are also able to put on events that enable member coaches to gain CPD hours.
As a licenced Level III coach, just attending the FA Coaches Conference in December has given me 12 hours CPD, so in addition to completing the UEFA B Licence, I’ve more than met the minimum requirements for the year. However, in future years, it may be more difficult, due to some disagreement between the FA and some of the local FAs, in what content should be in the sessions they put on. The FA, backed apparently by UEFA, feel that content should be relevant to the skill level of the watching coach for them to earn CPD hours.
So for example, a coaching session put on by say a Premier League first team coach may be deemed worthy of CPD hours for a Level III or IV coach, but not Levels I or II. So some of the watching group will earn CPD hours while other won’t, despite watching the same session. The solution for local FAs is to put on sessions specific for each skill level, so for example a session for Level I or II would be far more low level, which may of course mean that coaches with higher badges have little interest in attending. Similarly, the more high level sessions are pointless for Level I or II coaches to attend in terms of gaining any CPD hours, although of course they may feel that the time spent is worth it for them anyway.
However this isn’t always practical for local associations, who often put these sessions on for their members free of charge. There is also some resistance to the theory of denying CPD hours to some members and not others, and this is a point that most coaches who I’ve spoken to seem to agree on. After all, why would one coach learn something from a top class session and another not benefit, irrelevant of the level at which they coach. Personally, I’ve seen a number of sessions this season, and have picked up little things from each one that will benefit my own coaching sessions, motivate me to improve, and inspire me to take my coaching to the next level. And just because I gained my Level III badge this year, hasn’t changed the benefit I will gain from each session. The FA’s current standpoint creates a divide at local levels that is wholly unnecessary.
The result of this is that a number of local FAs are simply not applying for CPD hours accreditation for their sessions, which is sad for a number of reasons, but also totally understandable. They will continue to provide regular sessions for their members despite no CPD hours available, and numbers at the sessions I’ve been to, mostly by Surrey and London FA’s coaching associations, continue to be very high. The sessions put on also continue to be of the highest quality, with presenters such as Brain Eastick, Steve Wigley (both England u21 coaches) and Arsenal’s Steve Bould providing rich learning experiences.
The FA have been making huge strides in improving coaching, with the opening of St George’s Park, the improvement in courses, and the introduction of licencing. It would be a shame to dilute this by making it less beneficial for coaches to attend local sessions, and instead insist they attend specific events, a lot of which are held at St George’s. Coaching is still very much a voluntary or low paid occupation, and if the FA dig their heels in, it will only suggest that they are looking after the top end of the game and penalising grass roots, which for me is where a lot of the issues in the success of English football start.