Hope Powell (CBE) has been something of a pioneer in the game in the United Kingdom. In 1998, she became the first ever full-time coach of the England Women’s national team, leading them to the UEFA Championships on four occasions and the World Cup twice. She became the first female to qualify for the UEFA Pro-Licence in 2003.

In addition, she took responsibility for the whole elite structure from u15s to u23s, the coach mentoring scheme and the FA’s National Player Development centre, and also introduced central contracts for the national team players. She also led the Great British Women’s team at the London 2012 Olympics.  An attacking midfielder as a player, she won 66 caps for her country with a scoring record of more than one in two.

More recently, Powell has been a coach educator for the FA, and in July became the women’s first-team manager at Brighton & Hove Albion. As a coach, it is fair to say that opinions on Powell have been mixed, some rightly praising her for the progress she has made with women’s football in the UK, others suggesting with the support networks in place she should have produced better results. Either way, I was interested to see her coaching in action at a session put on by the London FA Coaching Association earlier this year, on Playing out from the Back and Through the Thirds.

Steph Houghton

The session began with a discussion between Powell and the watching coaches, firstly on the different methods of playing out, whether with a back three or back four, and when pressed and when not pressed by the opposition. The former England coach used the example of the national team to demonstrate the point that you have to take into account the players available and their relative strengths – Faye White was, in her opinion, a very solid defender, but less comfortable playing the ball out. In contrast, current skipper Steph Houghton was far more comfortable playing this way.

As a coach, Powell believes that while she can put on a session performed by any other coach, her job is always to impart her knowledge to make the players better. Always with the her principles of play for both attacking and defending in her mind when planning a session, she also gave an insight into her coaching philosophy, suggesting that when she felt her team would struggle in a game she would ensure the team was hard to beat first, before concentrating on the attacking side of the game.

Free Download: Coach Playing Out From The Back & Through The Thirds

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive essential training exercises to teach your players to play out from the back and through the thirds.

View our Privacy Policy

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Powell’s first challenge for the session was the pitch size – something we can all probably appreciate when you plan a session only to find a smaller area than expected. Recreating width and depth is tricky on an area the size of a 5-a-side pitch! She was coaching a group from the Arsenal community scheme, technically good but perhaps lacking in some game understanding. It was interesting to see her coaching style – confident and authoritative while always enjoying banter with the players.

The session started with an effective pattern of play exercise – two teams playing in opposite directions, however not competing initially. What Powell was trying to do was get the pictures of playing out in the players’ minds – getting the central defenders wide to receive, midfielders ready to receive on an angle, the pair of midfielders on different lines, the other central defender checking back to cover for a potential turnover of possession. The current Brighton coach was demanding of quality in the play and quick to correct technical errors.

Hope Powell Session

After working on two variations of playing out, the game became live with opposition, to add realism to the practice, although the players were still restricted to their particular zone. With opponents covering, Powell had to work on the players being cleverer in finding space – movement in midfield to receive such as dropping deep then going long and vice versa, strikers finding space between the centre-halves and trying to keep out of their eye-line, mentioning Ian Wright’s tip of “working their back shoulder”. Finally, the players were allowed to move between zones, but with the restriction was that the ball had to go into the next zone first.

Powell explained afterwards that the session had been broken down into chunks which were all aimed at leading to improved play in the final game. She was not worried about repetition until players understood what they needed to do, despite what she felt was an English mentality of getting bored in such scenarios. She used the example of Germans players who in her experience would practise repetitively and reproduce regularly in matches. She also mentioned that in her role as an educator, she sees coaches change practises for the sake of change, when players have just not understood the scenarios. A similar philosophy to the likes of Tony Pulis and Roy Hodgson perhaps, who are known advocates of solid defence and repetition in practise, but have been very successful as a result? It will be interesting to see how Hope Powell’s career back in club management develops in the coming years.

Free Download: Coach Playing Out From The Back & Through The Thirds

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive essential training exercises to teach your players to play out from the back and through the thirds.

View our Privacy Policy

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit