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Insight from a vast range of coaching experiences - James Hopkins

James is a B Licence coach, with youth modules one and two, and a level two in Talent ID. Currently studying a BSc in sports, fitness, and coaching. Coaching with Skiltek in foundation and youth development phases, and Hastings United as women's first team coach, and girl's academy coach.

What were your first steps into coaching?

My first steps were in 2004 when, inspired by my best friend, I decided to volunteer to run a U6 age group in my home town of Eastbourne.

What did you enjoy about coaching that made you want to do it more?

My love of the game and the sense of achievement when you see young players develop over a short period of time, wanting to learn more about how individuals develop and my thirst for proving to myself that I could do it.

What was your motivation behind getting a BSc in sports, fitness, and coaching?

Further knowledge and personal development, diving deeper into what creates a great team and group and to learn more about coaching styles and how the cross over from one discipline to another can help develop better team dynamics.

You have been described as hardworking, conscientious, and organised. Why would somebody say that about you?

I believe that 50% of what you need to succeed is being reliable and turning up well prepared followed by hard work and attention to detail, you can only ever get better this way in my view. What has been your most meaningful coaching achievement?

Being appointed Head Coach of Brighton & Hove Albion Amputees FC - an Honour and Privilege and now as First Team Coach of Hastings United FC Women’s Team which continues to challenge me every day.

What did you learn during your time as a disability coach?

That we are coaching people first and footballers second - the experience humbles you and inspires you all at the same time.

From your time scouting, did you notice any biases or misconceptions when it comes to talent ID?

Yes a bias towards the player that looks the part age 5, is something we all need to be aware of, some of the best players have not even developed by their teenage years and we need to look in places that are out of our own social, economic & ethnic environments for players who may not get the opportunities to be seen.

If a player had just one game to impress a scout, what would you recommend they do?

Work harder than everyone else, communicate more, get round their team mates in the warm up and cool down and do whatever it takes to help the team succeed. Be relentless.

What are some of the challenges associated with coaching in the youth development phase?

Maturation development is a challenge with players development at very different stages but with ages being the same. We need to to be careful when matching players with size because Psychologically they may not be where they need to be yet. What changes have you noticed, good or bad, within youth football over the last fifteen years?

Instant gratification Generation - players need to be taught that success is hard and they will fail - Failure is learning and they need to be psychologically ready to cope with those challenge points in their life.

What are some of the different pressures you have faced when working with adults compared to working with kids?

The pressures of adult football in a first team environment compared to youth development is the win at all costs week in week out expectation. While we can facilitate challenging sessions to help players stay at a high competitive level we seldom have the time and contact we would like (5 days a week) to really work with the group.

If you had to pick only one to work with, would it be adult football or youth football?

Really I value both equally because seeing the development of players from a young age U6 and then coaching them in first team football age 21 is extremely satisfying and rewarding. That has happened to me recently.

What have been the best learning experiences for you as a coach?

Working with and watching other more experienced coaches on cold December nights in Hastings, Cat 1 Academy U8 matches and sessions in Brighton and the most important, making loads of mistakes on the grass.

What are your coaching ambitions?

Keep learning, making mistakes, studying my craft and never stop developing as a person and coach.

What changes do you want to see within English football?

More professional development for the grassroots game, annual Football Convention for all grassroots and professional clubs to share information.

Coach development taken more seriously and education opportunities more widely available.

Better education for all and Zero tolerance for abuse of match officials - we can learn a lot from rugby.

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