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Moving into the Senior Game - Jonny Pipes

'...a couple of my old Eastleigh U16 players successfully earned scholarships with the club after we went through an extremely difficult (often rough) season, in an extremely challenging league for the boys'.

Name, age, where are you based? Jonny Pipes, 28, from High Wycombe living in Southampton

Current and past Roles: Folland Sport FC First Assistant & Reserve Head Coach (Current) Foco FC Youth Coach (Current) Sway FC First Team Assistant Coach Eastleigh FC U16s Manager / Head Coach Challenger Sports (USA) Camp & College Coach Wycombe Wanderers FC Community Coach Brazilian Soccer Schools Development Centre Coach Various Grassroots Clubs Youth & Men’s Coach

Qualifications: I am soon to be completing a Masters Degree in Performance Football Coaching to go alongside my BA (Hons) in Football Studies. I also hold a UEFA B License through the German DFB, FA Level 2 Football + Futsal, PFSA Level 3 Scouting, Coever Youth Diplomas 1 + 2, FA Level 1 Talent I.D & Psychology among others

How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like? I got into coaching in Secondary School through having two weeks work experience with Wycombe Wanderers FC & Brazilian Soccer Schools. At the time I don’t think I had my mind set on being a coach, but I didn’t care about anything else apart from football so it seemed like the only environment I had any interest going into.

However, during or after I then started to think coaching is probably the best suited job for me when I’m older as I didn’t have a desire to pursue playing, so from there started to look into qualifications and gained my early roles with Wycombe Wanderers, Brazilian Soccer Schools and local clubs.

As I was finishing college my parents wanted me to think about what I was going to do afterwards regarding work and uni. They showed me that they’d found an actual football degree at Southampton Solent. I didn’t even know this was a viable option and had no other plans for my future, so it seemed the best option and I took it up.

After a difficult end to my degree alongside some personal struggles the years to follow, I stepped away from football for a period to reassess and pursue some other life goals. This was maybe the best thing I did however, as it’s given me the chance to realise this is really what I want to do, and seen me mature as a person who now knows exactly what I need to do to get where I want to be.

Any achievements or stories you would like to share? On the fun story side, a few years ago I was involved coaching a session alongside the former Southampton player Jason Dodd. I can safely say he wants to beat a group of seven year olds in a five-a-side game just as much as you’d of seen him wanting to win a match on Monday Night Football. In terms of best achievement to date I find the a lot fulfilment in positively influencing individuals futures. One being that a couple of my old Eastleigh U16 players successfully earned scholarships with the club after we went through an extremely difficult (often rough) season, in an extremely challenging league for the boys.

Another would probably be a 17 / 18 year old girl I have been coaching for quite a while earning a college scholarship in America (New York), she’s particularly come on so much technically since we started training so I’m glad her goal has come to fruition.

How’s the Masters in Performance Football Coaching been, what have you been able to take away from it and would you recommend it to other coaches? Whenever anyone asks I always tell them it’s the best course or coaching qualification I’ve done, the most enjoyable & fulfilling by a long shot. I feel like it’s the most outside the box program I’ve been involved in too.

They’ve provided us some great opportunities to visit some Premiership academies and also took us to the National Training Centre for Circus Arts, I think that kind of exemplifies how forward thinking the people behind this course are. Everyone is super open minded and always looking at where new influences and learning can come from.

Even some of the work and assessment tasks I found really inventive and creative compared to my previous knowledge and experience of University. The modules have really forced me to think about not only my coaching in terms of how I deliver, but also in much more detail than I’ve experienced before with modules looking at skill acquisition and coaching / club cultures to name a few. I would 100% recommend anyone wanting to do a Masters to at least speak to the tutors St Marys, Twickenham.

How did your roles as a community coach for Wycombe Wanderers and other youth positions benefit you, in terms of being exposed to different coaching environments and player personalities? When I was at Wycombe I was still super young being around 16, and all of the environments that I was going into were schools, so from a young age I earned some good experience in dealing with high energy youngsters and having to learn on the job. Similarly I spent time in different grassroots clubs coaching various age groups again giving me my first exposure to the younger age coaching.

I’m naturally quite a jovial and laid-back individual, so I believe having the opportunity to work with young players early on really helped me become comfortable in my formative years. Then in more recent times I’ve had the experience of managing and coaching an U16 side at Eastleigh FC across the season.

This brought some big challenges as it was during the first year of my Masters which I found to be the largest workload for me, while also working full-time and having other commitments to attend to. However, the main challenge was running the entire team on my own with no assistant coaches, so it forced me to really develop my interpersonal skills with players as to build positive relationships and a unifying culture.

All these experiences have culminated to me now having my own coaching company called Foco FC, which focus’ on one-to-one and small group coaching and analysis. The focus is on youth players (boys and girls) ranging from roughly U8 to U18.

I really enjoy the personal nature of this work and find my previous positions has helped me build a strong skill set to help players flourish when working with them individually.

Having moved into Senior football, what have you needed to add to your locker as a coach and how do you maintain a productive balance, between coaching both in the Senior and Youth game? I’ve found the biggest thing is really trying to understand and read the players emotions and impressions of you, as well designing sessions that truly engage them. I have been coaching across the Reserve and First teams of which there is a wide mix of playing experience from those in the U18 squads to seasoned Men’s footballers pushing the late-twenty to thirty mark.

Being a club really trying to push up the league system with some strong players, there are a lot of personalities who are not afraid to say that a training session isn’t hitting their needs. Even if they don’t say it, they’ll communicate it through their body language. So me being around the same age as a lot of the players, in order to earn their trust I’ve felt like I need to ensure sessions are designed and thought out in great detail with consideration as to how the players will react to them.

These are intelligent footballers so if a session were to not be designed or delivered in a way that draws out the topic in a challenging manor, they’re going to know if something’s not right. In terms of the Youth, where I’m with the Reserve’s I’m having the opportunity to help some of the U18 guys see a pathway into Men’s football, even if they’re not ready at this stage, they can see the level of what is required and learn off training alongside these players and develop at their own pace.

Within this I’m getting lots of opportunities to talk with players one-to-one which has been great to help me to keep working on my interpersonal relationship skills with young people.

What are the most interesting parts of your roles with Folland Sport FC, and what experiences are they giving you for future career development? (here go into how beneficial the roles are and discreetly sell yourself how it will give you good experience for future positions) I’m enjoying my current role with heading up the coaching of the Reserves to facilitate the development of the clubs youth, providing a place for other young players to aspire to reach the First Team, as well a foundation for First Team players to spend some time if they need minutes, form, injury recovery etc.

I’ve been trusted quite early on with working with the First Team players too which has given me great confidence and feels like an opportunity I maybe needed to show myself that I can coach at this level. With time I can see myself developing as a coach even further through working with the manager and calibre of player at the club, as everyone is always open to a conversation about what we are working on or the game in general. We even began our pre-season friendlies this past weekend of which I was involved on the touchline for both teams on the same day.

I feel this flexibility shown towards me to work across both teams in the varying capacities has already taught me a lot and made me think about how I’m coaching, and the different skills I’ve needed to possess already as each role does possess intricate changes in team dynamics. It’s given me a truly exciting prospect to continue my development working with U18, Reserve and First Team players within a club looking to take itself to the next stage.

What’s been best for your career development so far and what are you doing to keep upskilled? Apart from the Masters, the next best thing has been travelling to Germany to take my UEFA B. Getting to spend a month in Germany with coaches from Asia, Europe, Africa, Central / North / South America’s was great in terms of both making friends and networking within the game globally.

Understanding Germany’s culture and methodologies of coaching alongside my existing English background (not to mention learning off these coaches from all over the world) I feel has aided me in gaining quite a unique coaching make-up, compared to a traditional English course of which the coaches are going to probably come from similar places in coaching.

In terms of upskilling the main thing I’d say is since sessions have been allowed to happen again, I’ve been coaching most days of the week across Youth and Men’s, so I’m constantly active and implicitly progressing my coaching through getting on the field and planning every day. Apart from this I’m always on the look for new qualifications or learning experiences to develop my career.

Recently I took part in one of FAW’s distance learning certificates which was super in-depth and forced me to really consider how I would coach in the circumstances given, so I’d recommend people take a look at their learning resources.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced and how was you able to overcome them?

I feel like my biggest challenge was coaching in America for a summer in 2012. At the time I was 19/20 and quite reserved when it came to dealing with new people and environments, so to be spending each week in a new location, with a new host family and new coaches who were often quite loud and outgoing compared to me at the time could be difficult.

I don’t think at the time it changed me too directly but looking at how I am now as a person, I could completely be myself in that type of scenario. Another challenge was simply the difference in perception and understanding of football in America to what I’m used to in England and adapting to how it is viewed over there culturally.

How’s the future looking, what’s next? The future is looking good, I can’t say exactly what it’s going to be yet but I’ve got some options / goals and focused on doing what needs to be done to reach them.


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