' If we want to affect change then we need to spend time before this and really get to know the player...'
Photo Credit: Shrewsburytown.com
Name, age, where are you based?
Rob Williams, 47, Birmingham, West Midlands, UK
Head of Coach Development at Shrewsbury Town FC
UEFA A, FA Advanced Youth Award (YDP), Cert Ed
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
Initially, coaching was never part of the plan and it was really by chance that I completed the FA Preliminary Coaching Award in 1996. At the time, I worked as an electrician having completed an apprenticeship after school. It turned out I was 1 of 10 that passed form a cohort of around 36 and it gave me the ‘coaching bug’. Within 6 months I had left work, returned to college and was volunteering as a coach.
Since then I also qualified as a teacher and have become a career coach, gaining a range of experiences, knowledge and skills through working in a range of environments both full and part time in coaching and teaching. Over this time I have worked in Community Trusts, Academies, Colleges and Non League clubs.
Any achievements or experiences you would like to share?
There are a few here what my teams and I have worked hard towards;
- UoB mens Head Coach – promotion to BUCS National Premier League.
- Becoming an FA Coach Mentor and Tutor.
- Participating in the FA Cup 2nd Round as 1st team coach with Stourbridge FC losing to Eastleigh FC
- Being the England Colleges Women’s National Team Head Coach for 4 seasons, and being anglo welsh shield winners, Gothia cup bronze medallists, including multiple overseas fixtures (including Northern Ireland U19, Estonia U19 and U21).
- As Aston Villa Ladies Head Coach, winning theBirmingham County Cup Winners.
I have also been lucky enough to spend some time working overseas including China, India and Dubai through a range of programmes working with players and coaches.
With previous experience as a Head Coach of a University team, what skills does such a role give a coach for future development, and what are some of the challenges you faced?
Although UoB is a big university, men’s football wasn’t one of their key sports and therefore funding was one of the biggest challenges, this was partly due to their relegation to the National Premier division a couple of years before I took over the programme. I took on the role after Jason Withe, who had been in post prior to me.
A lack of funding meant we had to maximise how we used what we did have and save where possible – one of the outcomes of this was that practice was moved from evenings to 3 mornings per week starting at 7.30am – 9am as we could access facility without costs. The other challenge was that it was a PT role and therefore the time I could commit as well as the time students could commit, would have limitations.
The biggest thing for us was how we developed the culture across the programme where players and staff were all working towards the same thing, and also to bring the club together as opposed to splits across each of the 3 teams - we wanted all players to want to be in the 1st team!
Photo Credit: University of Birmingham
The biggest lesson for me was the end of the 1st season when we finished joint top of the regional division, which I thought would mean us being promoted in that year when actually league rules stated that if 2 teams tied then the winners would be decided on head to head results, and not goal difference and so we missed out. In the 2nd season we then missed out again finishing 2nd. It was only in the 3rd season that we managed to secure promotion.
What are some main attributes that would enable a coach to become an effective youth developer and what are some of the main considerations, when working with players at different age groups and who are from different backgrounds?
Experience for me is vital. Over recent years it has become more obvious that there are lots of coaches in a rush to achieve the next qualification and not spend the time post qualification, gaining the real experiences that will help them to improve. I think every experience (good or bad) I've had across all of my coaching and teaching has been valuable, and it is also very valuable for others to gain them experiences.
The other key thing for me is person first. If we want to affect change then we need to spend time before this and really get to know the player – we use the ‘behavioural change staircase’ with coaches in my current role as a model to consider when working with players and other coaches.
For a coach who’s developing players to take their next step up into the senior game, what are some of the main improvements they have to support players in achieving?
For me, we must always be thinking about what it is we are preparing them for and therefore what are the key attributes that they need to perform at that level. Also, what is the future game looking like and therefore how do we support the player to play that game?
Photo Credit: Shrewsbury Town in the Community
In your opinion, is the level that English clubs are developing their youth players at, suitable for furthering the player’s career both at club level and progression to International level?
I would suggest that player development in England is now as good (if not better) than it has ever been, and players have great opportunities to make the most of their ability and careers.
What’s been best for your development so far and what challenges have you had to overcome?
Courses / qualifications have been great for my development. However, above and beyond that it has been the opportunities that I have had and the experiences that these have given me that has prepared me for the role I am in now. Along the way, this has supported the development of my network which I also believe is vital in terms of an individuals development.
I am really lucky through my role to be involved in the Premier League – EHOC programme which as well as giving me a qualification and other opportunities, it has broadened my network considerably which has then been a great support in some of the work I do with coaches in the club.
What’s next for you, any thoughts on the future?
I'm currently involved in roles that are a good fit for me and I really enjoy the Head of Coach Development (Coaching) role, working with the coaches to develop programmes to support their development within the programme.