Developing the coaching network

Ryan Garry came through the Arsenal Academy in the late 1990s, before injury curtailed his career aged 27. Now U13s coach at Arsenal, he is aiming to be part of the world’s leading coaching network.

We have the beginnings of a coaching network, which this country has never had before. Through the Elite Player Performance Plan there’s increased recognition of the importance of coaches. Yes, it’s all about the players, but coaches have a huge impact on their development. There has never been so much invested in coaches in this country: in our education for how we improve and learn, in the physical environment we train players in, and in the support network of club departments who can help us make players perform better. Sharing best practice is now the norm. We know we need to work as a network of coaches to produce more and better home-grown talent for all our clubs in this country.

Through the Elite Coach Apprenticeship Scheme (ECAS) I am surrounded by people challenging me to improve. As a coach you always want to improve, but if you don’t have a network of support then you could stagnate. In ECAS we have a quartet of mentors who we can go to for support: a professional skills mentor, a coaching mentor from another sport, our club Academy Director, and a Premier League Club Support Manager. Their job is to give you honest feedback and take you out of your comfort zone. They’ll tell you where your strengths are and why they are strengths, but they also explain why your weaknesses are your weaknesses. There is always room to improve.

ECAS coach Ryan Garry talks tactics at Arsenal ECAS coach Ryan Garry talks tactics at Arsenal

As a result of the EPPP, we are seeing very positive results from the younger England teams.Ryan Garry, Arsenal U13 coach

I am also part of a support structure dedicated to the players. When I was coming through the Academy system 10-15 years ago, the support for a player was a couple of coaches and a physio. Now, there’s not only a bigger team of coaches, but a complete network of specialists: medical, fitness and conditioning, video analysts, nutritionists and an education team. Everyone clearly communicating, knowing their roles and responsibilities is key to the process of the daily player development.

Arsenal and Stoke players compete for the ball

There is no quick fix to improving standards. Success is years in the making. In 2015, as a result of the EPPP, we are seeing very positive results from the younger England teams. But we have to be patient, review what’s going on, refine it and make it better. Then, hopefully, we will find that in a few years there is a conversation of: “This seems to be working, now how can we make it better again.”

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