United’s Academy took another step forward during the summer when vastly experienced coach Dave Wilkes stepped up to fill the newly created Head of Coaching position – a role designed to fine tune and focus all levels of coaching at the club, from the under-9 to under-18 age groups.
Ultimately charged with finding, nurturing and developing young talent, the Academy has already been praised during Elite Player Performance Plan [EPPP] audits for its use of ‘best practices’ within its coaching programme, with the implementation of this new role designed to take that further in the coming weeks and months.
“The role is there to help you develop self-sustainable coaching within your football club,” Wilkes explained. “It helps you to make sure your coaches are doing things properly, which you tend to find they do anyway, and from there you can help them to develop their skills and knowledge.
“It’s a position that’s funded by the Premier League so all Heads of Coaching are trained by them to deliver a specific programme to the coaches. In turn that should lead to an improvement in the quality of players we bring through because they’ll be receiving their instructions from fully trained coaches.”
“My position now is more of a mentoring role than anything else,” he added. “It’s about working with coaches to give them Individual Development Plans and making sure we’re maximising all of the resources at our disposal.
“I’m taking a step back initially, so I can see where we are right now, and then it’ll be a case of implementing a few changes to see how far we can kick things on.
“My job is to provide a direct link to the coaches so that we can get the highest levels of performance possible. We’re looking to raise standards across the board and this will be a good step towards us achieving that.”
Part of the introduction of the position was for all Heads of Coaches from across the divisions to attend a Lake District based induction course where guidelines and parameters of the role were discussed and put in place.
“The induction phase was useful,” Wilkes confirmed. “Everybody who is taking up this role came together and we went through a lot of sessions where we looked at best practice and how best to bring them into play across all levels of the game.
“There was a lot of work based on identifying the needs of the role and on how to work with both individuals and groups of coaches to maximise the potential they have. The aim is to develop detailed action plans so that the planning and delivery of sessions is relevant to each age group and effective in its process.
“With it being held in the Lake District there was also a chance to do some team bonding exercises, which took us all way out of our comfort zones. There was abseiling, kayaking, caving and all sorts of stuff which pushed us physically and mentally.
“Being sent over a 200ft drop came as a bit of a surprise, as did finding my way through a pitch-black cave, but it was all very enjoyable and it did set the tone for a very good few days of work.”
As for what he hopes the position will add to the club, he said: “I think overall it’s going to be a role that will be of benefit to all of us. Our coaches, from Darren Edmondson to Gavin Skelton, and all the way through the age groups, already have an individual action plan off the back of this and they’ve all bought in to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
“Ultimately our aim as an Academy is to produce players for the first team squad. If raising our coaching accountability helps with that then we’re all more than happy to do what needs to be done.
“Producing home grown Cumbrian talent has to be an objective, but we want any player who comes into our Academy, whatever their background, to have a real chance of making it through.”
“It’s definitely a different type of challenge for me and you find that a lot of what you do is working under your own initiative,” he concluded. “There’s a lot of planning and paperwork but I’m really enjoying it and, like I say, I think it’s a step forward for the club and I’m pleased to be at the heart of it.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Dave Wilkes on iFollow United now.