Premier Skills Phase 2: Building the next set of Indian Coaches

 In Game, Grassroots

If you’ve read about my first experience at the Premier Skills Phase 1 program, you’d understand my excitement when I found out that I was selected for Phase 2 of the program. If you haven’t read about it, you can do so here, and catch up on my general enthusiasm for Premier Skills.

Four coaches from the Forca Goa Foundation made it to the list of 39 coaches selected from different ISL clubs and NGO’s across the country. It was good to go back to Beverly Park in Navi Mumbai and see a bunch of familiar faces from the first phase of the program. Premier Skills organized three batches of phase 1 programs so they had coaches from their very first session in 2014 to the attendees from their last session in October last year and the excitement amongst all the coaches to make it to this stage was palpable.

After the initial buzz and general catching up, we immediately got to work. We got introduced to our coach educators Rashid Abba from West Ham United, Sam Hoare from Premier League Champions, Manchester City, and Jill Stacey from Newcastle United. The programme also had two Premier Skills India Coach Educators – Shekhar Kerkar (Goa) and Deepak CM (Kerala).

More than just a follow-up the program to Phase 1, Phase 2 was about giving coaches the tools and skills required to go into communities and make football the tool to educate and bring people together. This immediately tied up with what we’re trying to do with the Foundation, so I was looking forward to grasping all I could at the program.

We were given scenarios and shown sessions on how to make the training pitch accessible for everyone. The highlights of these sessions were training drills where we were blindfolded and taught how to create and deliver sessions for blind athletes. Sessions like these made me realize how so many people do not have access to a simple game like football and how much our current coaching curriculum doesn’t allow for people with different abilities to participate. This strengthened my resolve to make our #FootballForAll campaign at the Foundation more accessible to people with different abilities.

We were also trained to use football as a tool for education inside the classroom and out on the pitch. To be able to teach children subjects like Math, Geography, English, and Science using football as a base was eye-opening for me. The great part about Premier Skills as a program is that it’s not just about learning in the classroom like coach Rashid says, the philosophy is “Learn, understand, demonstrate”. We were given different scenarios ranging from including a wheelchair-bound individual in a session, to teaching a group of 11-year-olds Math and were made to create and conduct those sessions on the pitch. We as coaches were constantly forced to question and adapt so as to understand and improve our way of delivering sessions.

It was during these sessions where I understood the concept of creating positive learning environments for children. Schooling in India is often difficult and uninspiring for most due to the teaching methodology and the environment in classrooms. I realized that it is up to us as coaches and teachers to create good learning environments in our classrooms and on our pitches so that learning is fun and children enjoy their time spent there.

In case these sessions weren’t inspiring enough, the program also invited two NGO’s, Slum Soccer and Magic Bus to deliver a talk on the programs they run and the impact. Similar to the Forca Goa Foundation, these NGO’s use football as a major instrument to get into communities and help them develop. To hear stories about individuals and communities from marginalized sections of society who have discovered better lives thanks to football was incredibly motivating.

The second part of the Premier Skills Phase 2 was about developing us as coach educators. One of the biggest obstacles that Indian football faces aren’t the lack of talent, it’s the lack of coaches that can successfully develop that talent. Premier Skills looks to address that problem by building coach educators that can go on and train other young passionate individuals to become coaches. This part of the program proved to be challenging for me as making the switch from a coach to a coach educator isn’t easy. From teaching kids, the basics of the game to teaching adults how to coach those kids requires a huge shift in thinking and demonstration. We were lucky to have some of the finest coach educators in Rashid and Jezz around to guide us and show us the ropes.

Learning so much in a 6-day program seems intense but with the way the program is structured, there’s a lot of fun involved and asking for help is always encouraged. Every day there was something new to learn and something new to think about. Meeting coaches from different ISL clubs and talking about what we do at our clubs and of course, football banter is a great way to break down barriers that hinder development in Indian football.


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