This is a first-hand account of Nathaniel da Costa, the Senior Manager - Grassroots Football at the Forca Goa Foundation. He is an AIFF D-Licence certified and Premier League Premier Skills Licenced Level 1 Coach Educator.
“You all are going to be grassroots coaches in India. You all are going to face challenges at every step of your coaching career. Your job as a coach is to find solutions to them.”
This was the first thing told to us by our coach instructor, Jez Weeks, during our Premier Skills coaching course and this always held true but not more so than in 2020.
We, at Forca Goa Foundation, had just come off a high of successfully completing one of the biggest Golden Baby League’s in the country and were working towards closing the year when the countrywide lockdown struck.
Through the uncertainty of the lockdown and the disruption of daily routines, we knew that there were children stuck at home who were unable to train or play their favourite sport. This presented us with a new and unique challenge.
We needed to work with children who were locked down at home as well as keep our coaches engaged. We had to design a training program that was:
1) Easy to access
2) Simple enough to practice at home with minimal equipment, yet effective for the child’s technical development
3) Fun for the child considering they will be training alone
We decided to create a three-month pilot training program called the “At Home Football Program”. This pilot program would consist of technical training sessions that would cover topics like balance and coordination, passing, ball control, dribbling, and defending. The program would also have workshops on nutrition and waste management, a classroom session on football and a masterclass with an FC Goa development player. All of this was to be delivered to the children through videos that were sent on whatsapp to their parents.
We launched the pilot ‘At Home Football Program’ in August for 60 children across Goa. Each of our coaches were assigned to a group of children that they looked after. Every week they were sent videos via Whatsapp on different technical sessions. After each session, the children practiced the same and sent videos of them training back to the coaches. The coaches would then provide individual feedback to each child encouraging and correcting them. This way there was individual attention given to the child as well some level of monitoring and evaluation.
We’ve come to the final month of our pilot project now in October and we continue to face challenges of weather disruptions, lack of practicing surfaces for children and of course Covid-19 itself. Through these challenges we have also created a unique training curriculum allowing children to learn and develop their skills at home, received stories of children following healthy diets thanks to our nutrition workshops, and most importantly got back so many videos of children doing what they love the most, playing football. Honestly, nothing makes us happier.