BAFCA 2017 Coaches Convention
I recently had the good fortune to attend the annual BAFCA convention at the National Ice Arena in Nottingham. It provides an excellent opportunity for the nations more progressive coaches to come together to share and learn. Clearly the event carries a good degree of importance within the British games hierarchy, as competitive action in the National Leagues is suspended for the weekend of the event.
BAFCA President, Paul Sherratt and his committee meticulously plan the event to include a wide range of topics that cover the art of being a successful coach and leader. Speakers from America are flown over to talk on a range of football related topics, and their sessions are dovetailed in with some excellent presentations from British coaches. The opening sessions are held on the Friday evening, followed by full schedules throughout the Saturday and Sunday, with two seminar rooms being run simultaneously. There is also a general meeting area, where the delegates can congregate to share ideas, and debate the finer points of the sessions they have attended.
This years’ headline speaker was former University of Oregon head coach, Mark Helfrich. The two-time quarterbacks’ coach of the year (he mentored Titans QB Marcus Mariota) led Oregon to two consecutive Rose Bowl wins and a spot in the National Championship game, delivered inspirational talks on all three days of the conference.
Fellow American coaches, Bob Chesney (Assumption College), Sam Harrell (Fort Worth Christian High School), Corey Hetherman (University of Maine) and J B Wells (Bowdoin Polar Bears) gave talks on a range of topics including “run game fundamentals” and “option football”. Looking beyond the straight “x’s and O’s” there were some additional speakers who added great value to the event.
Richie Gray is a world-renowned “collision coach”. With a background in Rugby Union, he has recently been working with the Scottish national team, but has previously spent time with the South African Springboks, helping guide them to the bronze medal at the 2016 world cup. Interestingly, in 2017, he was hired by the Miami Dolphins as their tackling co-ordinator, where he transitioned the techniques he has developed to assist elite level Rugby players and adapted them to enhance the collision skills of Football athletes.
Sam Ruddock is not a coach, but is very inspirational! Formally a Rugby player, he was introduced to Football at a University of Loughborough testing day, where his blazing speed and strength led to him joining the British Paralympic sprint team. He represented GB at the London games in the T34 category, becoming the team GB captain for the 2016 European championships, he subsequently competed at the Rio Olympics. His sessions detailed techniques on dealing with adversity, and planning for success.
My favourite session was delivered by NTU defensive co-ordinator Karl Walkinshaw, on the use of Sports Psychology when coaching football players. He introduced a range of concepts and principles that can be used to upskill and develop athletes both on and off the field. Recognising that every individual has different needs and “learning styles”, he provided a framework for coaches that enable s them to both develop and inspire their athletes to reach their full potential.
Overall the event was a great success, as BAFCA President Paul Sherratt reflected, “I think the event was a success and we were fortunate to have some great speakers from all levels of the game. Our focus going forward is to increase attendance, as it's a fantastic learning and networking opportunity, which needs to reach as many BAFCA members as possible.
Planning is already underway for the 2018 event. If you have a thirst for knowledge and want to help the British game develop, put a note in your planner now, and make sure you attend, it’s certainly an enriching experience.