Why Southampton changed the Head Coach and assistant model

Harris (left) is U18s Individual Development Coach, while Lee Skyrme performs the role with the B team

Harris (left) is U18s Individual Development Coach, while Lee Skyrme performs the role with the B team

SOUTHAMPTON Director of Football Matt Crocker has explained why the club have introduced a system of Game Coach and Individual Development Coach, rather than the traditional Head Coach and assistant model.

This is the first season that the Premier League club are running the innovative new coaching model for their B team and Under-18s. In the B team, Lee Skyrme is Individual Development Coach, working alongside Game Coach Dave Horseman. And in the U18s, Mikey Harris is Individual Development Coach, with Carl Martin as Game Coach.

Speaking at TGG's Individual Development Coaching Webinar, Crocker explained: "The Game Coach is responsible for delivering the Playbook, to make sure the players understand how we play, the terminology, the roles within the team; to make sure we prepare the players for the game effectively, to coach and deliver that game and then review that game.

"We have also introduced an Individual Development Coach to sit alongside. Their role is to make sure there are robust, simple, player-led Individual Development Plans (IDPs).

"When there’s a need identified by a player, they can go to that Individual Development Coach to pull the relevant staff in to talk about that issue, to find out where that support could come from and to make sure that, on a regular basis, we are reviewing the IDPs based on performances in training, in games, and making sure that they are on track.

"It’s going to be a key role and this will be our first season at it."

The Welshman, who joined the Saints at the start of 2020, worked alongside Skyrme and Harris during his time as Head of Coaching at the Football Association. Skyrme was a specialist coach with the World Cup-winning U17s before becoming England U15s coach, while Harris was an in-possession specialist.

The duo joined Southampton in the second half of last season to take up the new Individual Development Coach roles.

"It’s something I’m really excited about and we’ve got two fantastic individuals as those Individual Development Coaches," Crocker said. "I was fortunate enough to work with these guys at The FA and know they’ve got the right level of coaching experience, the right relationships with players, and the influence and skills to be open-minded to consult with data, psychology and the multi-disciplinary teams.

"They will be able to pull all that together and know that not all of the answers are on the grass with the coaches. They’ve got key roles going forwards."

Crocker also talked about the Southampton Playbook, which was introduced last year.

"This is not the Matt Crocker Playbook," he said. "My job is to be the gatekeeper of that Playbook, to make sure that when managers, myself and Marieanne (Spacey-Cale) move on, that there is a legacy and a piece of work left for someone else to be able to build on in the future.

"(The Playbook is) all the work that had gone on in the first team around our pressing strategies, how we play, our systems, our key characteristics, how we identify with and without the ball, how we train our coaches to be able to know what sessions to deliver and how we train our scouts to know what to look for.

"That piece of work is really important and now exists for our first team and B team, who play in exactly the same way."

Crocker also spoke about the importance of "player-led and staff-supported Individual Development Plans" and giving "protected time" for players to "work on the things that are going to get them into the team."

"These could be super skills," he said. "If you’re a great free kick taker, how do you become a free kick taker like James Ward-Prowse? That’s a super skill that can get you in a team.

"What are the other things you need to work on - the fundamental two, three things - that are going to help you get closer to being able to get in that team? Identifying those position-specific requirements and having opportunities within the week to work on those things is important.

"Keeping the shirt you are wearing is a priority, but also chasing the shirt ahead of you. That comes from making sure there isn’t a sense of entitlement, that you’re always working hard, that you bring your best self to training every day."

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