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LES HOWIE GAINS COMPETITIVE FA Associate Director of Grassroots Coaching,


Les Howie, believes that taking young players away to a tournament offers a great opportunity for learning in all four corners.


Q.How important is tournament football for the development of players?


Although it is not quite the same as going to Rio, the opportunity for our grassroots teams to travel and play against other teams in tournaments in England or abroad represents a fantastic learning opportunity for both players and coaches.


The game time, competitive element and variety of opposition that tournaments provide mean there are huge advantages for player development in the technical corner, however it is in the psychological and social corners where there are the greatest returns.


Attending a tournament in a different part of the country or abroad helps young people learn important lessons about independence, growing up, living as a unit, understanding boundaries and working together. It is a great opportunity for young players to begin to develop their personal understanding.


When I was a grassroots coach in the north east and in Nottingham, we regularly organised tours to France, Belgium and Holland to play in tournaments. For some of the young people involved it was the first time they had ever travelled abroad or even been away from their parents.


On a smaller scale, when you look at organising a tour to play two or three friendlies in this country there are still so many great benefits in terms of encouraging personal responsibility and a group culture.


How do you involve your players in setting the aims and objectives or the rules for the tour? Are the players involved in things like curfews and how to choose activities for down-time?


Q. So the challenge for coaches is as much about achieving off the field success as it is winning on the pitch?


Before you get to the tournament, it is crucial to define what you want to get out of the event and to look at what success is for your group. It is a process that is hugely beneficial if the players are part of the decision- making process.


Do the players have a say in where you are going? Do they help set the programme? Have you asked them what they want from the tournament? Do they want to go away for a bit of fun and have the opportunity to go swimming or to a theme park and the football is almost secondary?


For me success would be seeing the players start to come out of their shells. Are they working better as a team? Have they learned to share and work with others? Who has taken responsibility?


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