• Mitch Parris

The Many Roles of Football Coaching – An Insight into AFC Bournemouth’s Academy Setup

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Being a football coach is far more than teaching fancy flicks and tricks. Nowadays, there’s just as much emphasis on personal development and welfare. We spoke with Elliot Head, who leads AFC Bournemouth’s Foundation Phase, about managing expectations and his journey into football and player support…

“A Footballer”

A likely answer you’ll hear from a child when you ask them what they want to be. But as we all know, it’s not easy.

From the pressures of making it, the social status, to the round-the-clock training and dietary guidelines. Just some of the aspects a professional athlete is mentally drilled to consider. Which is why there have been constant calls for players’ welfare care to be stepped up, from grassroots to elite.

But what about when you’re young? What is it like for those in charge of managing these young people’s enthusiasm, potential, and state of mind?

We have all now become accustomed to the incredible growth of AFC Bournemouth over the past five-to-ten years. As their brand of football on the pitch improved, so did their off-field infrastructure from their programmes to facilities.

With a hub of talent at their academy and also a foundation phase for those much younger. We spoke with Elliot Head, Head of the Foundation Phase at AFC Bournemouth, to go behind-the-scenes and bring to light what it’s like running part of the set up.

“As part of the academy we have here, we also have what’s called a Foundation Phase, which ranges from Under-9s to Under-12s,” Elliot explained. “As part of this phase, I head up the Training and Games Programme, run by our different coaches, whilst also maintaining our support for the players.”

Supporting Player's Mental Health in the Academy

When you talk to Elliot, you instantly feel his passion for the sport, as well as his enjoyment in what he does. He explained how there is so much more to the job than “just being a coach”. Especially nowadays, with the increased attention towards mental health. “Quite rightly so,” he claimed.

To show the significant steps now instilled in player welfare at the likes of AFC Bournemouth, Elliot recalled a story of how he fell out of the system, and the lack of support that was available compared to the processes put in place today.

When I was younger, I was just like everybody else. I wanted to be a footballer. I managed to get involved with the AFC Bournemouth academy, but unfortunately didn’t quite make it.
I didn’t have much communication with the club after I left; I just had to find my own way of getting over it, which is easier said than done. When you’re young and [being a footballer is] all you’ve ever seen yourself doing, you don’t really think of anything else. It was a tough lesson

Luckily for Elliot, he’s managed to find his way back into system. He said his past experiences have helped him do his job with greater authority, as he has been in the same shoes as the young people he coaches within the academy.

Having been through the same high-pressure environment, I know how they are feeling. This is why we constantly get them to focus on their love and enjoyment for the game, as they’re only young and should be playing for fun. The news I received back then has helped us in the planning and delivery of such news when the time does arise, so we can provide round-the-clock support and someone to talk to

For someone who has never been on that journey, we asked what examples of support have now been put in place that weren’t there before.

“There is no longer this closed-off feeling,” explained Elliot,

We are always on-hand to support the child and parents, and they can continue to use the facilities whilst they adapt. As the love for the game is still there, that can’t just be switched off, and we encourage kids to carry on playing

In conclusion, children should never be put off pursuing their dreams, whatever the outcome. It’s a valuable lesson and doesn’t mean to say they won’t find another way into following what they are passionate about. Elliot’s story goes to show exactly that.

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