Matt’s Simple Plan

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Often in Australia the most notable ex Socceroos and domestic players make the leap into coaching, and in particular in the national set up or the domestic league without much experience in their given field.

We don’t see many ‘cutting their teeth’ in the lower leagues or moving abroad to experience a different environment in terms of coaching education.

Some could say we’ve become insular with our methods and the status quo. And in doing so, have culled experienced coaches who helped elevate football development in Australia, as well as, failed to recognise the talented young coaches coming through the ranks.

Recent Central Coast Mariners’ signing, Matt Sim, who many a football fan would be none the wiser of just a few weeks ago has taken the initiative with his coaching education.

Sim has unlike many of his contemporaries begun coaching and specialising in youth develop at a very early stage of his coaching career.

“At the state league level, I was involved in the youth setup at Manly, which is one of the best in Sydney.

“I was very lucky to work in the skill acquisition and game training phases, I’ve gone through my badges and I currently got a B license.

“I thoroughly enjoy the grassroots side of coaching and I mean there’s nothing better than over a 6-12 month period whether its a 4,5 or 7 year-olds and seeing them develop the skills and learning.”

The former Manly man has taken steps forward since his time at the Sydney club and started a new football program called ‘Football Sydney Group’ with a few colleagues.

“Football Sydney Group is something I started with a few friends.

“Obviously being a part-time footballer in the State League you’ve got to find something else to do, after I finished my time with the Jets and overseas I thought it was perfect to get into coaching.

“Predominantly myself and my business partner run programs for grassroots kids, so grassroots clubs and schools which is a very important part of the football landscape in this country.

“And if you look at the participation levels its very high, but if you look at the amount of talented and technical players that are brought through the system it doesn’t resemble the amount that actually play the game. that’s something we are looking to increase.”

Sim’s Football Sydney Group may sound small and maybe even overly ambitious, but the newly formed football program have an advantage over other such programmes. They’ve partnered up with one of Asian football’s foremost experts in youth development in Tom Byer.

He’s given both Sim and his colleagues a base ground to work with and with similar ideological beliefs in how youth should be cultivated it’s helped Sim’s development as a youth coach tremendously.

“Very lucky to meet (Tom Byer) late last year and go to Japan.

“When we went to Japan we had the opportunity to spend a week with Tom and look at his academy.

“Those similar philosophies, we got to go over there and see first hand. We went to his academy and every kid had the base of technique to use one vs one skills, to run with the ball or whatever it may be.”

Byer’s reputation in Asia is among the best in youth development, and Sim is happy to have him on board with Football Sydney.

“He’s had a very big impact (in Japanese football) so the opportunity to work with him is very good to us.

“Seeing what he’s created and built over his 25 years, you only need to do a quick google search for the types of players that have come through his clinics whether it’s Shinji Kagawa, the Womens National team captain Aya Miyama.

“There’s virtually isn’t a member of the current Japanese national team both Men and Women who haven’t been affected by what Tom has done over there.”

Sim believes the only way forward is closing the gap between the worst to the very best, and questions why the ‘elite’ are given extra training at the expense of other young footballers.

“We are very big on improving every single footballer, there are a lot of academies out there that work with elite players and train them.

“But we’re solely focused on the grassroots and the way we see it and saw it more in Japan is if you’ve only got at an under-12 level of 100 players who may have the ability to go on to play at a high elite level.

“Whether it’s professional or junior national teams then eventually when they start to get older that numbers going to drop even further.

“So if you can have ten times that at an under-12 level across the country then you can have 1000 players that happen to be good enough to play at the very best for 12-year-old’s worldwide or throughout Asia in that age.

“Then when they get to 16-19 you’ll still have more of those players, which raises the standard all the way up.

“It’s something we’re very big on, our philosophy is built around technical skills and the vision to have as many players as possible.”

With influences of Byer who’s preached that footballer’s can be taught technical skills as early as two year of age. Sim says the younger technical skills are developed the earlier they can learn the game training phase and differing systems.

“The technical skills of these players need to be taught at a younger age, so when they get to the game training phase they can be taught a lot more.

“Because they’ve already got that technical base and they can learn the system and go from there.”

Ahmed Yussuf

ahmed mag pic Ahmed is a Melbourne-based writer, and one of the founders of Football Central. He's written in football culture magazine Thin White Line and others, and along with writing puff pieces, he hosts and produces podcasts in association with Football Central.  You can follow him on Twitter: @ahmedyussuf10

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