As Black History Month 2021 draws to a close, three of England's top Black coaches joined up for a special FA Education webinar to discuss the world of coaching, equality and much more.
England men's senior coaches Chris Powell and Paul Nevin were joined by England men's under-18s assistant coach Michael Johnson for the session and all three spoke about their own careers, coaching philosophies and hopes for the future as well as offering insight and advice for aspiring coaches.
We've taken some of the best bits from the webinar for you to read, while you can also watch back the full session in the video player below.
Chris Powell on what Black History Month means to him
“For me it’s a celebration and appreciation of Black excellence, of achievements to remember what’s gone before us; the positive impact of certain individuals and what they, we have given to the world. I think it’s great we have a month, I know for me it’s celebrated 12 months of the year, but in many ways it does come to the forefront of organisations. You watch TV at the moment and there’s Black programmes on, and I know they’re on throughout the year but actually it’s a bit of a statement. So for me, it’s a celebration and appreciation of Black excellence and achievements.”
Michael Johnson on what inspired him to get into coaching
“I think for me, the opportunity to work with people. Fundamentally, it’s about giving back from your experiences and the opportunity to work with people of different age groups, backgrounds, cultures, genders you name it. That was something that I really wanted to get into. And then as you start to go on your journey you start to look at which ones out there potentially do what you do or are similar to how you look and there were very few so the ones that inspired me were people like Keith Alexander who unfortunately passed. Quite sadly, when I was coming through probably ten years ago as a coach, there weren't too many that looked like me. Cyrille Regis, a man that I knew and grew to really really admire, was the one who really mentored me in my early years as a coach."
Paul Nevin and Chris Powell’s advice for aspiring coaches
Paul: “What’s been good for me is just trying to be prepared for any opportunity so your education, getting your licences, speaking to people that are already in the game that have good experience. And the other thing is sometimes depending on where you're trying to get to, is what else can you offer the environment as well. There’ll be a lot of coaches that are not full-time at the moment that have other jobs, it could be teaching or working in a store. You have other skills and I think sometimes you should use and celebrate the other skills you have in your life. You could be a parent and take those skills going into an academy. Don't underplay the other side of the football bit, it's about celebrating what your skills are outside of that and can you bring those things into the environment to make it a better place.”
Chris: “Patience and persistence. Patience for yourself as a developer and coach, it can be quite slow progress with regards to yourself and where you’re going; nothing is ever easy as a coach so you need patience for the players that you’re coaching. I think that’s very big as we all want to do things straight away but it may take a bit of time. Nothing in life is easy, nothing, and when you’re a coach of colour as well we understand the history of that. So it’s sticking to your task, sticking to what you love, what you want to do and where you want to get to and I feel that’s always very important for coaches to have a bit of patience and persistence to get to the level you aspire to.”
Paul Nevin speaking on his mentality when coaching elite players:
“I think humility and being authentic is overriding. I think they [players] respond to that and I think the real top ones still want to get better; they look at you and say “What can you do to make me better?” I think sometimes it’s the simple basic stuff, the basic fundamentals from the bottom to the top and that’s what’s got them to the very top. They do that everyday, whether it’s simple passing and you do it at the pace that’s match pace, your touch is immaculate and it’s drilling down and setting the standard in your practices and the training itself. And the players will respond, and the tighter and the more you drive them and the more challenges you can provide, I think they respond to that and appreciate that.”
Michael Johnson on his three non-negotiables as a coach:
“I think number one is respect, you’ve got to respect your players, the background of your players so there’s a respect from the coach that passes onto the players. You’ve also got to have an understanding of your topic. You cannot go in to deliver a session where you’ve not studied and understood what you’re going to deliver. If you’re going to stand and deliver to a group you’ve got to be prepared to do it to its maximum. The final one is to showcase that humility and authenticity. As a coach, I want to see a coach for who they really are. I can watch a session and fundamentally understand the background of someone who is working just by their mannerisms, the conversation, the tone of the conversation, the empathy, so for me the authenticity comes through your coaching sessions.”
Paul Nevin on achieving race equality:
“Well, I think one of the things for me is we talk about Black coaches. We are good coaches, and there are good coaches that just happen to be of colour. I think once we can get to that moment where it’s just about the merit of your ability and performance, then we’ve taken a massive step. The other side of that is about representation. Look at the male game, around 33 per cent of players are Black or from an ethnic minority. Yet you look at the sidelines and that’s not represented in the same way so on the bench, very few Black managers, coaches. In the boardroom, even less representation as technical directors. So it’s about that equal balance of representation across the levels of the game, especially highlighted in leadership roles, so for me the more faces that I see that look like me at the highest levels of decision making, then we’ve made the progress needed.”