'Communication and connecting with players is more important than the knowledge on the pitch...'

'Communication and connecting with players is more important than the knowledge on the pitch...'
James Scott giving a talk at the recent FAI Womens Coaching conference held at the Rochestown Park Hotel

CRY in the beginning, so you can smile at the end. This is the motto of Irish international U17 women’s manager James Scott.

Hard work, teamwork, and being the best you can be at whatever you chose to do should be everyone’s aim in life, Scott believes.

Scott delivered a superb talk at the recent female coaching conference in the Rochestown Park Hotel.

Organised by FAI Coach education manager Niall O’Regan, the conference had many top speakers such as senior women’s manager Vera Pauw, head of football Sue Ronan as well as Lisa Fallon and Frances Smith.

I took a special interest in Scott’s talk and his role as international manager as this is the age group in which I coach at my club, Wilton United. I took a lot from his talk but what jumped out at me most was his dedication to developing the person as much as the player.

Scott, a father of a one-year-old daughter, talked about his role as an adult, showing his fatherly side to his personality of how understanding a player’s personality is as important as knowing their footballing ability.

“It is so important and means everything to me to know each player on a personal level,” said Scott.

“When I took over the U17 squad, I took it for granted that the girls were at an age that when they come into camp that they were mature and were able to cope with everything. 

"I soon learned that even being away from home was a big deal for some girls. We, as coaches need to look after girls both on and off the pitch.

“Some come from tough backgrounds and may come into our camp shy, and we have to deal with that, as no two girls are the same. They may come into us at the start of the year shy and lack confidence, but we hope by the end of the campaign with us that the girls have gained some confidence that makes life easier for them.”

I remember having a discussion with my daughter Jesse who was part of a training session that Scott took at Cork City last season.

Apart from thinking Scott delivered an excellent session, what mattered most to her was that he knew her name before the session began.

A small thing as someone in power knowing your name can make such an impact on a child’s life and for Jesse that day, an international manager, someone she would be trying to impress, to know her name, gave her huge confidence.

For Scott, this is something he feels strongly about because, as a coach, he always tries to put himself in the scenario of him being that child.

“Knowing a child’s name can make a massive impact on a person, no doubt. Sometimes the obvious factor is the thing that we forget. 

"If I go into a school and say hi to someone and mention their name, I can see it means a lot to kids and I think back to when I was a kid and the people that would have made an impact on me. 

"Or those who made that little extra effort and made me feel important, a simple thing as knowing my name.

“It gives them confidence. I put myself in that scenario and think about how I would feel as a kid if someone in my current position acknowledged me.

“Communication and making a connection with players, for me, is more important than the knowledge on the pitch. You can attend courses and learn drills etc to manage on the pitch, but off the pitch, your personality plays a huge role in the development of a player.

“It’s about thinking what type of coach I’d have like to have when I was a kid, and then I try to be that person.

“And that is what you have to be as a coach.”

James Scott, second from left pictured with U17 Womens International backroom staff of Pearl Slattery, Irene Hehir, and Dave Rooney
James Scott, second from left pictured with U17 Womens International backroom staff of Pearl Slattery, Irene Hehir, and Dave Rooney

Every day is a school day in the life of Scott and for all of us coaches. Last week’s conference was no different.

For Scott, these conferences are vital for progression in coaching.

“Conferences like today are fantastic because it brings coaches of all levels together and every day is a school day where you learn something, and hopefully today everyone will take away something new,” he said.

“I have a daughter and I think she’s the best in the world. For many parents out there I’m sure they feel the same about their kids.

“And although we have many great parents involved in the game, there can also be a lot of cons as well as pros.

“Too often we see great players at the age of 15, but the time they come to 19, they no longer are kicking a ball.

“There are a lot of reasons for this, but sometimes it’s down to pressure from parents and with too many people advising them and this is why I feel strongly about us needing to educate parents.

“Some parents can be fantastic coaches and really good communicators. However, whenever their own kid makes a mistake, they can punish them a lot harder than the other players on the squad.

“This is just something parents need to be aware of. Also we need to educate parents to cope with dealing with a high-performance athlete.

“Proper nutrition and proper rest are as important as seeing your child excel on the field.

“There is such a wide range of sports that kids can play, and the reality of it is that the sport the kid chooses is usually where the coach lit the fire the most.

“So we shouldn’t underestimate our roles as coaches. A coach sometimes is who a child can confide in the most.

“Be the best coach you can be, and start by developing the person before the player.”

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