“Without grassroots, there is no sport” - Mike Phelan

Manchester United first team coach Mike Phelan was speaking at the recording of his masterclass sessions, available exclusively on The Coaching Manual.

Apr 7th 2022

Written by The Coaching Manual

When Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan delivered an inspirational training session for Manchester’s grassroots community, more than 50 local coaches braved the freezing temperatures to come out and observe.

The event was held at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Platt Lane complex, where attendees were given the chance to watch Phelan as he delivered a number of separate training sessions to young players from local grassroots and University teams.

One of the practices, delivered to a mixed group of University players, featured a 3v2 rondo, where three attackers looked to keep the ball away from two defenders. The attackers scored a goal if they completed six passes within the 10×10-yard space. The defenders got to swap out when they won the ball.

The learning outcome of the sessions was possession, and the importance of creating space while in control of the ball. The Coaching Manual were on hand to capture the whole event in broadcast-quality video for anyone who was unable to attend.

Phelan said at the event: “It all starts at grassroots. Without grassroots, there is no sport. It’s important that we give something back, and it’s important that we get their enthusiasm up again to come out and do these things again and get organising these sessions, and go from strength to strength - people have been waiting to get back to business.”

Mike Phelan is the Chairman of Sensible Soccer Ltd, the hosts of the event and UK’s leading provider of football equipment and supporter of grassroots clubs across the country. Through this role, Phelan works tirelessly to give back to the grassroots foundation of football in this country and fully recognises the importance of proper coach education.

Opportunities to learn from professional coaches have become more scarce - gone are the days when a volunteer or grassroots coach could turn up at a Premier League Academy training session with a notepad and take down ideas. Learning about coaching from books and diagrams is useful, but nothing comes close to watching how the pros handle a group of young players.

Phelan added: “It’s important, they come and they observe the way we talk, the way we handle ourselves, the way we handle our sessions. They see the interaction (with the players), and that interaction is important. And, the players are on show, and they do make mistakes now and then, and it’s how you correct them - do you leave it as a mistake, or do you correct it as best you possibly can? We’re all fallible.

“The players have also got to think about what I know sometimes. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, so ask me, feed off me. It’s not brand new. You’re giving your experiences, you’re giving your life experiences. It’s still 11 v 11, the same sized pitch. OK, the balls have changed, different rules. But the game is the same it’s always been. Hopefully the coaches today will take away something that is really valuable.”

Following the training event, Phelan hosted an insightful question-and-answer session with attendees, before sticking around to pose for photographs with aspiring coaches, and sign footballs for the players.

Phelan said: “Match day is what everybody sees. But on the practice ground is where it all happens, the place where the coaches have to come into their own. Sometimes it’s coaching, sometimes it’s advice, sometimes it’s just getting a little bit more out of them. Sometimes it’s not about coaching, it’s about letting them express themselves.”

As a player, Mike Phelan won the Premier League as a player with Manchester United, where, as a coach he won another five Premier Leagues and featured in three Champions League finals winning the coveted trophy once. He told coaches: “What I will stress as a coach is: be yourself. You can’t be somebody you’re not. I can’t be Pep. Pep can’t be me. Footballers most definitely take you for what you are. Believe me, they will work you out pretty quick.”

Phelan also won the Premier League manager of the month award during his first month in the top flight as a manager, in charge of Hull City, where he coached Harry Maguire, Jarrod Bowen and Andrew Robertson early on in their careers.

The sessions were delivered as part of a project to give back to the grassroots community, empowering local, mostly volunteer coaches with an insight to Premier League-standard training sessions.

Chris Barton, Founder of The Coaching Manual, said: “We were delighted to be able to be a part of this event and record it for coaches everywhere. Coaches have had a hard time recently with a huge amount of disruption to the grassroots game. It’s great to get boots back on the ground after two years of uncertainty, and filming this session with Mike is the perfect way to bounce back.

“Our reason for existing is to provide coaches with the tools they need to become the best they can be, which includes the ability to watch sessions like this one. We fully agree with Mike that the sport we love wouldn’t exist at all without the passionate people who work in grassroots, so we strive to empower those coaches by giving them access to sessions like this one. As well as Mike’s masterclass today, we’ve got sessions from David Moyes, Steve McClaren, René Meulensteen, Alan Irvine, Dean Smith, and more.”

The Masterclass Sessions

COMBINATION TO FINISH MASTERCLASS

In this technical session, Mike Phelan coaches how to play quick combinations to finish on goal.
Click here for the full session.

CREATING SPACE, PASSING, & SUPPORT MASTERCLASS

AGES: 13-14
In this session, Mike Phelan coaches players how to create and exploit space with good passing and support.
Click here for the full session.

POSSESSION MASTERCLASS

AGES: 16-18
In this session, Mike Phelan coaches the importance of creating space whilst maintaining possession of the ball.
Click here for the full session.

Phelan commented: “Technology can play a part in bringing access to coaching sessions like this, and the videos don’t even need to be edited. It’s there, it’s right in front of your eyes, it’s real, and it’s not manufactured.”

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