Photo Credit: Tonga FA

The OFC player development mission to Tonga proved insightful as coaches departed with new knowledge to strengthen youth football in the region.

Under the guidance of OFC Player Development Officer Phillip Parker, 11 participants from Tonga Football Association (TFA) featured in the Youth Football coaching course certificate programme alongside a one-day player development workshop.

The goal, to expose coaches to youth coaching methods, while emphasising the importance of continual development of individual player actions and sharing the latest best practices from around the world.

“The coaches were very receptive; the theory feedback sessions and youth coaching course has been very engaging. I believe that all the coaches now recognize that they have a responsibility and a duty to the future improvement over the game. So it’s been very positive, and very encouraging,” Parker said.

Among the participants, Hemaloto Polovili, captain of Tonga’s National Men’s team and TFA’s Talent Development Programme Manager, emphasised the significance of teaching players the basics at grassroots level.

“Ball mastery, I think this is the important one that I learned from this course. If we can teach the player how to master the ball, then we can build the youth national team. I think it’s important for the coach, and easy for the coach to teach them to master the ball,” said Polovili.

Attached to the coaching course was a one-day player development workshop, focusing on foundation skills for players aged 6-16. From ball control to passing and shooting, Parker highlighted the importance these skills have in developing a player.

Reflecting on the week’s activities, Tongan international Meleseini Tufui, who is also TFA Just Play media officer, was looking forward to applying her new knowledge to their current youth programmes.

“I’m hoping to apply this to coaching our youth teams. So we can teach them from a young age the accurate and the right way of using these basics to help them improve with their career in football,” said Tufui.

Parker, having closely followed the progression of youth football in Tonga since 2014, emphasized the impact of technology on physical coordination and stressed its importance for Tonga and other Member Associations.

“What I’m really interested in is observing the physical coordination of the players that we’re working with and then matching that up against other MAs and other young people. Some countries they have very limited access to technology. So there’s a lot of young people outside playing, running, jumping, climbing trees, all sorts of things like this,” explained Parker.

He added the challenge for Oceania Member Associations in ensuring physical coordination remains a core aspect of their grassroots programmes, and coaches are equipped to teach appropriate skills at each developmental stage.

The combined course and workshop provided participants with fresh insights for grassroots development and individual player growth, paving the way for a brighter future for football in Tonga.