Photo Credit: OFC Media

2024 has kicked off with a ground-breaking achievement for Vanuatu Football Federation (VFF), who hosted their first local Grassroots Coach Educators (GCE) course, led by OFC Player Development Manager Phill Parker. 

The objective is to provide the local member association development officers in Vanuatu with the skills and knowledge to deliver the VFF Grassroots Football Coaching Certificate course to their community coaches in their own environments.

12 Coach Educators were represented from the eight Vanuatu Football Federation member associations at the five-day course. The course took them through key characteristics and personality traits of an Educator and student coach.

Coaches tackled new learning methods, while also being introduced to the VFF Grassroots Coaching Certificate course structure and content.

Part of the education for the local GCE’s focused on the importance of young children performing player actions. Through visual aids and practical sessions, coaches were able to see, experience and understand the significance of a national development curriculum and national playing philosophy. Showing that good coaching standards guides children and youth to explore what they can do with the ball at a foundational level.

“At grassroots football, coaches must guide children’s development by introducing player actions at the right time and adjusting as their motivations grow. As children gain confidence, aspirations naturally arise, making coaches pivotal in maintaining this balance,” said OFC Player Development Manager Phill Parker.

“Fostering a strong bond with the ball is crucial for sustaining children’s motivation and aspirations. It not only drives improvement but also cultivates important social behaviours for long-term holistic development.”

Parker utilised elements of the week’s course teachings through a shortened version of the skills challenge programme at the Saturday morning Port Villa U-16 boys trials.

Some of the boys showed good ball mastery in the air, easily juggling the ball over 100 times and some displayed good ball control on the ground. They displayed a reasonable range of 1 v 1 moves to beat an opponent, alongside a good vision and awareness when moving with the ball.

“Coaches must guide the emergence of fun, aspiration, and competitiveness in young players until they develop a clear vision for their goals. Some may aim for local premiership teams, while others aspire to represent their national teams internationally,” says Parker.

Six boys were referred on for VFF U-16 national team trials out of 35 by Parker, with six more to be reviewed and monitored having shown promising signs, but not quite ready for a national team trial.

To get more children up to the national standards, VFF is putting more focus on improving grassroots coach education and an increased amount of organised grassroots football activity but implementing what the participants learned on the course within the regions faces its own challenges.

Despite a healthy desire to participate from children, accessing fundamental training resources out in the communities is a big hurdle coaches face to implement and maintain community programme continuity.

Hopefully this will change with more coach educators that VFF has in local communities. Among the coaches on the GCE course, four were identified as potential candidates for OFC Coach Educators courses in the future. A big achievement for Vanuatu as they look to grow and improve the game at the grassroots level.