At the beginning of the 2019/20 season, the Guernsey FA Academy set up small group 'Focus Sessions' for both outfield players and goalkeepers. Run by GFA coaches, and current Guernsey FC players, Ross Allen and Jordan Kelly, these sessions were designed to give players more time in training to work on the technical aspects of their game. Through repetition, and continued effort at honing their skills, both Allen and Kelly have noticed significant improvements in all the players who have signed up and had a willingness to learn and become better footballers.
"Both myself and Jordan have been delighted with the uptake and commitment of the players who have taken part over the past 18 months", Allen said.
"From an outfield perspective, before coming to Focus, some of these kids (ranging from Year 3 - Year 9) wouldn't even attempt to use their weaker foot. But now, many of them are using it comfortably on instinct, allowing for a much wider range of options for them when it comes to a game situation. I've noticed how these players are beginning to stand out now in larger group sessions because of the extra work they have put in. They are more comfortable and confident in different parts of their game, on and off the ball. Volleys, passing, body position, protecting the ball, finishing. These are just some of the skills we have worked on repetitively, and continued practice pays off. With only small numbers in each group, players get to touch the ball a lot more than they would be able to in a larger group session."
"It's great for the kids to be able to see Jordan and myself demonstrate the skills. We are fortunate to be in a stage of our playing careers that we can do that. For the kids to observe that first hand is huge; rather than us just explaining what the technique should look like. I believe this visual support is extremely helpful in allowing them to understand things quickly. It's how I learnt the game when I was young."
Kelly has also relished the opportunity to have that extended time working closely with his goalkeepers.
"It's given us the chance to work repeatedly on things like set position, catching, distribution with both hands and feet, and decision making. The basics that, once done right, will set them up to be great all round goalkeepers, who can hopefully go on to represent Guernsey in both youth and senior football.
Towards the end of each session, we combine with the outfield players, so they can practice shooting, and our goalies can practice saving the ball in more game related situations. It benefits everyone and I've noticed a massive boost in the confidence of all our keepers. Seeing them enjoy making the saves and that desire to keep the ball out is what it's all about."
The Focus Sessions will return with the GFA Academy programme next season.