Discussing the complete player with soccer coach Oliver Davies

Discussing the complete player with soccer coach Oliver Davies

Some people are born to coach. While most youngsters are enjoying themselves on the pitch and dreaming of becoming a professional sports athlete, others are already taking notes and planning their next training session.

To get a glimpse inside the mind of such an individual, we spoke to Oliver Davies, soccer coach and founder of Swerve Soccer Camps in the UK.

Oliver stepped onto the coaching path at a young age and has remained dedicated to youth development ever since. As a result, hundreds of youngsters have already benefitted from his burgeoning knowledge of the beautiful game.

⇔ Hi Oliver, thanks for sparing a little time to share your thoughts with us. To get things started, can you tell us a little but about yourself and your current enterprise?

My name is Oliver Davies and I have been an FA qualified soccer coach since the age of 16 and later gained my UEFA (B) badge. I have been involved with youth football all my life and set up my coaching company (Swerve Soccer Camps) in 2011. Prior to this, I worked in Los Angeles for over 9 months, coaching for UK international football camps. My company now hosts an array of football services from residential football camps to academy classes across the southeast of England.

⇔ You mentioned that you now run a soccer coaching business. At what level does your soccer camp sit in the coaching spectrum? And what are the day-to-day goals?

We provide a high standard of coaching throughout our services. I honestly believe a player will develop not only through football, but also through education. This is why, as well as focusing on providing football-based exercises, our courses, camps and sessions are designed to develop our players holistically, teaching the importance of teamwork, respect, sportsmanship and enjoyment.

We also introduce specialists during our programs such as level 3 strength and conditioning coach Tony Morris who has worked with the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion winger Solly March. This provides great insight into different fields and areas such as injury prevention.

Take, for example, our academy and football development classes. These are designed to enhance each player individually and as a team. We have formulated these classes to try and develop a ‘complete player’. We provide speed and agility, strength and conditioning, and balance and coordination sessions. We also introduce nutritionists and host seminars on subjects such as injury prevention and refereeing. Most sessions will include a theme and work on a carousel format for session fluidity. We then provide player analysis feedback at the end of each term.

⇔ What are your future objectives and expectations for yourself and for your business?

I have been extremely happy with the progress of my company. But in the future, I would like to continue growing our current services and perhaps explore franchise opportunities. Our main goal right now, is to replicate our already-established residential camps (for youth players in the UK) but on a wider scale for international players.

⇔ Who or what inspired you to become a soccer coach? And who or what continues to inspire you today?

My PE teacher (and former football coach) insisted I should pursue a career in coaching. Part of the curriculum was to put on a 30-minute session for our class and from this, he ended up guiding me towards my coaching qualifications and opened the door to coach abroad.

⇔ How would you describe your coaching style or philosophy?

I would describe my coaching style as methodical and reflective of my team and individual performances. We train at a high intensity but keep everyone in good spirits with an unpressured atmosphere. All players react differently to feedback, so the real test is to discover each player’s personality and explore what makes them tick. This in turn, helps to unlock their potential.

I believe in providing a unique football experience for all involved. I put the players first and am mindful of each player’s needs. I focus on effort rather than outcome and help players by motivating them in a prejudice and intimidation-free environment. I focus on achieving progress and development through educational strategies and technical training sessions. The main aim is to impact each player’s day-to-day lives by providing a system where we encourage character development, self-discipline, self-motivation, self-worth and a joy of life.

⇔ Is there a modern coach working at the top level today who reflects your own vision of the way the game should be played? Or one that particularly inspires you?

In all honesty, I would be lying if I gave you one name or if I told you there is only one way to play the game. How the game is played depends on a lot of factors including the resources, environment and players you are working with. Of course, like many coaches, I love watching the intricate football of Pep Guardiola’s sides, or the high intensity style of Jürgen Klopp’s teams. Indeed, the high press that both these coaches have implemented throughout their careers is a tactic that I recently introduced to an U15s school side. Equally, the ambition, talent and increasing tactical expertise of young English coaches like Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche is also an inspiration for coaches like myself. But, most importantly, I think to be a good coach you cannot be too rigid in your methods, especially when you are coaching at the youth level and you are working with kids of different abilities, ages and within different environments.

⇔ What it is that makes a great soccer coach? What are the essential or common elements that a top coach must possess?

  • Patience – This is vital when aiding young footballers, without this a coach can become blinded from the bigger picture, which is the enhancement of each player.
  • Acknowledging strengths and weaknesses – It’s important to highlight your own strengths and weaknesses as a coach. I often work with different coaches to see what works for them and so I do not become set in my ways.
  • Adaption – Different coaching methods aimed at different teams and understanding each player’s individual characterizations and applying them in an effective manner.
  • Leadership – It’s important that a coach is able to provide discipline and support for each individual without intimidation or creating an uncomfortable atmosphere.
  • Passion – Without this, teams/players can fall flat; no major trophy has ever been won without passion! A coach often influences their players and teammates from the energy they bring. It’s a fantastic trait to have, but must be done with good taste. I have seen coaches who have over-celebrated putting 10+ goals past the opposition – this is detrimental to any team.
  • Positivity – I am a strong believer in this; without a positive outlook a team can become lost. It’s vital to maintain a high-spirited environment.
  • Observation – Sometimes it’s best to take a step back from your sessions and let others take control so you can observe your players. It’s very easy to miss the finer details when you coach as you are concentrating on the delivery of your class.

⇔ If you could change one thing about modern coaching in your country, what would it be?

Bravery. Unfortunately, England has lately become a team who is not inspiring up and coming players through their performances. I would love us to take more risks, especially in the final thirds of attacking play. I would love to see more players play with flare and freedom of movement.

⇔ You mentioned nutrition seminars earlier. Do you touch on many of these kinds of subjects (health, lifestyle etc.) with young players? And if so, at what age does this become part of your teaching?

Yes, during our residential football camps and football development classes we provide nutritionists who provide interactive classes on this subject.  Returning to the education part of what we provide, we believe it’s highly important that players are aware of what fuels their bodies require to get the best out them. We introduce this at ages 7+ accordingly.

⇔ How do you view the coach’s relationship with parents and how do you manage your own relationships with parents?

We believe in offering an ‘open book’ to parents and being approachable. We are grounded in our attitude and provide realistic feedback. This helps parents and players aim for achievable results. During games, I will often stand on the opposite side of the pitch and will ask parents to let the coach do his/her work and if they wish to chat after then that’s no problem.

⇔ You are already offering residential camps to UK players. What additional benefits can these type of camps bring to your trainees?

Residential camps can offer a unique insight into what a young professional may train like on a day-to-day basis. Our camps offer a wide and varied technical training schedule and there are educational sessions throughout. Players can reflect on training sessions/matches through video analysis, be inspired by ex and/or current professionals, develop by listening to educational speakers, enhance their physical attributes, learn a new culture and much more!

⇔ What crucial piece of advice would you give to any aspiring young player today?

Attitude and application. I have seen many talented footballers in the past, but a handful of these gifted players chose not to apply themselves in the correct manner. It’s so important to be a well-rounded team member on and off the pitch. A willingness to learn, listen and develop is appealing to any coach/scout and showcases how dedicated the player is to becoming the best player they can be.

You can follow Swerve Soccer Camp on Twitter here.

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