Exclusive Q&A: Graham Robinson – Premier Skills Head Coach
With yet another Premier Skills program coming to a close in South Africa, Graham Robinson, head coach of the Premier League program, sat down to answer a couple of questions about the current level of football and coaching in South Africa.
Graham has ties with South Africa, working closely with PSL Champions, Bidvest Wits, during his time at Sunderland AFC’s Commercial Department.
Q: By now it’s no secret that Bafana Bafana have once again failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia, 2018. Something we have not done outright* since Korea/Japan 2002. As an outsider working with local coaches and clubs, what factors do you consider to be key in our failure to qualify for major tournaments?
*In 2010 South Africa qualified by default as host nation.
A: I believe SAFA will address this, but for Premier Skills we are focussed on developing coaches who work with children at a younger age. We want to grow the innate fundamentals that young soccer players display – co-ordination, agility, balance and speed. We develop the love for the game, creating the desire to play well, to win and to ultimately play for the country.
Q: While many in South Africa can point to factors as to why Bafana struggle to qualify, very few can offer tangible solutions to the problems we face. Do you perhaps have a couple of ideas that you believe can drastically improve our chances for qualification to these tournaments?
A: The Premier Skills is not an elite coaching programme, we are passionate about engaging grass roots coaches, who in turn initiate a crop of enthusiastic young football players. By increasing the number of coaches, we increase the potential talent pool as more children enjoy grass roots training.
Q: It’s clear that the Premier Skills program is doing some great things for Football development all over the world. In your time with the program, what areas of coaching have you identified that really seems to be lacking within a South African context?
A: I see the biggest opportunity for coaching in South Africa to understand and implement a coaching session. Coaches need to appreciate the individual players within their group. Different players have different capabilities, speeds and gifts and it is the coach’s job to ensure that each player is individually challenged and expanded and coached in such a way to elicit the best out of them.
Q: Programs like the Premier Skills initiative rely heavily on success stories to keep them sustainable. Can you share one such success story that you have witnessed during your time with the Premier Skills program?
A: It has been great to see one of our coaches fulfil a coaching role at the Football Foundation at Grootbos. Two Coach-Educators (Liezl Windvogel and Sergio Van Der Ross) have come over to the UK to observe and Sergio joined me in Tanzania on our coaching team recently.
Q: And finally, can you offer any words of advice for grassroots coaches and players out there?
A: Make sure your sessions are fun and engaging. It’s important to understand your players and make sure that learning is taking place, irrespective of their level and capability. Always make sure you Plan, Implement and Deliver (PID).
We thank Graham for taking the time to chat to us and look forward to seeing the impact of the Premier Skills program in South Africa and the rest of the world.