MY COACHING STORY - JON WHITTINGHAM.
Jon has made the journey from casual school coach to FA tutor and a leading Disability Talent coach in ten years. How? Through a combination of hard work, dedication and capitalising on the coach education opportunities available through Middlesex FA. Here's his story...
Q. When did you first start coaching?
I first started coaching at 18 years old whilst on my gap year at a local primary school. After this, I continued to do some informal coaching when at University before undertaking my first formal coaching qualification with the FA Level 1 in 2007.
Q. Why did you choose to get involved with coaching?
I initially got involved as a result of my old PE teacher asking me to help him deliver some sessions in PE and Games lessons. It wasn't something that I had ever considered doing as I was playing regularly at the time but thought it would be something fun to do and give me the chance to try something new. I didn't really get into coaching fully until I had an injury that stopped me from playing for a few months in 2008. The injury switched my attention to fully focus on coaching and I enjoyed it so much that I haven't looked back since!
Q. What was your experience on your first FA coaching course?
I did my FA Level 1 course in mid-2007 with a Middlesex FA tutor called Tina Lighting at Broadfields. I remember it was so hot in the classroom that we spent much of the course sessions out on the pitch! Tina really inspired me to want to go further with my coaching after telling us the story of how she got involved in coaching and tutoring. I was a little nervous on the first day as I arrived and found that I was the only person under 30 and not a parent, but the group were very welcoming and that helped me settle quickly into the course. I found the content straightforward but I must admit that ahead of my final assessment, I got the cones and balls out in the back garden to practice what I would do on the day itself! Fortunately, I was lucky enough to pass the assessment and Tina's feedback suggested that i should look to do the FA Level 2 as part of my ongoing development.
Q. How did you progress after completing your FA Level 1 course?
Since doing my FA Level 1, I have tried to keep a consistent balance of undertaking courses and implementing what I've learnt with the squad I work with. The higher up the coaching pathway I have gone, the longer I have taken to really try and experiment with the content before looking at the next step. For me personally, this has served me really well as I have undertaken my UEFA B, FA Youth Award and FA Futsal Level 2 qualifications alongside the FA Disability qualifications. I have since worked across a range of adult and youth clubs, boys, girls, men and women from Centre of Excellence programmes to FA Women's Premier League and FA international squads.
Q. How has the Middlesex FA has supported your journey?
I have a great affinity with Middlesex FA and their staff with the support they have given me over the years. From formal qualifications to CPD events organised through the county staff, they continue to be my first port of call for identifying further development opportunities with the variety that is now offered through Middlesex Learning.
Q. What is your involvement in football now?
I am currently involved in a number of FA Disability Talent Programmes from England level through to regional talent hubs, delivering as lead coach across a range of impairment groups including blind, cerebral palsy, deaf and partially sighted players.
I have been a tutor for the FA for a number of years now as well, delivering on FA Disability courses as well as the FA Level 1 and 2 courses. I also deliver lectures for a number of universities around London working within disability football and developing practices for disabled footballers, along with being chair of The FA National Blind League.
Q. What's the next step on your coaching journey?
For me to become a more effective coach, I consider CPD to be key in my ongoing development. I am keen to try and develop my understanding of Futsal so the next step for me on the FA course strands is to look at the FA Futsal UEFA B which I hope to start undertaking during the 2017/18 season. As part of my ongoing development, I also have a number of mentors that I work alongside who help with challenging me to develop a deeper understanding of why I do what I do. I have found my mentors to be key in my development in recent years and would highly recommend to anyone to identify a mentor themselves so that you can practice what you learn on courses, and find out what it means to you and your coaching context.