This is not a book of drills, exercises or practices.
This book is written by a truly inspirational coach who invites us to see the most important aspects of both playing and coaching The Beautiful Game.
As a visionary coach, Cartwright begins, appropriately enough, with a vision of how to play the game. He poses the question that if we have no idea of where we wish to go and are unsure of the game style for which we wish to be known, how can we devise practices for the development of our players?
The point is explored further examining the view that if there is uncertainty in the direction in which you are headed, how will a coach know if he is on the right track, and how will he know when he gets there?
Using examples of exceptional players, John Cartwright advocates individual skill as the absolute foundation of the game, and eschews the simplistic view that football “is a team game.”
Cartwright identifies the decline of individual skill in the English game as a key factor contributing to the increase of anxiety, tension and, perhaps, fear within our game.
If teams and players are “afraid”, they are very likely to play a simplistic game which has limited effectiveness, and that puts us at a disadvantage from the rest of the major footballing nations.
Throughout the book, John Cartwright succinctly provides direction on what can be done to redress the balance.
The author clearly and concisely addresses all areas of our national game which have given rise to concern for decades. Through the use of good examples, useful analogies and specific analysis he encourages us, as both players and coaches, to be brave.
The bravery that is referred to here and in the title of the book is not, as is so often the case with English/British football, about physical bravery and ‘putting your body on the line’. This is about psychological bravery – the bravery of players, players in ALL positions, to dare to be creative, imaginative and skilful. It is about the philosophical bravery of coaches to create and communicate a vision, to creatively and gradually develop players through progressive and ‘real’ practices (not line drills) so that they understand the game and can play “in the future”, all for the benefit of our wider game.
The demise of street football is also identified as a factor in the lack of progress of ‘natural’ players. He states clearly that young players must practise what they are expected to play, and the way they are expected to play.
Cartwright identifies poor practice methods with a lack of realism as a key issue that inhibits development. Added to a lack of realism is the notion that too many coaches (and parents) try to accelerate young players into an imitation of the adult game far too early. John draws the analogy that when children are babies, we feed them gradually on milk and rusks – not on steak and chips! We are trying to force feed our children a type of football ‘food’ for which they are not yet ready.
Whilst national traits of determination, competitive spirit and a will to win should not be discarded, we need to ally ‘game understanding’, ‘skilful’, ‘two-footed’ and ‘individuality’ to these strengths if we are to improve as a football nation, at all levels of the game.
In summary, John Cartwright states that the senior game and its lack of international success merely reflects a lack of development quality at the younger ages.
This book will make you think differently about the game and how it is played and taught, in whatever country it is you coach the game.
You will surely recognise John’s observations on both the English national game, and others, and I am certain his suggested solutions will resonate with all forward-thinking coaches. If you can take and apply its lessons, you too will be helping to develop Football For The Brave.
Football For The Brave, John Cartwright.