Alex is having a ball coaching

A YOUNG football coach has been having the time of his life on a year-long premiership club s training course. Alex Willis, 22, from Hexton is nearing the end of an intensive coaching gap year programme with Arsenal FC. Since September, Alex, a former p

A YOUNG football coach has been having the time of his life on a year-long premiership club's training course.

Alex Willis, 22, from Hexton is nearing the end of an intensive coaching gap year programme with Arsenal FC.

Since September, Alex, a former pupil at Hitchin Boys' School, has taught football skills to kids at London schools as well as at a football academy in Egypt and met many of his Arsenal idols, including Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor and Arsene Wenger.

Alex is due to complete his course, which will earn him a Level 2 FC badge, in August and will go on to do a UEFA badge followed by a Pro Licence.


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Talking The Comet through his year so far, Alex said: "The first two weeks consisted of a lot of training aimed to suss out our playing ability, a tour of the Emirates Stadium and a week-long FA coaching course in which I gained my level 1 coaching award.

"The next four months in London were brilliant. I always looked forward to the staff training, as we were constantly learning new and invaluable drills. The sessions were always competitive as the boys from Westminster College regularly came down to take part in the training.

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"Throughout this opening stage we were heavily involved in taking football sessions in schools and my place of work was Haverstock School near Camden.

"The opportunity to coach in a school provided a great learning curve and developed my key coaching qualities. Being in charge of the sessions gave me responsibility, which made me more determined to provide a good session for the kids.

"A highlight was half-term soccer schools. The best part of these weeks was creating a bond with the kids and gaining their respect, while having the chance to see them progress dramatically by the time Friday came round.

"From the beginning I knew how important it was to record the drills and information given to us, so each evening on the train home I would copy down the drills in what would later become my coaching manual. The manual became a key reference point for any session that I would take and made session planning easier.

"We discovered our location for stage two of the programme towards the end of November. I was to travel to the Wadi Degla Sporting Club in Egypt and gain coaching experience at their Arsenal International Soccer School.

"The first thing we noticed when arriving at the club was the impressive set-up. Looking around we discovered a high-class swimming pool, gym, tennis academy, internet café and restaurants along with what would become our second home - the sports café.

"We coached on average about three hours a day. The Wadi Degla coaching staff is made up of ex-professionals and each one was amazed at how young we were for coaches.

"The set up for the kids was brilliant, as for every group of 12 kids there were three coaches. This enabled a lot more focus to be placed on the kids but it also meant we had to fight for the right to take drills in a place where not much English was spoken. This made us try and learn the native tongue and we were eager to do this and this helped interact with the kids and coaches.

"When we weren't coaching we were having our daily workout in the gym and experiencing the delights Maadi and Cairo had to offer.

"I have now begun stage three which involves teaching summer football schools back in England and I hope to carry on improving as a coach and apply all the lessons learned to do the best for myself and those I find myself coaching.

"I have come so far in such a short time and thanks to this programme I know that my future is focused on being a football coach. I need to keep gaining experience and one day fulfil my dream of working at an academy level."

Arsenal is currently looking to recruit would-be coaches for its 2008/09 programme which begins in September.

To find out more, contact Samir Singh on 0207 704 4158 or email ssingh@ arsenal.co.uk

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