Being a former semi-professional football player, I have always had a great respect for coaches, especially those who coach kids. They have tremendous responsibilites as their duty (in my opinion) goes beyond coaching. Sometimes, they endorse the Father’s role or are as influencial as a big brother. Tom Byer is coaching kids in Japan, and his story is just fantastic. Here is an interview he gave to Football Weekly back in 2009.
Tom Byer has been coaching football to children in Japan for over 20 years now and his training programs have since developed into one of Japan’s most effective and recognised training systems throughout the country. With
over 2,000 football events conducted for Coever Coaching 500,000 kids, parents and coaches, Tom has established the largest football school business in Japan and around the world, with over 80 schools, 150 full-time coaches
and 15,000 kids.
Tom was also awarded the Golden Boot Award by adidas International in 1997 for his contributions to youth soccer in Asia. Tom has since left Coerver, and has continued his Japanese Television Show, established his own Football Academy, and is consulting on several different Football Academy Projects throughout Asia.
FW: What has been the most challenging aspect of coaching in Japan? What about the rest of Asia?
Tom: I believe that the most challenging aspect has been to convince people that more resources must be put into Youth Development. Grass roots football has often been viewed as an obligation rather than an opportunity. When I introduced the Coerver Program into Japan, it took private investments to build the company. At the time, we had no support from the National Federation or sponsors, government, etc. Other than adidas, who was the worldwide sponsor of Coerver at the time.
The reason that the Program took off was due to the sub-standard level of Coaching at the U12 Level. It changed the idea that football is being taught as an individual pursuit rather than as a team. I also convinced the investors to invest in both facilities and staff. I did not allow any staff to be affiliated with any club organizations and made sure that they worked only for us and nobody else. That meant a substantial amount of investment into bringing in the right staff and training personnel. The national federations administer the Elite Training Programs for U12 etc., but they do not take much of an active role in educating the coaches who teach at this level.
Almost all of the resources in every country go into the national team or the professional leagues. Teaching at this level is special and the big super clubs are now beginning to understand why. The old school of thought has been to place the most inexperienced and least paid coaches at the bottom. So if you don’t make it as a player at the top, you trickle down to the bottom. However, that is the wrong school of thought and if you accept the idea that all the young players are the future of your club or federation, you must put some of the best and the brightest with them.
FW: What foundations or skills should a child learn to allow him to play the game better?
Tom: There are basics that every player should learn to master. Techniques like stopping and starting with the ball, changing direction, cutting, passing and receiving. Skills that will give a player a certain amount of comfort with the ball at his or her feet. A player needs to be able to use both feet as if they are team mates, with one foot able to follow the other without hesitation.
Also, 1v1 is a huge part of the game and my specialty. There are basically three different variations of 1v1; when the defender is in front of you, behind you or along-side of you. And if you break it down further, there are three other parts that become important with 1v1. You have to have a good first touch, you have to have speed, and of course technical abilities. Marry the three together, and voila! I recently released a DVD here in Japan, “Tomsan’s 1v1 Technics”, which is the number one best seller on Amazon. It also sells in over 250 sports retail stores. I think the reason for its huge success is its simple to follow and it has 36 exercises that can be done by one player with one ball. All things that are necessary to improve yourself as a player.
FW: When you are coaching, do you spot talents and designate a more specific training regime for them to excel in at the game?
Tom: I work with many different levels of players. I work with the JFA National Elite Program and several elite Programs at the State level. I also have my own Academy in Japan, The Tom Byer Academy, where we have some very talented players. I also offer scholarships at my Academy for players whom I think have tremendous potential. I have such a player on a scholarship at my Academy now, a seven-year old boy whom is phenomenal. I saw him in a tournament that we hosted at our Academy last year when he was six and offered him a scholarship soon after.
What I didn’t know was he also had two older brothers who were good players as well, so we wound up getting three for the price of two! But this is often the challenge. How do you provide improved training for your better players? There is a theory that I hold to. The best way to push the top players is to improve the players below them. This will automatically push the top players to become even better. So focusing on the lesser talented players have a by-product of affecting the top.
FW: Tom, I understand that you received the Golden Boot Award many years ago. While it should be a motivation and recognition for the work you have been doing, did it also create additional pressure for you?
Tom: I don’t believe it created any additional pressure on me. Instead, it created more opportunities. After the 1998 World Cup, I went to China with the 1998 World Cup Champions head coach, Aime Jacquet, to do a series of clinics with him along with the World Cup Trophy Tour. I was also asked to host the 2002 World Cup Golden Ball Nomination Event and also to host a talk show in front of the world media, together with Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto Parreira, and Aime Jacquet.
The talk show was centered on a discussion of who were the best players of the tournament. I have also been fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest stars in the game and recently did a Football Clinic here in Tokyo for kids together with Zinedine Zidane, which attracted over 8,000 people. So all of these events have lifted my profile to incredible heights, which has been all positive for me to carry on my work. It also led to me working in the biggest television show for kids in Japan, where I present the “Tomsan Soccer Technics Corner”, which has been airing every weekday morning for the past 11 years. This has given me a large audience and has highlighted the importance of learning proper soccer techniques.
Find the whole interview here.
As you can see, Tom Byer has a significant experience and has contributed to kids development in the most effective way. I would be happy to hear your thoughts, and why not share your experience?
Thanks a bunch!