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For 10 years the Falklands Football Club had been unsuccessful in their attempts to secure the services of a Football Coach. In September 2008 the President of the Club, Patrick Watts visited the Dutch 1st Division team Cambuur Leeuwarden and spoke with the Managing Director of the Club, Mr. Alex Pama. The possibility of a coach visiting the Falklands was discussed.
Cambuur Leeuwarden are the most progressive club in Holland in terms of coaching, and they run a very successful ‘coaching school’ which attracts youths from all over the world, but primarily from the United States.
In October 2008 the Falklands Football Club confirmed their participation at the forthcoming Island Games on the Finnish island of Aland (Baltic Sea) between 27 June – 4 July 2009. The Committee, and Team manager Jimmy Curtis, expressed their desire to have a coach visit the Falklands and Patrick Watts was asked to pursue this task.
Further contact was made with Mr. Alex Pama and he identified 37 years old Rene van Rijswijk who agreed to undertake the task over a two weeks period. Mr. Pama also kindly agreed to waive the normal fee associated with this type of commitment.
Rene van Rijswijk played professional football in Holland for 13 years. He began his career at RKC Waalwijk in 1993, making his debut against the mighty Ajax of Amserdam on 15 August. Following 3 successful seasons with the Brabant side he was transferred to the 1st. Division team Cambuur Leeuwarden where he played for 4 seasons.
After scoring 7 goals in 31 appearances in 1998/99 he attracted the attention of the Premier Division team NEC Nijmegen who signed him from Cambuur. He stayed with NEC for 5 seasons before moving back to Cambuur in 2004 for a further 2 seasons. In all he scored 30 goals in 301 appearances.
During the last 3 years Rene van Rijswijk has studied psychology at the Open University and has obtained his official Trainers Diploma. He is the coach of the Cambuur Leeuwarden U14 team. While visiting the Falklands he stayed at 13, Brisbane Road (Patrick & Sila Watts).
In order to ensure that as many football players and prospective players as possible were able to benefit from the visit of a professional coach, Patrick Watts drew up a schedule, in association with the Football Club. This offered coaching opportunities for youngsters of 5 years old and upward, also to youth and senior levels. It also offered coaching for girls interested in playing football, for persons who may wish to coach in the future and GCSE sessions for the F.I.C.S. students. Three training periods were set aside each day (with the exception of the 2 free days permitted) running from 1030 – 1200, 1430 – 1600 & 1800 – 1930. Under an agreement with Alex Pama, two ‘free’ days were inserted in the programme. On one of these Rene van Rijswijk drove to Volunteer Point to see the King penguin colony. The second day he spent pursuing his favourite hobby of collecting fossils at Port San Carlos. As most children were on their school holidays several Junior & Senior Camps were inserted in the programme under the auspices of the Leisure Centre Manager Steve Dent.
A small reception for 30 invited guests was held at the Malvina Hotel on 29th December, which provided an opportunity for Rene van Rijswijk to meet a selection of people associated with his visit. His Excellency the Governor and Mrs Huckle kindly attended along with the Hon. Secretary of the Shackleton Fund, Ms. Carol Peck. Members of the Falkland Islands Overseas Games Association, Football Club Committee, players, former players, some parents of the ‘Kids’ team and several youngsters were introduced to the Coach.
As there was such a considerable difference in the ages and ability of those attending the Coaching classes, Rene van Rijswijk had to be extremely versatile in his approach to each scheduled group.
The Infant/Junior School sessions were heavily over-subscribed with more then 20 ‘kids’ attending, and on most occasions the youngsters had to be divided into two groups. The objective of the visiting Coach with this group was to acquaint them with exercises to enhance their technical skills. Modern day thinking leans heavily towards technical skills. This involves the need to master the ball and as they progressively get better at mastering the ball, this will be reflected in their progressive advantage over their opponents in games. Without this solid base it becomes more difficult to play good football when they grow older. Rene van Rijswijk concentrated heavily on their basic skills such as dribbling, stopping the ball, changing direction while in possession of the ball, passing an opponent, short range passing (accuracy, technique, adjusting speed of the ball) and keeping the ball in the air. Training cones were used regularly in all of these sessions.
The visiting Coach reported: ‘All the kids that participated in the Open Sessions and the Junior/Senior camps were very enthusiastic and eager to learn and so very easy to work with. What made things a little harder was the fact that there was a big age/quality difference within the groups. This made choosing the right exercises a little more difficult. I would choose an exercise and it would be too easy for some and too difficult for others. This got better as I got to know the kids individually as time progressed’.
1st Team Squad Coaching
As many as 22-24 players regularly turned out for these 9 specialised sessions. The Coach concentrated very much on various exercises that the players can use in the future. These involved positional play (ball possession, coaching/talking, keeping the field of play wide, putting pressure on an opponent), passing (short-range, one-two’s, adjusting the speed of the ball & timing their runs).
Other aspects of the Coaching sessions included ‘one on one’ and ‘two on two’ defending and attacking movements which concluded with the player shooting at the goal. He also encouraged the defenders to talk more with the goalkeeper and accordingly introduce a better understanding between defenders and their ‘keeper.
Rene van Rijswijk participated in one practice game as this enabled him to talk directly to the players during the course of the match, as opposed to shouting instructions from the touch-line. He reported: ‘Everyone worked really hard during the sessions and working together with Jimmy Curtis (Team manager) went very well. We accomplished much in the short period of time we had at our disposal and I’m very positive about the chances of the team to make a good impression during the Island Games. There are a number of conditions for that to happen and I discussed these with the players and with Jimmy on a number of occasions. First of all most players need to get fit and some players have to improve their fitness levels dramatically in the time remaining before the Island Games. This means that they will have to train individually, outside of the regular training sessions. Most players seem willing to do this. Another important issue is the fact that the team needs the co-operation of everybody who would like this team to achieve success for the Falklands.