Q&A with Heidar Torleifsson - Director of Coerver Coaching Iceland
- Sport Careers client Heidar Torleifsson discusses his career and the impact Coerver Coaching has had on Icelandic football
- Iceland outperformed all expectations at Euro 2016...but what has contributed to their success?
- What are the priorities of an accomplished youth coach when developing young players?
You're an experienced Head of Youth as well as managing Coerver Iceland for more than 10 years. What are your priorities when it comes to developing young players?
The number one thing is always to help players develop technically. If a player doesn't have the basic technical skills (passing and receiving the ball, 1v1 moves, running with the ball, etc.) before the age of 14 then it's going to be really difficult for him or her to develop it at all (though everybody can always get better).
But in general, my priority is to help give them the best chance to reach as high as they possibly can in the game.
What have you found to be the benefits of your youth programme's techniques in terms of developing young players?
When you teach the basic skills in an effective and positive way everybody gets better and they enjoy their football more. Over the years I have worked with players at every level, and they all need to be able to run with the ball, pass and receive, go 1v1, finish and so on. If they have speed as well, then fantastic.
I've been coaching these things throughout my time as a coach and evolved it into small sided games where there is a significant focus on decision making, which has been of a huge benefit to the players in my opinion in terms of helping them develop their game.
Do you think Coerver Coaching has had a significant impact on Icelandic football?
Yes I do, for both players and coaches. For example, the warm-up that was in place previously for young players at almost every club was just running in circles without the ball. Now most clubs use some kind of ball mastery warm-up for their young players.
Also before the only skill training that took place was pass and receive, but now coaches are teaching players how and when to run with the ball, how to beat another player 1v1, and things like that.
You've also delivered seminars and coach education to more than 300 coaches combined, including several experienced managers. How have these seminars changed as football has evolved in recent years?
In the beginning I was introducing the method to coaches and our approach to training. Now everybody understands it, so I have recently worked to evolve the content to focus on collective team training and attacking in the final third.
This type of work being undertaken in Iceland has clearly had an impact given the country's development in international football. They had a tremendous summer at the Euros and defied all expectations, but what do you think contributed to the success of the national team?
I think the combination of these players with this coaching staff was just a match made in heaven. The organisation around the players was excellent, and the players' work ethic and team spirit was second to none. When you have these things you can accomplish anything.
Has this type of success helped to grow football's popularity in Iceland?
Yes, without doubt. Football has for many years been the most popular sport in Iceland, but now itu00b4s even bigger which is great for developing players, coaches and fans.
Is there anything else being done to help improve the standard of players produced by the country?
For the last 10 to 15 years the Icelandic FA has focused heavily on improving facilities and providing better and better coach education. Every player that wants to improve now has the ability train as much as they can, and this will hopefully help to continue our growth at club and national level.
However, the Icelandic FA has in my opinion been prioritising strength, power and physicality within different age groups such as the U17s and U19s, which is a pity because we can end up losing players through this philosophy.
There are great examples of current national team players who were small for their age until late teens, such as Alfred Finnbogason who is one of our best strikers, and we need to remember this when nurturing young talent.
Finally, what are your future ambitions in the game?
To continue to help players develop and improve. I would like to have the chance to work abroad and potentially coach at senior level, as I believe my experience and approach to the game is perfectly suited to the demands of modern football.