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Living the dream in Florida

Former Manchester United coach Peter Duckworth is living the dream in Florida.

He spent eight years as a development coach and academy coach at Old Trafford, working with United first team coach Rene Meulensteen (pictured with Sir Alex Ferguson). He has also worked as a coach for Nike and Adidas.

Now a part of the team at Melbourne Beach Soccer Club in Florida, he coaches up to 400 hundred children of all ages, spreading the popularity of soccer through America.

He talked to Ryan Holmes about his experience as a coach with Manchester United and his new life in the Florida sunshine. 

How did you get the opportunity to work for Manchester United?

I was doing my UEFA B License back in1999 and made contact with someone who became a great friend of mine, Jeff Flitcroft. He had been working at Manchester United for a couple of years at this time and put me in contact with his boss.

I was invited to do some sample coaching sessions and he offered me a job as a skills development coach within the development centers. I was heavily involved with Coerver Coaching at the time, and this was exactly what they were looking for.

Which players did you work with at your eight years at Manchester United?

I worked only with the young players at the club. In my time there the youngest players I worked with were aged five and the oldest players I worked with was the U11s team. From age eight and below the boys are in the development centers and from age nine they are selected to be part of the academy.

Who would you say where the best players you worked with?

All the players are scouted in and as you can imagine the standard is excellent throughout the club.

Who were the best coaches that you worked with?

Rene Meulensteen was in charge of the youth set up at Manchester United. He was a great coach and a pleasure to work along with. Now he coaches the first team. He is the best coach I have ever worked with.

What was it like working within the biggest club in the world?

I had a great eight years there. It was an fantastic experience and I worked with some great people. Everything at the club is run very well and organised as you can imagine. The facilities are perfect for the young players to develop in.

What would you say are the most important attributes for players in the modern game?

Speed, strength, skill, good nutrition and psychologically sound. Today the best players have to be excellent athletes and totally dedicated to the game. And have a great willingness to learn.

How has football coaching changed since you first started?

I did my fist FA badge back in 1994. It was very rigid and not very exciting. Now most of the licenses encourage different methods from around the world. Coaching is something you should be enjoying and you should encourage your players to enjoy playing.

Coaching used to be all about shouting and dictating to the players. Now it is about players expressing themselves and as a coach guiding them to achieve their goal.

How did you get the opportunity to work with the Melbourne Beach Soccer Club in Florida?

I moved to Florida in 2008 and spoke to a few different clubs over here. Melbourne Beach Soccer Club had just got a new board at the time and were looking for a new direction. I am in my fourth year here now.

What are the differences between football at that level in America and the UK?

At my club here in Florida the kids have a lot of options: soccer, basketball, American football, baseball and surfing, to name a few.

In Britain there are not that many options and the kids play every day, talk about the game every day, watch it on TV every day. It's in our blood. So the awareness and understanding of the game from the British kids is a lot higher.

Some US parents have the win at all cost attitude because it is a pay to play sport over here. If you are winning all is good. It's hard to get some of them to realise that as a coach you are developing their kids into better all round players, so that can be a real challenge.

For anyone trying to get into coaching what would you say is the best way to go about it?

Watch as many different coaches work at different age groups. Work your way through the coaching licenses (contact your local FA). I have done licenses with the English FA, Scottish FA, Brazilian FA and in the USA. I enjoy learning the different flavours of coaching from different cultures. I am still learning.

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