With our Academy growing every day, we spoke to our Head of Coaching and Player Development, Matt Lawlor, about how it is helping both players and coaches grow into the people they want to be.
Lawlor, who has been at Fleetwood for five years in multiple roles within our Academy, is a figure behind-the-scenes that helps progress not only the coaches and their programmes, but also the players in their day-to-day sessions.
This differs from his previous role at the club as this means he doesn’t have as much time to get on the grass and coach the players but more oversee the development and progression of the age groups as a whole.
“This is a big job going from our pre-Academy coaches (Under-7s and Under-8s) through to our Under-23s, but I believe we are making huge strides in doing this. I feel as if my biggest role within the Academy is to maintain and drive standards to enable our players to be in an environment where they can enjoy trying to maximise their own potential.”
This has made an impact to multiple age groups as he is able to create models for certain groups to aim to play like, which may benefit them more than the system they are currently using.
“I have designed the way we want to play (game model) within the academy and getting our coaches to understand and coach that way. It also involves becoming a line manager directly to coaches I was once coaching with, so this management of staff is also a change, but changes I have massively enjoyed.”
A reason Lawlor is able to understand what each group and set of coaches needs to advance their players is because he has managed to coach through different phases throughout his time at the club, ranging from the Under-9s, all the way up to the Under-18s.
“It has helped a huge amount in terms of understanding how to coach at different ages and stages of their journey in football. In my years coaching, I have had so many different experiences from coaching Under-9s, right through to coaching our Under-18s, so this gives me that understanding of what our coaches are experiencing within that age group.”
This just adds to the passion he brings to the role as he has been able to gain a lot of qualities in the past that will now help him advance the Academy in more ways than one.
“We are really passionate about our ‘Develop the Person, Challenge the Player” ethos here at the club, and with me being here for five years, it has allowed me to understand how we actually deliver this and impact on the players we have.
“I care about the people within our Academy and have developed positive relationships with players, staff, parents, and guardians so this enables me to enhance our environment whilst trying to enhance the journey of the player.
“Ultimately, we are responsible for adding numerous childhood memories/experiences to our players to look back on in later life, whether they are here with us at Fleetwood for a long or short time and my experiences along with those around me are focused on trying to make that happen.”
Lawlor explains that this is why he applied for the role of Head of Coaching & Player Development as he loves helping players grow into their potential and advance their pathway into the world of professional football.
“I am absolutely loving going from working with our youngest age groups, all the way through to our Under-23s, who are professional footballers. It is hugely different obviously but at all stages of the players' journeys, so this keeps it different and varied at all times.
“As it is a huge passion of mine is trying to make players better, I was really on board for this change to happen in the job title as it allows me to stay connected with our players and coaches in a more direct and hands-on way.”
As a final point, the coach wanted to highlight some key aspects of what Fleetwood has to offer to players, ranging from the experience within the staff to the quality of the grounds we play on.
“The staff we have now got in place here with us at the Academy is now in a better place than it has ever been in my opinion. We have over 3200 professional games and 100+ years of academy coaching experience within our ranks here at Fleetwood and that point cannot ever be lost in the profession we are in.
“We have a facility, structure, and environment in place that really will be one of the very best around and even though I am driving every day for it to be better and better, I just hope that those involved do not underestimate what they have at their disposal as we truly believe in what we are doing for the best of our players and staff.”