COACH BLOG: Lee Callender talks us through some challenges of pre-season with Southampton WFC Reserves

Hi, I’m Lee Callender and I’m going to share my coaching journey through the season…

So my first pre-season as a manager of Southampton Women’s FC Reserve Team draws to a close with a resounding 12-0 win, for me as nice as the score is I’m not concerned about that, that’s never an importance during pre-season. For me it’s seeing that the way that we play, the partnerships that are being formed in key areas and our style of play is all beginning to come together.

For Southampton Women’s FC this pre-season has seen a significant number of new players brought into the club in order for us to push on. As a club we felt that the gap in competition for players between the first and reserve team last year was too great. So myself and Dave Jenman have been given the task of producing players that will not only compete with the current first team squad, but in the years going forward, ultimately become our first team squad.

If I compare the players that were within the Reserve squad last season, to the squad that we’re about to start with this season, only six out of the 18 remain.

This has meant that both Dave and I have been given a massive rebuilding job for the upcoming season. We’ve been lucky enough to have an influx of players from last year’s U16 squad and we’ve supplemented that with a handful of new signings to give us a squad that we believe is capable of not only pushing first team payers but also competing in a strong FAWNL Reserve League.

Adding 12 new players to a squad comes with it’s own challenges, especially with those new to the club itself. It takes that little bit longer for the team to bond and create partnerships across the pitch, it takes time for players to buy into the club philosophy and also get used to our coaching style, which may be different from what they’re used to.

One of the challenges we’ve faced so far is getting a young midfield player to express her creative side. We spoke to her about having the freedom to take players on, beat a player and instil the confidence in her to shoot when she gets the opportunity. We found out one Sunday that where she’d been coached before, this had effectively been ‘coached out’ of her. This is the part of the job that you can’t learn on a coaching course.

One other aspect of being a Manager/Head Coach they can’t prepare you for on a coaching course is selecting your initial squad for the season. Now, I use the term ‘initial’ because, as a club, we believe that there should be a pathway from our newly-formed development team through to our first team. Over the a couple of days we finalised our squads and no doubt there were players that were disappointed with our decision, but unfortunately due to restrictions in 3/4G training facilities we had to make a decision to ‘split’ players into squads.

One thing we’ve tried to get across to the players themselves is that this does not mean they will be restricted to that squad for the season. There will always be opportunities to step up, there are so many good players on the periphery of our squad that we just physically couldn’t take all of them into our squad.

Both myself and Dave will monitor these players, we just need them to prove in training and performances alongside a great attitude that they’re ready to make the step to the next level.

We started our season against FA Women’s Championship club Lewes last weekend (being level at 1-1 at HT, eventually losing 3-1) and are ready for all of the challenges and learning opportunities that the rest of the season will bring.

From what we saw in pre-season both Dave and I are genuinely excited about the calibre of player we have at our disposal and as this team bonds and grows they will inevitably only get better.

Bring on the rest of the season!