My involvement with Bartek has spanned 7 years – firstly, as a client, both player and coach, and now as a colleague. Striking a football, however, has played a big part in my life for as long as I can remember.
I dedicated a considerable amount of time and effort in my younger years to the pursuit of achieving technical excellence in this area of my game. Countless hours of practice at the local park with my Dad began to have the desired impact and I developed a reputation for being a good ball striker locally. I was always the free kick and corner taker for the local and then professional academy teams that I played for growing up, and this continued into the short senior career that I had. My long-range passing was always very consistent, and I had a good inside spin set piece delivery – using David Beckham, Gianfranco Zola and Steven Gerrard as technical inspirations.
In my late teens I became more aware of my skillset and limitations and I recognised that I had reached a ceiling with my shooting ability, both in free play and from set pieces. My laces shots often lacked power and rose over the bar with lots of backspin applied to the ball. I struggled to generate enough pace in my free kicks, and these often sailed over the bar too. My response was to continue practicing, but the same outcomes kept recurring. It became clear to me that sheer willpower was not enough – I had no means of detecting and correcting the technical errors I was making. Consequently, my ball striking capabilities plateaued between the ages of 17-21. I was still considered a ‘good’ ball striker in the teams that I played for, but I knew that I understood next to nothing about how I had got to this level of proficiency or how to progress any further. This lack of understanding and progress was incredibly frustrating for me and it was the catalyst for my introduction to Bartek and his methods via a mutual friend at Loughborough University.
Unfortunately, meeting Bartek came a little too late for me as a player, as my transition from playing to coaching career was already in full swing. I knew, however, that I had met a man of immense personal and professional substance. Whilst my days of applying Bartek’s principles as a player were ending, I was aware that I had been given a taster of something special and, if given the opportunity, I would want to continue my education in ball striking as a coach.
Having finished my studies at Loughborough University, I embarked on a career in football coaching and I have been privileged to work at two ‘Category 1’ English academies. I would consider myself a coach that is obsessed with self-improvement and, as such, pays great attention to the finer technical and tactical details of the game. In my time of coaching some of the best young footballers in England (ages 8-18 years), one consistent theme has emerged: there is an abundance of technically excellent young players coming through, but a dearth of players who are proficient ball strikers. There is a small number of notable exceptions but raising the level of shooting ability in our young players is an area of great opportunity. Most of the players that I coach need specialised support with their ball striking, yet there is a substantial gap in the knowledge base of the coaching community to support these players in any satisfactory way.
One highly talented individual that I have been working with was in a particularly great need for expert input and this prompted me to seek Bartek’s guidance once again – this time as coach rather than a player. As expected, the service provided was of the highest level and the impact it has had on the player’s striking ability has been truly remarkable. This experience opened my eyes to what can be achieved when you understand a skill in its entirety, do not compromise on quality and go above and beyond to help an individual player. It also helped both Bartek and myself recognise the potential for us to work together and not long after that we began our cooperation.
Through my experience in football I am aware that ball striking, especially open play shooting and direct free kick execution, is an almost entirely untapped area of the professional game and that there is a huge opportunity to drive it forward. I firmly believe that Bartek’s method can redefine what is considered best practice in this crucial aspect of the game and create a new benchmark for others to aspire to. The prospect of this is a great source of motivation for me and it is a genuine thrill to have the chance to apply Bartek’s teachings on a one-to-one basis with players who possess the drive to achieve technical excellence.
Aside from my work in football, I have completed a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sports Coaching, both from Loughborough University. I am also an ‘A Licence’ qualified coach.