From Dortmund to the Fens, one of Cambridgeshire’s youngest coaches speaks on his pursuit to perfection
- Credit: Archant
He knows he will not be ‘the perfect coach’, but striving towards that title is one of the ultimate aims for one of Cambridgeshire’s youngest football coaches.
“I’ll never be perfect; I don’t believe in achieving perfection but I believe in pursuing it. That’s what I’m trying to do,” he said.
Alfie Tate is just 20-years-old, and has already gained experience coaching at both youth and senior level across the county and further afield.
As well as a short spell playing junior football, coaching has always been Alfie’s chosen pathway since the time he used to study the managerial aspect of the game from his school days.
“We used to do a certain amount of time reading each morning while in our form rooms,” he said.
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“The first books I read was The Manager, based around elite managers in the game and their leadership styles, and The Numbers Game which was around data used in football.
“I think the fact I got into football late as a player meant my limited chances of making it to a decent level forced me down the coaching route.”
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Alfie, from Ely, made his break into coaching at Mildenhall Town in 2017 under the tutelage of Cambridge United coach Jimmy Unwin, Dean and Sean Greygoose during a three-year spell.
It’s not just at home where Alfie has benefitted, but also abroad on study trips to the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Ajax’s academies.
“Some of the key things I learnt from my trips was how demanding players and coaches are of themselves and each other. The expectations they have in sessions and games is phenomenal,” he admitted.
“We’re a lot more secretive of our work, but you can also see why countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Spain create such elite coaches.”
As well as becoming an academy coach and scout at Peterborough United, Alfie’s time in youth football has been extensive, leading teams from three-years-old up to under 18s.
But there have been challenges along the way.
“The minority of parents sometimes think they know better than the coach, despite having never coached before or been on a coaching course,” Alfie said.
“Some parents think their children will make it professionally when the realisation is there’s less than one per cent chance of making it.”
Alfie’s open-mindedness may have allowed him to build his skills on the touchline with junior players, where stepping up too early may have been a regret.
The former March Town youth coach is not just about one team, but giving players from other teams a chance to prosper.
“I’m a big believer in giving young people a platform to express their work and I can still offer that while in senior football,” he said.
“I like a one club mentality. I’m not a coach or manager of a first-team where I’d ever solely just focus on the first-team.”
It’s this mentality that Alfie, who works with Norwich City’s regional development programme, has taken on board into the senior game, becoming an assistant coach at Huntingdon Town in the United Counties League in October last year.
Adapting to the men’s game has been a rough wave, but one he thinks he’s ridden well in a bid to move outside his comfort zone.
“Particularly at first-team level, there’s more where you just have to tell them what needs to be done whereas at youth level, you let the child lead their own development. Now, I look to get a bit of a balance,” he said.
Alfie is now first-team coach at Pinchbeck United who play at step five, but struggled for form last season.
Still learning the ropes, Alfie, who is working towards his UEFA B licence, is confident he has made the right decision to continue making a reputation in non-league.
“I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced as a coach in senior football is possibly building those relationships quickly with players,” he said.
“There are reasons they struggled last year and it’s something we are confident we will avoid this season.”
Success is the aim for Alfie, even if it’s not a quick fix, and for a coach who hates losing, it’s key that the bar is always set high in his quest to achieve success.
“There are still areas I look at in my coaching and realise I need to tweak it slightly to suit the senior game, but I think that’s normal,” he said.
“Being successful in local non-league football is my short-term goal, achieving promotions and getting cups under my belt.
“I’ll continue to learn and develop as a coach and on the management side of things, I’ll continue speaking with like-minded coaches and managers and keep studying the game.”
ALFIE TATE COACHING FACTFILE
Pinchbeck United - First-team coach, July 2020 - Present
Huntingdon Town - Assistant coach, October 2019 - January 2020
Mildenhall Town - Coach, 2017-20
March Town - Under 18s coach, 2018-19
Peterborough United - Academy coach and scout, 2018-19