“Self-identity to a player is really, really big!”
Ex-Grimsby Town striker Jack Lester
Former Grimsby Town striker Jack Lester returned to Blundell Park on Wednesday evening to take part in the Academy’s Continued Professional Development (CPD) programme.
Lester came through Town's YT system and scored 17 goals in 134 league games for the Mariners between 1994 and 2000, before spells at Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United, and Chesterfield.
After retiring in 2014, he joined the under-18s and under-23s coaching staff at the City Ground before having spells as assistant manager with the Reds, and had a stint as Chesterfield manager in the 2017-18.
The 43-year-old, who scored almost 200 goals over his 20-year career, is now the Wales under-21 coach.
And Lester spoke to the Grimsby Town Academy staff about his career as a young player and his transition into coaching, sharing some insightful experiences about his journey.
He explained about the difficulties he faced when he first started coaching, and emphasised the importance of speaking to experts.
He said: “In my first few sessions I didn’t know what to say to the lads and actually tell them what they should actually be doing – I just couldn’t get it out.
“So I got massively into the process of coaching, and did a lot of reading, and I learnt the importance of how people make decisions.
“And I watched some Dick Bate videos on YouTube and I had a lightbulb moment of realising I should prepare more for my coaching sessions.
“So having a plan for my sessions was one of the biggest things I learnt at the beginning of my coaching career.
“And I started speaking to experts about certain exact situations, and rung Rob Page for defensive advice, and Paul Groves for advice about how he broke from midfield.
“If you’ve got the chance to speak to someone who has expertise – ask them!”
Lester also said he heavily incorporated mental strength and put a focus on motivating individuals and boosting players’ self-confidence in his coaching career.
He said: “I put a big emphasis on the mental side of the game for players when I went into coaching.
“You can’t lie to a player, but you shouldn’t put ideas in their head that can spoil their chances of coming through – I think self-identity to a player is really, really big.
“So, having experienced it myself, when I went into coaching I did a lot of work helping players believe in themselves, and I do definitely think it helped me as a coach.”
And Lester praised legendary Town manager Alan Buckley, and current-youth team boss Neil Woods, for their help in his career.
He said: “Without Alan Buckley and Richard O’Kelly in my path, I don’t think I’d have made it. His standards were superb.
“Every training session was bang-on – you never had a break! The way he went about his work, and the standards he set were just brilliant.
“The information I had as a striker, from him, was magnificent, and without him I don’t think I’d have come through.
“Woodsie was coming back from a broken leg and he used to always come down and train with us – I was in the youth team at the time.
“He started giving me belief, and he was always encouraging me. When you’re a young player you look up to those experienced pros – Woodsie and Clive Mendonca were magnificent for me.”
The Academy staff also had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session at the end of the presentation.
Town Academy Manager Neil Woods said: “It was great to see Jack back at Blundell Park – he gave a fabulous insight into the influences throughout his playing and coaching career.”
Colin Walker, Head of Coaching, said: “This type of session provides an excellent opportunity for the coaching staff to access and share in the knowledge of someone who has worked at an elite level.”
Image credits: Ryan Petterson.
Updated 14:59 - 15 Feb 2019 by Adam Smith