Rocket Science?

Kids football. It can’t run without volunteers, some willing, some with their wife’s boot up their backside to get them to do it as no-one else would. Coaches, welfare officers, secretaries, tea makers, refs, league officials, sponsors – they are all vital in running the teams, making sure kids are able to play football. It can’t be done without them and they are vital.

We need to step back sometimes and remember that they are volunteers, this is not do or die with 50k fans watching, it’s not the Premier League or World Cup. No-one’s career, mortgage or livelihood is at stake here. It’s grassroots football to the very core.

They should be congratulated and thanked for their commitment.

That said, when you see people making mistakes which impact on kids’ development, should it make you angry or concerned? Unfortunately, it does to me.

Today I witnessed 7 year olds being pigeon holed in positions, their coach quoting statistics and goals per game and receiving an ‘Alex Ferguson Hairdryer Award’ with everyone laughing. He’s getting an award from parents for him shouting at THEIR 7 year olds in a football match.

I don’t get it.

Other age groups’ (up to U10) coaches had a similar story with focus on achievement, games won, top scorers and for me the worst thing – dedicated goalkeepers. Those kids are now classed as keepers for the rest of their footballing career, if they are not careful, all clapped on by their parents.

In my Rory’s age group, the coach never mentioned development once and didn’t seem to grasp the concept, even though mentioning there is a wide gap between the top players and weakest players. This is not helped when you stick to one position for players or play strong team in first game, weaker in the second. What good does that do, in terms of development?

I am no expert. Not even close. I have a number of years playing the game and then a few years coaching young age groups, holding a few FA badges. There are no badges, but this is what they are called when you are trained to a certain level.

I continue to be a student of the game at 48, looking at coaching styles, structures and successful clubs with a development focus. I really admire clubs like Ajax, Southampton, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Spurs for their youth focus and how they are not only successful on the pitch but also financially stable, a big part being from sales of players developed in their academies.

The biggest part of coaching is not technical or physical, although they have to play a big part – it’s psychological and social. You live in a player’s head, what motivates them to play football, what they are good at and how you can get them to address their development areas. Simply playing a junior player in one position constantly, hitting a few passes and shots at training is not enough. They have to have the right attitude towards development and this is the environment that the coach has to create to build rounded players for the future.

This means a club has to have a philosophy, a coaching strategy that spans the age groups and all coaches adopt. Part of this must be Continuing Professional Development (CPD) starting with coaching qualifications from the FA, mentoring of all coaches by senior qualified coach/es and self research for developing practice sessions.

I listened to a few well meaning coaches who talked about achievements and stats, dedicated positions, top scorers and strongest players, very little about development of all players, coaching philosophy, etc. Only one came close.

What to do about it? Absolutely nothing unless asked and I doubt that will happen. When people don’t know there is a problem and it’s pointed out to them, the blame game and defensive behaviour starts, and I don’t need that crap. We just need to manage as best we can for Rory’s sake and get the best out of it for him, so more work needed from us at home.

I left a rugby club once as they just didn’t get the concept of coaching philosophy and standards and rolled their eyes when the RFU stepped in to mandate on minimum standards. Not the place I wanted to be and not going there again.

And I can honestly say that if I received a Hairdryer Award as a minis coach, I would pack in coaching or seek urgent help to change. I wouldn’t laugh and I would apologise publicly for my behaviour. It is not the correct environment to set up for juniors and will go as far to say youth too. It’s not about winning or recrimination when a kid is not learning, it’s a word in the ear, tailoring the session, help them work on their development area. It’s about creating the right environment for learning.

Not rocket science but for some, they have not been shown the right way and the club structure does not address the key points of coaching.

But winning is most important, right?


One thought on “Rocket Science?

  1. I remember very well taking Ross out of 2 teams when he was much younger, the 1st because I overheard 2 parents calling Kyle “a weirdo” (yes Asperger’s kids are just that eh?) and the second was because of a young “coach” who spoke to me in a manner I found to be offensive and dismissive. The game kicked off at 8am, Ross was playing in goal and hadn’t long since taken his medication, which hadn’t had time to take effect… resulting in him not being able to be attentive or to focus on the game or his team. I recognised his behaviours and the team were beginning to turn on him as he let in goal after goal, so I suggested to the older of the coaches that he take Ross off. He asked give him another few minutes, but things just got worse and I finally made the decision for them and told the younger coach to sub Ross immediately, as much for the team as for Ross himself. I was told in no uncertain terms that HE was the coach, it was HIS team and HE alone would make decisions, it was NOT a parents place to tell HIM what to do. Now Rich you know me & football… I do kinda know what I’m talking about!!! His team were not playing as such, as their ‘keeper was being systematically alienated, heckled and bullied by his teammates. He was not doing what was best for the team, or for the players and clearly had an ego large enough to think he could speak down to me and in front of other parents & kids… that of course was not the best move he ever made!!! I took Ross to training the following week and returned his strip to the older coach, who was absolutely devastated to be losing him and utterly horrified to learn why. Younger guy came over at older one’s request and I let loose with all barrels blazing… carefully assuring him that since I’d been following football long before he was even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye, I was only too well qualified to voice my opinion and as a parent, 100% more qualified than him (not married, no kids) to know what is best for my son. 6’4″ tall against my wee self and I reduced him to a stuttering, quivering wreck, whilst reminding him that I also had the maturity and decency NOT to do so in front of any of the other parents/kids. I understand we wasn’t coaching that team for much longer… whether that was through choice or not I have no idea, but I do know that if he never coached a team again, he wouldn’t be a great loss to football. Sorry, bit of a saga for a reply but hey ho!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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