Managers articles on WWFC, Youth Football, and football in general
|The FA Licensed Coaches' Club Conference 2012 (Levels 1+2)
As a paid-up member of the FA's new Licensed Coaches Club I was fortunate enough to attend the 2012 annual conference over the first weekend of December. Last year this was a 1-day event at Wembley Stadium but this year the event for Level-1 and Level-2 accredited coaches was held over 2-days at the fantastic new facilities at St. George's Park and under the banner "Shaping the Future".
First off a few words about SGP. Spread over ~330-acres there has been a lot of hype about the new £100m facilities that will be the base for 24 different England squads across different ages and across both male and female football. All I would say is that the facilities have to be seen to be believed as they are simply amazing and all of the 300-odd coaches that had assembled from all over the country were equally impressed. Much has been said about the FA's commitment to coaching the coaches and putting an emphasis on developing the technique of our young players and we have seen that with the changing philosophy through extended initiatives as rolling subs, unpublished leagues at younger age groups as well as the introduction of the pathway to 11v11 via 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 before finally getting the boys onto the larger pitches. The FA has recognised that having this all in place is of no use if the young kids playing are not being coached properly so huge investment has gone onto the coaching side and SGP is a centre which will be accessible to not only elite coaches but also the likes of us in grassroots football.
The conference itself was a great opportunity to mix with like-minded coaches from all the country that share a common passion and that is in training and developing children in football. There is a cross-mix of coaches with some coming from professional academies but the majority from clubs just like WWFC and there certainly is no elitism as I even found myself in a 1-on-1 chat round a table helping solve out a problem that a coach from a Premiership academy was having issues with.
The conference itself was a mix of presentations and attending practical sessions being held by various National Development or Professional Club Academy coaches. The event was started off by Sir Trevor Brooking and Les Howie, Head of Grassroots Coaching. The next presentation was an Olympic and Paralympic Report with the panel including Jessica Ennis' coach, Tony Minichello. This was a fascinating insight not only from the perspective of coaching the best in the world but also into views of coaches from different sports, something that the FA is increasingly encouraging coaches to open their eyes to.
The practical sessions I attended on the first day were on one of the 11 outdoor pitches and the one that is the replica of the Wembley pitch that England will train on before games. The first session was "Ball Retention and Possession for u12's-u16's" with the second session being "Game transfer from 7v7 to 9v9 to 11v11". The coaches were miked up and talked us through each 1hr 15min session while they also had colleagues on the sidelines talking to us about any questions we had. These sessions are fascinating and a great learning opportunity whilst seeing the enthusiasm of these coaches (who you'll see on many FA videos through your Level1, 2 or Youth Module courses) just makes you want to get your tracksuit and boots on and get out there and take another session.
Following a couple more presentations, then a tour of SGP and a quick change of clothes there was a 'gala' dinner in the evening where the after dinner speaker was ex-Bolton manager Owen Coyle with the chair, Mark Clemmet from the BBC, pulling no punches but again another really interesting and enjoyable part of the weekend made all the better over a few pints of Stella, which continued into the bar in the evening as we watched the re-run of England thrashing the All Blacks!
Owen Coyle spoke again the following morning before we went on to what was the highlight of the weekend for me. Dr Steve Peters, Consultant Psychiatrist to UK Athletics, British Cycling and Team Sky Pro Cycling gave a talk entitled "Managing the Mind to Optimise Performance". The audience were spellbound hearing Dr Peters talk about the Inner Chimp and in a quick summary how he has progressed from dealing with serial killers and psychopaths to elite sportsmen as Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Craig Bellamy and Ronnie O'Sullivan amongst others. It was a fascinating insight and just a shame that it was condensed into little over one hour as most people could probably have listened to him all day. For those that want to know more he has written a book called "The Chimp Paradox". It's now in my pile of good books to read so I'll be happy to let people know more once I've found the time away from planning training sessions etc. to get my head down and read it!
The next two sessions I decided to attend were thankfully indoors given how cold it was outdoors on the Saturday afternoon and these were held on the amazing full-size 4G pitch (picture attached). The first session was one around "Behaviour Management" and given how excited some of the boys I train can get I certainly picked up a few tips here for immediate use, with the most important around planning the social side of the session as much as the technical side - those who have done their FA Level 1 and studied the 4 Corners should understand what I mean here. My final session was "Developing Possession" which was also good but the boys doing the session (Derby u16 development centre players) were certainly a few steps ahead of my u11 Tigers!!
We ended back in the warmth of the main building where Brendan Batson, who many of you will remember playing in that great West Brom team under Ron Atkinson but who since has made a name for himself through the PFA and as a football consultant. He talked through the coach bursary programme in place for black and Asian coaches that are currently hugely under-represented in the coaching fraternity.
This was an extremely well-organised event from the few people involved in FA Learning that get involved with the FA Licensed Coaches Club. To-date you have been required to pay an annual subscription for membership and this year the fee has been scaled as to what service you require. Once you do join you get access to a members-only website that has a plethora of coaching material and drills/ computer-animated videos all based on the FA's latest bible - The Future Game. You an also get a coaching magazine/ booklet entitled 'Boot Room' that comes out 3-4 times a year and is full of coaching related articles from top coaches in the UK and around the world. The FA Licensed Coaches Club is open to all coaches that have at least attained Level-1 and kept their accreditation current. They are looking to make this free to join next year although I guess there will be a climbing scale for the additional resources. If you want to know more then click on http://facc.thefa.com/Users/Account/LogOn?ReturnUrl=%2fnews
As a final message. There are over 400,000 volunteers every week taking part in football of all ages across England and around 79% of all youth clubs have a licensed coach. Much has been said recently about the volunteers that made the Olympic and Paralympic games such a great spectacle but every week rain, shine, frost or with those bloody cold winds over Butterfield Road we'll get out and make sure kids of all ages have the opportunity to participate in the world's finest sport and in the main get some thoroughly good coaching in life as well as football. Most weeks we don't get any thanks for that but it was great to hear people like Sir Trevor Brooking and Owen Coyle say that we are the true unsung heroes of the game without which the professional game in this country would be nowhere like it is now. The game is supported by the grassroots at the base and we are those volunteers that can help shape the future... Kev Lennon
U11's Head Coach
There has been a fantastic twitter conversation over the last few days, using the hash-tag #FootballAsAKid
See how many of these you recognise !! (and work out how many of these should be reinstated into today's world asap!!)
@RoyCropperNOT: #FootballAsAKid Having a game with your mates and a randomer comes over 'alright mate can I play?' 'Dunno mate its not my ball'
@fransteele96: #FootballAsAKid being the only girl down the park with about 5,000 boys looool #playaa
@TheJCartwright: #FootballAsAKid Arguing about whether the ball went over the invisible bar or not..
@UKBanter: #FootballAsAKid - Your mate turning for numbers to go in goal, and putting all the numbers on him
@RoyCropperNOT: #FootballAsAKid Shouting "Play on" when you're the keeper if you can't be bothered to go and get the ball
@thomasjames95: #FootballAsAKid freezing cold Sundays, bomb sites for pitches, angry dads ridiculous score lines and the best memories I will ever hold.
Andy Coley Cole : #footballasakid using a plastic bottle in the playground when you didn't have a ball
Phil Bernard : #FootballAsAKid You're losing to some randoms in a park. Ball goes off. "Mate that's a corner"....."Nah mate we're not playing corners."
@FootyMemes: #FootballAsAKid When you're supposed to be home at a certain time but you're having so much fun you stay because it's worth the consequences
@Sads3110: #FootballAsAKid watching Gazza's free kick against Arsenal, then going straight out to the park for the afternoon trying to replicate it ...
@Arctic_Mack: #FootballAsAKid that one badass kid who would always go into peoples gardens to fetch the ball. #wesaluteyou
@BroxiBear9 #FootballAsAKid Commentating out loud when your palying by yourself lol
@FootyMemes: #FootballAsAKid (playing in the street) stop the game! there's a car coming!
@STRSkillSchool: #FootballAsAKid Best present in the world was a football. Still is!
@Supermac_27: #footballAsAKid Older boys walk over to you "Gis us a kick a the ball" *Lads get the ball & boot it half way across the world* #NiceOneMate
Jack Preston : #FootballAsAKid Scoring the winner in world cup at break, then running away abusing my mates and being chased by the entire school.......
@BigJohnTerry: #FootballAsAKid running round the street beating imaginary defenders and curling a sweet strike past a non existent goalkeeper
@BigJohnTerry: #FootballAsAKid bringing your fresh ball out and not playing on concrete with it
@MarioBaloltelli: #FootballAsAKid losing by about 10 goals... "Next goal wins!"
Erick Holguin : FootballAsAKid - Getting to school 30mins early for a game of footy before the school bell!
@johnterry1986: #FootballAsAKid "if that ball comes over here again I'm putting a knife through it" ( next door neighbour)
declan_mckay : #FootballAsAKid not needing a referee because a group of 10 year olds are more disciplined than a group of professional footballers
cbutcher_94 : #FootballAsAKid My ball my rules!
The_Boot_King : RT @Neary22: #FootballAsAKid 'Offside' every goal the opposite team scored!
@Houghy28: #FootballAsAKid 'pick numbers!!' 'whats your number?' 'ermm .. right do it again, ONEEEEEEE!'
@HOUGHTON_J: #FootballAsAKid. No pitch, don't stop until you reach the other side of the field
@JenniferKiko: #FootballAsAKid *shot goes over jumper* that was post and in !!
@MarkManning8: #FootballAsAKid #cupsy you're out!... "Im not playing anymore, give me my ball I'm going home".... Ok you're still in
@Gerrard8FanPage: #FootballAsAKid When you're about to pick numbers telling your mate the number you're going to be so you'll be on his team.
@StevenBurns_1: #FootballAsAKid "PENALTY" "here im taking it" "na man makers takers"
@WheatoFC: #FootballAsAKid playing until it was too dark to see, then 'next goal wins' cos no-one knew what the score was
ThomasStalker1: #FootballAsAKid playing out by yourself in the rain dreaming about being the next Gazza
This is a great article, which is highly relevent to all those involved in youth football.
Reproduced here from the 'Box Them In' blog (http://boxthemin.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/spain-success-built-on-foundations-not-formations/ ). Have a look there for other great articles!
Spain success built on Foundations…not Formations!
Its the players that make the formation, not the formation that makes the players.
I am sure that you have heard this statement many times before – but after watching Euro 2012 and to be currently experiencing one of the greatest footballing generations in the history of the sport…Spain for me are the ultimate example of this statement.
For many watching the European Championship it might of appeared it was business as usual – playing their brand of “tiki-taka” football – which has served them so well over the past 4-5 years. A brand that has once again left opposition players and coaches scratching their heads as to what the best solution may be to stop ‘La Furia Roja’ in their tracks.
In this article I aim to dig a little deeper into the history makers. The subtle changes and evolution they have made as a nation in their football since ‘El Niño’ Torres netted that famous winner against Germany in the European Final of 2008 to get the ball rolling…and my word it has not stopped rolling ever since!
Our way or the highway!
Xavi…the pass master
The first thing you notice about Spain is their unwavering devotion to retaining possession that at times resembles a training like game of ‘keep away’. However its easy to look from the outside and fall into the trap of many recent ridiculous media/pundit hype that it is boring and negative – Spain soon put that to bed with their emphatic demolition of Italy in Kiev! – So how do they make it look so easy? How can they maintain this almost hypnotic brand of football for 90 and even 120 minutes?
A key characteristic of the now world famous ‘tiki-taka’ brand that I feel is sometimes not given enough credit is the incredible amount of concentration, composure and focus it takes to maintain Spain’s very high standards when it comes to retaining possession and passing the ball. You can see the frustration and almost self-hate when the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets give away possession through a sloppy pass or poor touch.
Watching the Euro’s unfold I thought to myself…Why can’t other nations play this way? Why are what appears to be only a handful of other players at the international level (outside Spain) incapable of executing one of footballs most simple and basic techniques…pass the ball and keep possession?
The players I am talking about are the likes of those who are playing at the same level and competitions as the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and David Silva. Players who are playing at some of the world best league and biggest teams, and in some cases alongside these players in the same teams and leagues.
What Spain made absolutely clear at this European Championship is that they do not obsess with the shape and lineup of their team. While the rest of us where making noises, doubting and turning our noses up at how a team could/couldn’t play ‘without a recognized’ striker, Spain and its ‘tiki-taka’ troops knew they had something which they could fall back on, something that kept them moving in the right direction and something they knew others didn’t have…their footballing foundation.
Football without fear
This is the message that is drummed into every young player starting out in the game, the ball is your friend; play with it, respect it and appreciate it. Now it seems like a simple message and im sure a message you as a coach have shared with your young players – however its not just about saying it and doing it…its HOW you do it that is the key and the Spanish do it like no other.
Spain’s current world dominance both domestically and Internationally over the past 8 years is not luck, its been a long process of reinventing, up-skilling and educating players and coaches from top to bottom across the nation, in a unified philosophy of how they want to play the game. This process is now beginning to bare fruit.
The leader of this philosophy and the Spanish National Team Vicente Del Bosque sums it up perfectly before and after the big game vs Italy…
“Our success is not a coincidence and has its foundations in many things,” he said.
“In the structure of our football, in the academies, and in better coaches. The Spanish clubs are devoting themselves to training youngsters.
“Before we would travel abroad to look at the academies in France, Russia, Germany. Now many of these countries come to see what we are doing in Spain.”
After their historic victory Del Bosque went on to add…
“We’re talking about a great generation of footballers, They know how to play together because they come from a country where they learn to play properly. This is a great era for Spanish football.”
“To win three titles is almost impossible. Congratulations to the players. I didn’t really want to be the coach who wins but the coach who educates. I want to keep preparing them for the future.”
This message from the national coach is shared by the devoted coaches across Spain who preach this to their players. Its about the education, the future and not the winning.
As a player if you are allowed to grow in an environment where risk-taking and decision-making are encouraged and managed to the finest detail it is no surprise at all to see Iniesta ask for the ball even in the tightest of spaces when surrounded by opponents, or to see skipper Iker Casillas leading by example playing cooly out from the back under pressure.
The Spanish players do not have fear in their minds when they play…all they have is their philosophy and years of trust in their education that this is right way to play, the success along the way has only helped to reinforce this bond.
Another aspect of Spain’s historic victory at Euro 2012 that stood out for me is just how brilliantly adaptable they are. From the opening game fielding the then infamous “4-6-0″ formation (with Cesc Fabregas playing in the false 9 role), to the change of tempo/contrast of their play in the final between David Silva’s opening goal – 14 passes, 36 sec’s of possession – to Jordi Alba’s second – 4 passes, 13 sec’s of possession – was a joy to watch.
Spain’s modern day ‘total football’ inspired by Johan Cruyff’s famous dutch side, then brought to Spanish shores by the man himself has led me to believe something…does it matter what formation you play if you have players who can identify, adapt to and execute decisions in accordance to their surroundings?
I truly believe that regardless wether its 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 or even 4-6-0…the football foundation that Spain’s players have been built upon since they could kick a ball; awareness, timing, touch, vision allows them to fit into any system, and I feel they could of played any of the above systems and the outcome would’ve been exactly the same at Euro 2012.
The facts are there to see:
Since the start of 2011-12 season Sergio Ramos has taken to his role as a central defender like a duck to water and after Euro 2012 is now considered one of the worlds – lets not forget less then 18 months ago he was strictly a full back for both club and country.
Cesc Fabregas was the first to admit he was a surprised as anyone to see his name in the starting XI as a false 9 for Spain’s opening game – seeing he has never played their before this season for Barcelona on rare occasions – however he still scored in that game and created David Silva’s opening goal from the same ‘position’ in the final.
With Iniesta and Silva playing ‘from the flanks’, Xavi playing as an advanced play maker and Sergio Busquets ability to play both as a deep lying midfielder and center only strengthens my belief that with the right foundation, formations mean nothing.
Educating players to recognize the correct ‘cues’ in and out of possession; when to press, when to screen (out) vs how to receive, when to dribble, when to pass (in) breaks the mould of players needing position specific qualities. The way the modern game is evolving means that players need to be adaptable and evolve with the match with every passing minute.
As coaches we need to look beyond putting players in ‘boxes’ on the field and ask them to perform certain actions which that position requires. England’s performances at the Euro 2012 and South Africa 2012 are perfect examples – they can follow instructions, they can be well organized without the ball but when it comes to having the ball under pressure or finding themselves in situations outside of their specific role they really struggled - The players I speak of are the likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, John Terry who are not only key members of their club and country but who many agree are ‘World-Class’ in their position.
What Spain have shown us over the past 4 years far from boring…I believe its groundbreaking and further supports my view that football is not about formations – its about having players who can execute thoughts into actions in accordance to their surroundings.
A very interesting article from Sam Wilkinson on the 'Keep The Ball' Blog -
It always worries me when a 9 or 10 year old player tells me they are a full back – by no means am I demeaning full back as a position, but why would a young player that is being developed skilfully and has their whole career in front of them limit themselves to a specific position so early on?
I often watch English Premier League matches and find myself wondering………..Could a player like John Terry go and play comfortably and cleverly in midfield? Could a Micah Richards type player fill in as a right winger? Yet when watching Spain, Barcelona or the Brazil teams of a few years back I never questioned whether Dani Alves or Cafu could play higher up the field or whether Pique or Lucio could fit comfortably into midfield. Why is this?……..because first and foremost they were developed as great players not positions!
Are we concentrating too much on developing players to play certain positions or roles? At young ages are we too transfixed with the stereo typical criteria of positions – big tall centre back – pacey winger – workhorse midfielder? Players, and in particular young players should be developing the skill and understanding of the game style to go and play in any area of the field. By forcing players into specific positions too early they end up only developing very narrow skill sets and understanding, that is restricted to certain roles.
How often do players convert to new positions early in their senior career, Carlos Puyol – winger to centre back, Thierry Henry – winger to striker and Gerard Pique – central midfielder to centre back to name but a few. All of these players were able to make these conversions because their skill level and understanding was sufficient enough to cope with the demands of the game not just the demands of a position. It is very hard to tell at 12 years of age what positions a player will be playing at 25 years of age, so why try and make that decision so early?
Aside from the pitfalls of pigeon holing young players into positions too early there is also the limitations it can place on the game style at senior level. Skilful and Total football involving rotations and overloads requires players to cover and “fill in” a variety of different positions. How can your centre back get into midfield if your centre midfielder is not comfortable filling in for him? How can your centre forward drop and rotate back into midfield if your central midfielder cannot go and play up front for a spell? Why get your full back over lapping if they don`t have the skill and cleverness to be effective higher up the field? Great teams are made of great players that cope with the demands of the game in all areas of the field.
I believe our challenge as coaches is to equip players with the skill and awareness to be great all round players not specialists, to give players an understanding of the whole game style so they are able to play skilfully and cleverly regardless of where they find themselves on the pitch
In his excellent blog, the FA Head of Youth Development (Nick Levett) talks about the focus groups he has run nationality to find out more about why kids play football. I have copied a key passage below, but would recommend that you read the full article here - http://youthfootballdevelopment.blogspot.co.uk/
The interesting thing for me is to compare the motivating drivers for the kids, against the input they often receive from parents and coaches. I'm sure that as adults we can all recognise occasions when we've really wanted the team to win a match, or to beat a certain team, or to learn a certain drill which we perceive will make kids play more like adults. Does this motivate kids, or de-motivate them? How can we support/coach in a manner which complements the kids motivation, rather than seeks to change it? Do we consistently demonstrate that our love/support is not related to results?
I don't have any answers to these questions, and if we are truly honest I would expect that most coaches/parents would admit to occasions where we have been motivated by our own goals rather than our kids. It is very interesting just to read the kids views and question our own!
If you want your child to come out of his youth sports
experience a winner (feeling good about himself and having a healthy attitude
towards sports), then he needs your help! You are a vital and important part of
the coach-athlete-parent team. If you do your job correctly and play your
position well, then your child will learn the sport faster, perform better,
really have fun and have his self-esteem enhanced as a result. His sport
experience will serve as a positive model for him to follow as he approaches
other challenges and obstacles throughout life. If you "drop the ball" or run
the wrong way with it, your child will stop learning, experience performance
difficulties and blocks, and begin to really hate the sport. And that's the good
news! Further, your relationship with him will probably suffer significantly. As
a result, he will come out of this experience burdened with feelings of failure,
inadequacy and low self-esteem, feelings that will generalize to other areas in
his life. Your child and his coach need you on the team. They can't win without
you! The following are a list of useful facts, guidelines and strategies for you
to use to make you more skilled in the youth sport
game. Remember, no wins
unless everyone wins. We need you on the team!
The full text of this article has been taken from the 'Competitive Advantage' website. Click the link to read more!
When defined the right way, competition in youth sports is
both good and healthy and teaches children a variety of important life skills.
The word "compete" comes from the Latin words "com" and "petere" which mean
together and seeking respectively. The true definition of competition is a
seeking together where your opponent is your partner, not the enemy! The better
he performs, the more chance you have of having a peak performance. Sports is
about learning to deal with challenges and obstacles. Without a worthy opponent,
without any challenges sports is not so much fun. The more the challenge the
better the opportunity you have to go beyond your limits. World records are
consistently broken and set at the Olympics because the best athletes in the
world are "seeking together", challenging each other to enhanced performance.
Your child should never be taught to view his opponent as the "bad guy", the
enemy or someone to be hated and "destroyed". Do not model this attitude!
Instead, talk to/make friends with parents of your child's opponent. Root for
great performances, good plays, not just for the winner!
STEP TWO - ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO COMPETE AGAINST HIMSELF
The ultimate goal of the sport experience is to challenge
oneself and continually improve. Unfortunately, judging improvement by winning
and losing is both an unfair and inaccurate measure. Winning in sports is about
doing the best you can do, seperate from the outcome or the play of your
opponent. Children should be encouraged to compete against their own potential
(i.e., Peter and Patty Potential). That is, the boys should focus on beating
"Peter", competing against themselves, while the girls challenge "Patty". When
your child has this focus and plays to better himself instead of beating someone
else, he will be more relaxed, have more fun and therefore perform better.
STEP THREE- DO NOT DEFINE SUCCESS AND FAILURE IN TERMS OF WINNING AND
A corollary to TWO, one of the main purposes of the youth sports
experience is skill acquisition and mastery. When a child performs to his
potential and loses it is criminal to focus on the outcome and become critical.
If a child plays his very best and loses, you need to help him feel like a
winner! Similarly, when a child or team performs far below their potential but
wins, this is not cause to feel like a winner. Help your child make this
important separation between success and failure and winning and losing.
Remember, if you define success and failure in terms of winning and losing,
you're playing a losing game with your child!
STEP FOUR - BE SUPPORTIVE, DO NOT COACH!
Your role on the parent-coach-athlete team is as a Support
player with a capital S! You need to be your child's best fan. unconditionally!
Leave the coaching and instruction to the coach. Provide encouragement, support,
empathy, transportation, money, help with fund-raisers, etc., but... do not
coach! Most parents that get into trouble with their children do so because they
forget to remember the important position that they play. Coaching interferes
with your role as supporter and fan. The last thing your child needs and wants
to hear from you after a disappointing performance or loss is what they did
technically or strategically wrong. Keep your role as a parent on the team
separate from that as coach, and, if by necessity you actually get stuck in the
almost no-win position of having to coach your child, try to maintain this
separation of roles (i.e. on the deck, field or court say, "Now I'm talking to
you as a coach", at home say, "Now I'm talking to you as a parent"). Don't
parent when you coach and don't coach at home when you're supposed to be
STEP FIVE - HELP MAKE THE SPORT FUN FOR YOUR CHILD
It's a time proven principle of peak performance that the
more fun an athlete is having, the more they will learn and the better they will
perform. Fun must be present for peak performance to happen at every level of
sports from youth to world class competitor! When a child stops having fun and
begins to dread practice or competition, it's time for you as a parent to become
concerned! When the sport or game becomes too serious, athletes have a tendency
to burn out and become susceptible to repetitive performance problems. An easy
rule of thumb: If your child is not enjoying what they are doing, nor loving the
heck out of it, investigate! What is going on that's preventing them from having
fun? Is it the coaching? The pressure? Is it you?! Keep in mind that being in a
highly competitive program does not mean that there is no room for fun. The
child that continues to play long after the fun is going will soon become a drop
STEP SIX - WHOSE GOAL IS IT?
FIVE leads us to a very important question! Why is your child
participating in the sport? Are they doing it because they want to, for them, or
because of you. When they have problems in their sport do you talk about them as
"our" problems, "our jump isn't high enough", "we're having trouble with our
flip turn" , etc. Are they playing because they don't want to disappoint you,
because they know how important the sport is to you? Are they playing for
rewards and "bonuses" that you give out? Are their goals and aspirations yours
or theirs? How invested are you in their success and failure? If they are
competing to please you or for your vicarious glory they are in it for the wrong
reasons! Further, if they stay involved for you, ultimately everyone will lose.
It is quite normal and healthy to want your child to excel and be as successful
as possible. But, you cannot make this happen by pressuring them with your
expectations or by using guilt or bribery to keep them involved. If they have
their own reasons and own goals for participating, they will be far more
motivated to excel and therefore far more successful.
STEP SEVEN - YOUR CHILD IS NOT HIS PERFORMANCE-LOVE HIM UNCONDITIONALLY
Do not equate your child's self-worth and lovability with his
performance. The most tragic and damaging mistake I see parents continually make
is punishing a child for a bad performance by withdrawing emotionally from him.
A child loses a race, strikes out or misses and easy shot on goal and the parent
responds with disgust, anger and withdrawal of love and approval. CAUTION: Only
use this strategy if you want to damage your child emotionally and ruin your
relationship with him. In the 1988 Olympics, when Greg Louganis needed and got a
perfect 10 on his last dive to overtake the Chinese diver for the gold medal,
his last thought before he went was, "If I don't make it, my mother will still
STEP EIGHT - REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-ESTEEM IN ALL OF YOUR
INTERACTIONS WITH YOUR CHILD-ATHLETE
Athletes of all ages and levels perform in direct
relationship to how they feel about themselves. When your child is in an
athletic environment that boosts his self-esteem, he will learn faster, enjoy
himself more and perform better under competitive pressure. One thing we all
want as children and never stop wanting is to be loved and accepted, and to have
our parents feel good about what we do. This is how self-esteem gets
established. When your interactions with your child make him feel good about
himself, he will, in turn, learn to treat himself this very same way. This does
not mean that you have to incongruently compliment your child for a great effort
after they have just performed miserably. In this situation being empathic and
sensitive to his feelings is what's called for. Self esteem makes the world go
round. Make your child feel good about himself and you've given him a gift that
lasts a lifetime. Do not interact with your child in a way that assaults his
self-esteem by degrading, embarrassing or humiliating him. If you continually
put your child down or minimize his accomplishments not only will he learn to do
this to himself throughout his life, but he will also repeat your mistake with
STEP NINE - GIVE YOUR CHILD THE GIFT OF FAILURE
If you really want your child to be as happy and as
successful as possible in everything that he does, teach him how to fail! The
most successful people in and out of sports do two things differently than
everyone else. First,, they are more willing to take risks and therefore fail
more frequently. Second, they use their failures in a positive way as a source
of motivation and feedback to improve. Our society is generally negative and
teaches us that failure is bad, a cause for humiliation and embarrassment, and
something to be avoided at all costs. Fear of failure or humiliation causes one
to be tentative and non-active. In fact, most performance blocks and poor
performances are a direct result of the athlete being preoccupied with failing
or messing up. You can't learn to walk without falling enough times. Each time
that you fall your body gets valuable information on how to do it better. You
can't be successful or have peak performances if you are concerned with losing
or failing. Teach your child how to view setbacks, mistakes and risk-taking
positively and you'll have given him the key to a lifetime of success. Failure
is the perfect stepping stone to success.
STEP TEN - CHALLENGE, DON'T THREATEN
Many parents directly or indirectly use guilt and threats as
a way to "motivate" their child to perform better. Performance studies clearly
indicate that while threats may provide short term results, the long term costs
in terms of psychological health and performance are devastating. Using fear as
a motivator is probably one of the worst dynamics you could set up with your
child. Threats take the fun out of performance and directly lead to your child
performing terribly. implicit in a threat, (do this or else!) is your own
anxiety that you do not believe the child is capable. Communicating this lack of
belief, even indirectly is further devastating to the child's performance. A
challenge does not entail loss or negative consequences should the athlete fail.
Further, implicit in a challenge is the empowering belief, "I think that you can
STEP ELEVEN - STRESS PROCESS, NOT OUTCOME
When athletes choke under pressure and perform far below
their potential, a very common cause of this is a focus on the outcome of the
performance (i.e., win/lose, instead of the process). In any peak performance,
the athlete is totally oblivious to the outcome and instead is completely
absorbed in the here and now of the actual performance. An outcome focus will
almost always distract and tighten up the athlete insuring a bad performance.
Furthermore focusing on the outcome, which is completely out of the athlete's
control will raise his anxiety to a performance inhibiting level. So if you
truly want your child to win, help get his focus away from how important the
contest is and have them focus on the task at hand. Supportive parents
de-emphasize winning and instead stress learning the skills and playing the
STEP TWELVE - AVOID COMPARISONS AND RESPECT DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES
Supportive parents do not use other athletes that their child competes against
to compare and thus evaluate their child's progress. Comparisons are useless,
inaccurate and destructive. Each child matures differently and the process of
comparison ignores significant distorting effects of developmental differences.
For example, two 12 year old boys may only have their age in common! One may
physically have the build and perform like a 16 year old while the other, a late
developer, may have the physical size and attribute of a 9 year old. Performance
comparisons can prematurely turn off otherwise talented athletes on their sport.
The only value of comparisons is in teaching. If one child demonstrates proper
technique, that child can be used comparatively as a model only! For your child
to do his very best he needs to learn to stay within himself. Worrying about how
another athlete is doing interferes with him doing this.
STEP THIRTEEN - TEACH YOUR CHILD TO HAVE A PERSPECTIVE ON THE SPORTS
The sports media in this country would like you to believe that
sports and winning/losing is larger than life. The fact that it is just a game
frequently gets lost in translation. This lack of perspective frequently
trickles down to the youth sport level and young athletes often come away from
competition with a distorted view of themselves and how they performed. Parents
need to help their children develop realistic expectations about themselves,
their abilities and how they played, without robbing the child of his dreams.
Swimming a lifetime best time and coming in dead last is a cause for
celebration, not depression. Similarly, losing the conference championships does
not mean that the sun will not rise tomorrow.
Here at @wheatofc we are avid followers of Twitter. We promise we'll get better at tweeting too, but for now, here are some pearls of wisdom from our follows...
Stop chasing the approval of parents by chasing trophies and winning meaningless games, how about you actually
@nlevett Nick Levett
@CalumMcIntyre @legendarycoach Very true! Futsal indoors is the way forward!
@YouthFitnessGuy David Kittner
Regardless of what level of youth sports your child plays, they're still kids: physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.
@nlevett Nick Levett
Some coaches do more running up and down than the kids! And why stand on the pitch?! Get off the pitch coaches! Let the kids play.
@nlevett Nick Levett
These are the little things coaches can control, the moment that kid crosses the white line to play, you can't control them so don't try to!
"Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity." -Kay Redfield Jamison #quote
@nlevett Nick Levett
@shaunbarr Problem I see a lot is adults tend to pigeon hole kids in positions. We've no idea how they are going to
develop long term.
a) Messi has most unsuccessful dribbles in La Liga for 3rd year running. b) 21 goals in 19 games and won 3 ballon
d'or. Risk vs Reward!
@nlevett Nick Levett
youtube.com/watch?v=s0lOY6… Worth a look at the superb work being done by @MinistryOfFooty and the team. Shares the benefits of small-sided games.
Gareth Southgate - @GarethSouthgate
@nlevett depressing. Had to leave under 9s after 15mins which was as much as I could stomach of opposition coach
@nlevett Nick Levett
@StanCollymore @piersmorgan In Germany, 1% of season ticket sales fund grassroots and regional Academies for developing next generation.
Chris Hodgson™ @Soccer20_Hodga
Sometimes as a coach u have to ask what THEY want, and if it creates a happy place for them then sometimes that's all that matters
@jackwalton1 If there isn't more learning, enjoyment, movement & intensity in what yr doing as in 3v3 games, then do the 3v3s instead
@nlevett Nick Levett
No kid ever steps on the pitch & says, 'Today I'm going to lose.' Theyre naturally competitive. Concern yourself with performance, not score
Richard Utting @FootballMinds
RT @rufusbrevett3: Bad habits are like a comfortable bed; they are easy to get into, but hard to get out of.
Daniel Abrahams @DanAbrahams77
Winning follows mindset & style. When a footballer focuses on the process rather than the outcome he cannot lose
Richard Utting @FootballMinds
RT @danabrahams77: A winner is someone who puts winning to the back of his mind&focuses on developing the things that will make him a winner
@StanCollymore premiership chiefs should impose ban for diving cheats if caught.It would teach others not to as kids look up to these stars
Daniel Abrahams @DanAbrahams77
The enduring paradox of sport lies in the phenomenon that to win you must ignore winning as you play but play with the passion of a winner
Daniel Abrahams @DanAbrahams77
For a manager football is a team sport. For a coach football is an individual sport
Mark Carter @MinistryOfFooty
@GarethSouthgate @chrisproskills @nlevett League tables, parents on sidelines, coaches, are a hindrance to the natural learning process
Another interesting read from the FA National Development Manager for Youth and Mini-Soccer:
Standing on the side of the pitch produces what can only be said is a myriad of nonsense, jargon and random industry-related phrases. Half of these, well, maybe well over half don't actually help our young players learn and in fact reinforce messages that we probably don't want them to have. Furthermore, how do we know the way these messages are being received - is it helping them understand the game? Is it developing their decision-making skills? Is it doing anything for their self-esteem or feeling of worth?
I've collected a whole manner of information from the side of pitches and I think its time to try and translate some of these. From the 50 focus groups we have done with children across the country there is some fascinating insights into how us, the adults, make them feel with words. I would say most of what the children hear isn't deliberately meant by adults to have the effect it does, it's probably meant with good intentions but just a little misguided.
I'm sure you've heard a whole manner of different things from the side of the pitch over the years, whether as a parent or a coach, and will relate to some of these.
Quotes: "If in doubt kick it out", "Get rid of it", Get it forwards", "Whack it up the pitch"
Interpretation: I must have heard these phrases more than any others, which loosely means "don't take care of the ball, just don't concede a goal". Managers and coaches seem to be happier the further the ball is away from their goal, regardless of direction or purpose of playing forwards. It is about the adult ego here; the reflection on themselves and what the possibility of conceding a goal might mean.
It is also probably the one reason we have young players in this country that aren't comfortable in possession of the ball, because they know if they lost it and heaven forbid, make a mistake, then the world will end! Equally, children then do it because the panic sets in, the mum or dad on the sideline screeching this information at them would scare me into doing it too!
We need to allow children to make mistakes, to learn what to do when they have the ball and to learn to pick the most appropriate passes. Sometimes it might be into the forward, sometimes it might be across to another defender. It might be different to the one that you picked but so what?
Alternatives: "Take your time and choose the right pass, Darren", "Try and find a team mate, Nicola", "Try and play forwards when you think its the right pass, James".
The difference? Decision-making is owned by the child, they try and do what they think is the right thing yet with a modicum of coaching support and help.
Quotes: "We have two goals to get and your trying all these tricks", "Don't hold on to it", "Get it down, pass, get it down, pass, get it down, PAAASSSSSS!"
Interpretation: It basically means - stop having fun. You aren't here to come and emulate your heroes, you aren't here to try things that might just boost your self-esteem and ranking amongst friends if it works, you are here to be a 'robot' and do as the adult defines.
The adult here is showing a lack of trust and support for their players and is basically saying "you aren't good enough to try something new so get rid of it". However, from what I know about learning, unless you try something and practice it you will never be very good anyway?! I can imagine that some of the players we know and love watching at the top level - Messi, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, the young Giggs, and the Gazza's and Waddle's of their time - would they have been the same player they are/were if they had adults on the side barking at them to pass every time they got the ball? Probably not.
Flair players are exciting, they can change the game in a heartbeat and create opportunities from nothing. They can unlock defences with a moment of magic and a dribble, but they can't if they are going to feel vilified for even trying. Do they fail more than they succeed? I'm sure they do. But they do things that are incredible, breathtaking and make you sit up in your seat and make noises like you are watching fireworks.
Alternatives: "Great attempt, try again Jack", "Try and vary your style, Ishmael, to keep the defender guessing - are you going to pass or dribble?", "Where do you think your dribbling will be most effective to help the team, Roger?"
Of course, use training to help them refine these skills but the whole purpose of practising these is to do them in a game. It sends a better message of when and where is appropriate and the coach has a role to help develop understanding of this.
Quotes: "Don't just stand there, move about", "Come on, move", "Get in the hole", "Look up"
Interpretation: This was one of the funniest moments I have seen in a Mini-Soccer match, the first quote there. I was watching a game of U9's playing and the ball was down one end a fair bit with a few corners on the trot. Near the half way line was an striker from the team defending and a player from the other team. The manager clearly decided his forward wasn't doing enough to influence play so demanded he moved about. So he did.
Despite the ball being at the other end, 35 yards away, the striker did what he was told. So he started running in a massive figure of eight in the opposition half, nowhere near the ball! The defender, not sure what to do at this time having never seen such creative off-the-ball play, was told to "stay with him" by the coach. We then had a scene from Benny Hill, with these two kids chasing each other across the pitch from side-to-side! All because the coach hadn't thought about how his words were going to be interpreted by the child.
I remember the "get in the hole" at a tournament which followed with the U10 kid coming over to the sideline and saying to the coach that there wasn't any holes in the pitch and I recall three U8's 'looking straight up' into the sky when a parent shouted this on, like there was a passing helicopter or something.
Be careful with the language you use; don't use football jargon for the little ones, it won't make much sense and some will take you literally. Try and use language that they will understand and questions to promote thinking, rather than telling.
Alternatives: "Becci, try and find some free space when you don't have the ball", "Try and see where your teammates are, Zoe, before you pass the ball", "Well done for getting into a position to help your team, Tyrell"
This is about encouraging players to think about the game without getting confused with the words you say. Try and keep it simple and introduce more game-related language when you see is the right time with the age and stage of your players.
Finally, some quotes directly from children about how adults can make them feel when they shout negative comments on to the pitch if they make a mistake:
"Parents embarrass me when the shout and they just confuse me"
"I don't like it when we try something new and it doesn't go right first time and the adults shout at me"
"When adults shout at me, it's like it all goes quiet and it's a big spotlight on me"
"When people shout negative stuff it makes me just want to leave the pitch and go home"
However, when we say good things, this is what the kids say:
"I feel proud, confident and honoured to play for the team when people shout good things"
"It makes me feel really good about myself and I try even harder"
"It boosts my self-confidence and energy"
The only thing that us as adults can control in the coaching and match environment is what comes out of our mouthes. We can't control how the message is received, the actions of what happens after or how the child feels after hearing something. Please, think about the words you choose carefully and try and be positive as much as you can. That's what the kids want.
Great article from Nick Levett -
I think it's time to clarify, clear up, eradicate and move on from some of the nonsense I keep reading about some of The FA's plans for youth football.
Let's get this very clear from the outset: The FA is not making youth football non-competitive. The game is a competition; the battle between two teams to see who wins over the period of time the game goes on for, whether you are 7 or 57, the game is still about seeing if my team can beat your team. End of story. Hope that's now clear.
Non-competitive implies everything is a friendly, like the game doesn't matter. That's simply not the case. All games matter to the kids, for some adults it matters too much and therein lies a lot of the problems.
What the plans are looking at are about making flexible competition, where children can still experience the importance of winning and losing, still feel the highs, the lows, the exhilaration and depression that all get associated with the game we know and love. However, this is about making sure that they experience a children's approach to competition, not an adult's approach.
We have taken the adult model, league tables, three points and goal difference, and imposed this on young people. What we have found from listening to young people is that it has increased pressure and is a reason they leave the game. I can't find any academic research that says pushing children down an over-competitive route is good for enjoyment or development. None. All I can find is the opposite, such as the writings of Lynn Kidman.
I have heard from managers about children being sick before the game because they are so nervous about losing a game in a relegation battle and children not turning up or wanting to go on because they were so scared at doing something silly and making a mistake and they didn't want the repercussions. The repercussions from adults after a kid makes a mistake?! I heard one manager about Christmas time last year say to his U11 team that today was a "must-win game"! Nothing is must-win when you are 11. Please, give it a rest!
However, children have also told us they like seeing their progress and they like to see themselves get better, something they like from leagues. We simply have to find the balance between the two that enables development and enjoyment from a young person's perspective.
So, the plans are this; Give leagues the flexibility to organise football for the children in the primary school age group which involves periods of development matches, time to learn the game, interspersed with periods of competitions, where they might play for a trophy or two.
And this flexibility is open to the league. For example, one of the issues we have found from looking at youth football around the country is in most leagues there are only two maybe three teams that might win the league and they invariably know this before the season even starts! The teams that aren't great know they are never going to win anything either, therefore might monitor development and progress in a different way - losing by less goals, sneaking a draw here and there, social and player outcomes etc.
What we are saying to the leagues is this - can you find a better way that encourages and promotes more opportunity for more teams to be competitive? So, in a division of 12 teams, have 6-8 weeks playing development matches, putting into practice what you have been learning and then some form of competition, but be clever and smart with this. Organise a little competition for the top six teams to play for a trophy and the same for the bottom six, where the teams in the bottom six now have a realistic chance of winning something, of feeling good for this, or feeling down because you lost in the final. Something the kids might otherwise never have felt.
And use the scores from the blocks of development matches to get teams in the right groups. No team wants to have games that are too easy or be beaten by loads every week so there is a crucial role still in the administrators making sure teams get pitted evenly against others.
One guy from a league said he had 32 teams at the U10 age group, could he organise a World Cup format with 8 groups of four, little round robins and then go through to a knockout and a final? Absolutely! Do things that are going to capture the attention of the kids. Just don't stick them in one league for 8 months a year!
When this has been discussed and understood by people on my travels they have started to get it, to understand why. Not listening to hearsay, fourth-hand information or making up their own spin on something because it suits them. I met the KNVB (Dutch FA) Technical Director, a UEFA Grassroots Panel member, a month ago and discussed these with him - he was hugely impressed with this modern approach and asked if I would meet with his team to discuss further what we are planning. England leading something in football and the Dutch liking the ideas of!? There's a first!
This isn't saying what we have doing has been wrong for years, we are saying this might be a great way of engaging more kids in the game we love, for longer, in a more modern way. We have to move away from the win-at-all-costs culture in this country, we quite simply have to. It is ruining the game for everyone, stifling development and hindering enjoyment. Winning is important, but somewhere down the list behind a number of other more important factors.
Striving to win? Absolutely important.The score? Not as important.
The game is evolving rapidly; new types of player and no longer just giant athletes, new types of football and no longer just 4-4-2, new formats of the game and no longer just 11v11.
"The difficulty lies not in new ideas but in escaping the old ones" (John Maynard Keynes). And he was a smart man.
About 75% of children who play football stop playing the game before they get to the age of 13. A recent study found the top five reasons for this high drop out rate were:
At Wheathampstead Wanderers we are committed to all children playing at least half a game, emphasising enjoyment rather than a win at all costs attitude and creating a positive environment for everyone.
1. Lack of playing time;
2. Overemphasis on winning;
3. Other activities are more interesting;
4. Lack of fun; and
5. Coaching/adult behaviour.