The English Disease


I spent part of yesterday afternoon watching an Under 11 tournament being run by my local youth club (who I used to play for) as I wanted to see what the standard was like for children in that age group.

You can probably picture the scene, a village recreation ground, an 11-a-side pitch, coaches & family surrounding the pitch, a BBQ on the go and more gazebos than you could shake a stick at.

Having watched for about 30 minutes I’d found it fairly easy to pinpoint one of the fundamental problems was with the development of our youth players – each player has at least three managers, and each manager is shouting a different instruction (usually at the same time!). Clearly, the managers are; 1. the actual manager, 2. the parent and 3. some other random person who takes an interest in the individual.

This just cannot be helpful or conducive to the successful development of young players. From discussing this today, it sounds like many good clubs & coaches are trying to help parents understand and get them bought in to the fact that they can be as unhelpful as they think they’re being helpful and there is evidence that this is a successful approach. However, it would be a fair assumption, I think, that this approach is in the minority.

The other problem I identified was a lack of comfort on the ball, both by the player and from the sidelines. Defenders in control of the ball were largely being told “boot it”, “get rid” or “get it up the pitch” by both team mates and people on the sideline. It is this rush, this pressure, that doesn’t help young players develop in to footballers who’re comfortable on the ball and who are happy to keep possession at the back. We seem to have a concern in England, something in our football DNA, which suggests that the last 1/3 of our pitch (that nearest our goal) is a danger zone even when our own team are in possession and a panic sets in which usually ends up in the ball being launched forward. This has to change.

I would have liked to have seen coaches, parents & players alike tell the young defenders to keep the ball, even if they lost it but let’s get them in to the right habits. Development first, winning second.

I heard some other shouts and instructions from the sideline which were as unhelpful as the next and I empathise with the good coaches out there, coaches who’re trying to develop players in the right way but once they move from the training ground to the football pitch their players are entering an arena which is productive and isn’t beneficial to their development.

Can you relate to this? Am I wrong? Tell me what you think in the comments section, I’d love to understand just how big a problem this is.

P.S If you found this interesting you might find this post interest too: http://www.adorefootball.com/social-aspects/does-the-result-matter-more-than-the-performance/

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About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

4 Responses to The English Disease

  1. Spurros says:

    Simon, Hi – we’ve spoke briefly on the footie4kids.com forums – I’m the author of the “Getting into Youth Coaching” thread and am in almost exactly the same position as you, both age-wise and belief in football development-wise, with the desire to become a youth coach. It’s as if you’ve somehow stolen many of the thoughts directly out of my brain and written them into this blog!

    I’ll be reading with interest as this blog develops. Keep up the good work. Your point about the necessity of young players becoming comfortable on the ball in an unpressured environment is something I could have almost written word for word myself!

  2. Simon says:

    Glad you’re enjoying the blog and I’m glad it’s proving useful. We certainly seem to be in almost identical positions and share similar views so it’d be interesting to track our progress and experiences over the next 12 months.

    If you think there are any key questions I should include in my Q&A piece then drop me a line and I’ll either do some research in to the answer or can add the answer if you’ve already done it. I’m not precious – I just want this blog to be a useful resource 🙂

    Cheers,
    Simon

  3. Spurros says:

    Something that springs to mind would be a look at a structured process of becoming a youth coach as a career, rather than a volunteer – simply put, what are your options, where can you end up working, what do you need to do to get there? I’ve no interest in directly managing senior teams myself for example – I would love to work in technical development or strategy within the FA or other governing body, or full time youth coaching at a club or centre of excellence – something to move in to or do alongside coaching, looking 5 or 10 years down the line.

    The FA seems keen on increasing the number of qualified youth coaches in the country, with a recruitment drive and the new learning modules, but coming from a business background, I want to know how they are planning to effectively use all these new people they are looking to train. Basically, once you’ve got the staff trained, you have to give them a career path to follow (or at least, some structured guidelines to set them on their way), and a support network in place to help them as they progress – in the same way someone who wants to become say a lawyer or a doctor for example, has a very rigorous and thorough learning structure in place.

    Perhaps this is something I will learn more about on the courses – at the moment, from the people I’ve spoken to (current coaches, club staff and FA Tesco Skills coaches) it seems very much that you have to go out there and make your own destiny, as it were. No bad thing for a determined person, but a lot of people are going to slip through the cracks or be put off by not being aware of exactly what they need to do to succeed.

    • Spurros, I think it’s fair to say that there really isn’t a ‘pathway’ to becoming a coach in England – it’s more of a crazy paving approach – steps exist here and there but you have to search your own way and, as you say above, define your won destiny.
      I have been coaching for 20 years, mainly as a volunteer with some occasional (VERY occasional) paid work. I work in business and to be honest, it pays better (not being an ex-pro player). But now I am setting out to create my own destiny and will be changing my working arrangements where I will use my qualifications and experience and knowledge about football to give me a lifestyle choice with which I will be much happier… I hope !

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