Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Freedom to Play

We held a Junior football tournament in my village last weekend for teams of Under 9's and Under 7's. 22 teams from across Gwynedd and Anglesey played short games of 10 minutes on 2 small pitches. It was great to see so many boys and girls playing football, but other aspects of the tournement were less edifying.

My over-riding memory of the whole thing is the frenzied barking of some team coaches during the games. It was pretty unbelieveable on occasions. Tracksuited men marched onto the pitch shouting "Be alert!", "Awareness!!" and "Concentrate Hogia!" Small children as young a 6 years old stared wide eyed as the Neil Warnock wannabes screamed at them to pick up their man.

It wasn't unexpected of course - we had erected barriers away from the pitch to provide a protective channel from the parents. But the coaches were unstoppable. I saw one team put 4 coaches on the touchlines - one in each corner so that they could coach their team more easily.
This was great - it meant that their team were now receiving four sets of instructions from their role models. "Drop deep! Move up! Hit it Long! Boys! You went to sleep there!"

What are we doing here? Is this any help to the players? I don't believe that it is. The whole sorry performance drove me to behave in the exact opposite manner. I just let my team deal with things. I pulled back my goal hanging midfielder when he was deep in conversation with the opposition goalkeeper for 5 minutes, but apart from that I decided to let them have their heads.

And guess what? They did fine. They would certainly have been no better with me dictating things. And I'd like to think that they enjoyed their day. You only have to look at their faces when they are standing next to a red-faced opposition coach who is screaming at his players to know that it is pretty intimidating and obviously unpleasant for them.

The FAW's Football Leaders Award (Level 1 Coaching Award) deals with this kind of issue in great depth. 80% of that course concentrates on adult behaviour around the junior game. Every coach at that tournament would have passed the award, but its lessons have obviously not sunk in.

Once that final whistle goes, these men turn back into the decent, caring blokes who volunteer so much of their time to help young people. But for those 10 minutes it's like the most important match in the world to some of them, and they kick every ball. For once, I'm happy to trot out the old platitude that "it's only a game".

1 comment:

Gary said...

Yn union! Cytuno cant y cant!

(Hyfforddwr dan-9 Y Fali)