Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why are our balls so big?

I popped into a City Centre sportshop the other day on the lookout for a football. Just a normal ball for a seven year old lad. You think I could find one?

It wasn't that they didn't have balls, they had loads. they had one that cost £75. (Because it had Euro 2008 stamped on it. Don't UEFA know how to look after their football family?). But they didn't have any footballs for children.

I then nipped into Tesco (full of self-hatred of course). They keep their footballs in with the the children's toys. But every one of them was a full sized, size 5 football. What's the problem you might ask? A football's a football isn't it?

Well no it isn't. Under 8 players should be using a size 3 football. This is for a couple of good reasons. The first is a health and safety issue. Young players just don't have muscles developed well enough to be able to cope with prolonged use of a full sized ball. My own son regularly gets size 5 balls as gifts from well meaning parents and relatives. And it seems churlish not to let him play with it. At least it did until he had that sleepless night in pain after 4 hours of shooting practice with his mate.

The other reason is that a smaller ball is simply better for their technical development. It's a little harder to control, and the sweet spot is a little smaller. But the action they use to kick a size 3 ball replicates the action an adult will use with a full size ball. If you ask a little player to kick on over-sized ball, all their effort goes into just making it move.

THe Brazilians develop their skills through a game called futebol de salao. Generations of Brazilian footballers grew up playing a game with a size 2 ball. And they're not bad are they?

But the message doesn't seem to have reached all of our own coaches. there is still some sort of ridiculous macho kudos attached to playing with a bigger ball. I played an Under 8's game recently against a team run by a well qualified Academy coach. I was surprised to see his team use a Size 4 ball. When I brought this up he scoffed; "Oh, we breed big lads in Abercwmscwff." I saw an Under 9's game last weekend when the home team insisted on a size 5 ball. The 7 year old goalkeeper could hardly clear his box, but the home team's giant centre forward scored five goals.

I feel strongly enough about this that I think there should be some sort of control over ball sales. Why on earth are Tesco allowed to sell only size 5 balls? I'm sure the vast majority of their football sales are intended for use by children. Why is there no information given to parents at point of sales?

Here's the important information.

Size 3
Size 3 balls are the smallest balls and are generally used for children under the age of 8
These balls are generally 23-24 inches in circumference and weigh between 11-12 ounces

Size 4
Size 4 balls are used for players between the ages of 8-12
Size 4 balls weigh between 12-13 ounces and have a circumference of 25-26 inches

Size 5
This is the international standard match ball for all ages 13 and older, including all adult play
The size 5 ball weighs between 14-16 ounces with a circumference of 27-28 inches

1 comment:

Chris said...

Totally agree mate !

Just been trying to source a size three ball for my son who is just 2 !

They dont even sell em in Argos !

No wonder the home nations werent in Austria and Switzerland !