Creating and Maintaining Environments for Young People in Soccer #1

Over the last four weeks, I have noticed some very worrying environments. It’s worrying to me as a coach, parent and independent observer having witnessed the top level academies, middle ground and grass roots and being constantly told “its getting better.”

I have seen some good examples of well-meaning people who manage safety whilst giving ownership to young people. Not easy to do. The other thing that isn’t easy to do is manage adrenaline and feelings. We all want our own children to do well. That’s a given. Whether its homework, model making, swimming or football. From the mentioned however which do people change their methods in? Which would an adult change their mindset in?

The game is passionate – Fact. People visit stadiums, watch adults, moan at refereeing decisions and complain all week if our supported teams lose. To the point of becoming almost Piers Morgan like. There is a distinct difference however. The people you shout, cheer and bemoan are indeed adults. They can cope in pressurised adult environments. The very best can even block them out and perform. It takes years of practice. Playing in the champions league for millions of pounds is one thing, playing in front of 30 people in a 5v5 astro turf court is simply another.

The two environments are not linked. They are not replicas. Children will with their imagination, mentally attempt to visit and dream of such stadium. This is all the pressure they need.

We are missing a huge trick. The street and playground we used to commentate on whilst playing and pretend to be gazza or maradona was our pressure. The next defender is pressure. The last gasp save is pressure.

Unfortunately, the following is additional pressure to young people:

· Making kids play in set positions – most that have played will tell you – you don’t end up playing in the same one for very long.

· Shouting things such as “don’t mess about with it in your box, get rid, clear it, pass it, down the line” and so on. The things said from my last 4 weeks up to 25 times in one hour by one adult to 1-5 children. Confusion and pressure.

· Spectators shouting “tackle him, pass-pass-pass, well-in.” it’s been done for years I know I played but it does no good.

· A parent shouting “tackle” Is also a motivation for increased aggression. Was the child going to tackle anyway? Probably.

· The good players can’t play – they face managers of young teams going man for man, even 2 players marking them but not child led, just so the adult can win.

· I have witnessed excessive fouling by young players who instead of shake hands and pick kids up are laughing as the “tackle” has become over emphasised. Just wait until the tackling sort plays at a good level (if they manage it with no technique or skill – probably not), the tackle will become a chase as the players will dance around them and or play through them.

Check out – Part #2 here >> Part 2 

Thank you

Mark Senior

 

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